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What can we learn from 007? page 6
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

continued

Raymond Chandler famously suggested that Bond was "what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets." This is generally perceived to mean that men want to be Bond because he daringly saves the world from megalomaniacal madmen while bedding women who lust after him because he's dangerous. But what if all of this were just cover? What if men wanted to be Bond because secretly--or maybe not so secretly--they wanted to be less neutered, more decisive, more graceful under pressure, more accountable, and less postmodern?

Until now Bond's been a consistent character. The films sometimes have bordered on self-parody, but he's always been the same decisive, sometimes cruel, woman-dominating Briton, believing in duty, obligation, and the Crown. Daniel Craig's incumbency guarantees us that this will continue (with much less of the self-parody), but I worry for how long. I detected a hint of Jason Bourne-like cynicism in "Quantum of Solace," where, in a first for a James Bond flick, the CIA gets into bed with nefarious types and Her Majesty's government willingly complies.

Craig, though, is not only a good Bond, he's a smart actor. He knows his character. I therefore wonder if he's ever read Fleming's original version of "Quantum," which bore no relation to the movie. It was a short story, in the Somerset Maugham mold, in which Bond reflects that the dramas of ordinary people may be greater and more meaningful than his own. He's right, of course. Men like James Bond are expendable for a reason. Take away that reason and you take away the nobility--and the purpose--in their expendability. If audiences thought of that, I wonder if they'd see past Bond's sex and gadgets and superficiality, wonderful and fun though they may be, and realize what really makes James Bond appealing.

WHAT WE REALLY WANT

The reality for ordinary men and women is that we need to reassert some dignity in our ordinary lives. But that reality can't overcome the pieties of modern discourse: We claim to like our men less assertive and less masculine and less accountable, and we claim to like our governments mired and enabling.

James Bond may be unflappable. He may bed women like Caroline Munro, and he may be MGM's saving grace. And above all he is durable--his latest big-screen adventure, "Skyfall," has hit theaters almost 50 years to the day after Sean Connery debuted as the suave super spy in "Dr. No." But the one thing 007 can't do is save us from ourselves.


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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.