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What can we learn from 007? page 3
Stephen B. Tippins Jr.'s op-ed column on James Bond.

 Fifty years ago, James Bond was first portrayed in film by Sean Connery in 'Dr. No.'
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Date published: 11/18/2012


This--and not the sex, sadism, and snobbery--is the allure for the Bond fantasist. Britain of 007 is antiquated. It's not the Britain of Cameron and Clegg. It's the one with a penchant for staying tyrants--of either the mustachioed or the vertically challenged variety--and the one that gave us pocket calculators, steel warships, jet airplanes, and loads of other cool stuff. Bond's Britain is relevant, wealthy, and influential, still a beacon of Western ingenuity. This as opposed to the more accurate depiction of the sterile, cynical, stymied Britain of, say, George Smiley or Harry Palmer. Amis preferred the Fleming mold:

I also find a belief, however unreflecting, in the rightness of one's cause more sympathetic than the anguished cynicism and the torpid cynicism of Messrs. le Carre and Deighton. More useful in an adventure story anyway, and more powerful--so powerful that when the frogman's suit arrives for Bond in "Live and Let Die," I can join with him in blessing the efficiency of M's "Q" Branch, whereas I know full well that given postwar standards of British workmanship, the thing would either choke him or take him straight to the bottom.

The next time you roll your eyes at the implausibility of invisible Aston-Martins, consider this possibility: It's not that Bond's adventures are completely inauthentic, as opposed to the realistic yarns of le Carre--it's just that in Fleming's universe, Europeans didn't stop being industrious once they were introduced to paid leave and exuberant pensions.

It's been said that Bond's Britain is OK with American superiority. This is preposterous. We "cousins" are well-regarded in the Bond realm, but make no mistake, our purpose in a Bond adventure is to be told what's what by our former Colonial masters. Bond may well hold "individual Americans with the highest respect," says Amis, but "in the plural they're the neon-lit, women-dominated, conspicuous consumers of popular sociology." Of course, the movies are far more Americanized than the novels. But even there, Amis has a point: Has Felix Leiter, Bond's CIA ally, ever done anything other than take "orders from Bond, the Britisher--while Bond is constantly doing better than he, showing himself not braver or more devoted, but smarter, wilier, tougher, more resourceful--the incarnation of little old England with her quiet ways"? Answer: No.


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Stephen B. Tippins Jr. is an attorney in Buford, Ga. This column is reprinted with the permission of The American Conservative, in which it first appeared.