Archive for January 14th, 2012

January 14, 2012

The Character of Bond ….the real and the fantasy

“He runs while others walk,

he asks while others talk…”

these lyrics from the theme to “Thunderball” show that Bond is at once part of society and distinct from it. While other characters of spy thrillers such as Bulldog Drummond, Duckworth Drew and Hardcross Courage reside in the forgotten limbo of detectives, spies and secret agents notable only because they are absent, James Bond is a character who represents a one-in-a-million man, but in actuality is a man like any other. He crosses the boundaries between fantasy and reality, belonging to neither, yet relevant to both.

The circumstances that confront Bond dwell in the realm of fantasy. The character is ageless, kept eternally at mid-life, his world threatened every time he is involved and there is a beautiful woman or two at hand. Bond’s reaction is always spontaneous. Although he functions as a detective at times, there tends to be little thinking and lots of action.

As Kenneth Van Dover states in “Murder in the Millions”, when “confronted with a choice [whether its ordering dinner or escaping a villain], he never hesitates. And of course his taste is impeccable” . Bond demonstrates a fastidious adherence to personal custom and etiquette. Critics such as Kingsley Amis and Leroy Panek have pointed to Bond’s role as the “essential clubman” in his belief in rituals of dress and consumption, and honour and duty . Bond’s loyalty cannot be questioned. Rarely does 007 even attempt to convince the enemy he can be turned and only briefly will the villain consider asking Bond to join his scheme. Bond’s loyalty is as guaranteed as his success.

However, Bond’s victories rely heavily on others. Whether these people are Q, the CIA, the present Bond girl, or even a villain turned by Bond’s stunning good looks, when 007 is faced with certain defeat, one of them effects his escape. In “From Russia With Love” Red Grant acts as his personal guardian angel in a gypsy gun battle; if it weren’t  for Mayday in “A View to a Kill” Bond would not have been able to effectively stop the detonation of a bomb. Even in Fleming’s “Casino Royale”, Bond is rescued from torture and death by a Russian spy who arrives to kill the villain. Bond’s dependence on others does not have a detrimental effect on his image, in fact it adds to it. The 007 lifestyle leads to extraordinary situations, but 007′s reaction is ordinary.

Another way Bond adopts real world characteristics is in his acceptance of the necessity of exertion and instruction. “Bond is not a natural hero; he must practice to be superhuman” . In virtually every film and novel Bond spends time with both M and Q. M provides mission details, morality advice, identifies the good and bad guys, and states the judgment of justice that should be taken; Q provides instruction in gadgets that help transform 007′s ordinary skills into those of a hero. In Fleming’s novels there is also the added feature that missions leave Bond wounded or exhausted. In Fleming’s “You Only Live Twice” Bond is found half-alive suffering from amnesia. While in “Casino Royale” Bond spends much time convalescing during an extended denouement.

Bond is a both a figure of fantasy and a real man, but how does this relate to our addiction to him? In “The James Bond Dossier” Kingsley Amis calls it Bond’s ‘mythic power’ or “the universality of the secret-agent figure as a focus for daydreaming” . Other fantasies have “tangible props” the secret agent has none (Amis 4). To be a cowboy requires you to live 100 years ago and to have a hat, horse and a gun, to be an astronaut requires you to live 100 years ahead and have a space suit and a space ship. To be a double-0 agent requires nothing more than gadgets which appear as ordinary objects. This pen then becomes a high-density dart gun, with a single steel tipped projectile that will explode on impact. The secret agent fantasy is portable-it can go anywhere and acts as a “real starting point for [the] excursion into unreality” .

January 14, 2012

eve …

Bond girls follow a fairly well-developed pattern of beauty,   possess splendid figures and tend to dress in a slightly masculine, assertive fashion, with few pieces of jewellery and that in a masculine cut, wide leather belts, and square-toed leather shoes.

They often sport light though noticeable sun-tans (although a few, such as Solitaire, Tatiana Romanova, and Pussy Galore, are not only tanless but remarkably pale, and they generally use little or no makeup and no fingernail or toenail polish, also wearing their nails short.

Their hair may be any color ranging from blonde (Mary Goodnight) to auburn (Gala Brand) to brown (Tatiana Romanova) to blue-black (Solitaire) to black (Vesper Lynd), though they typically wear it in a natural or casual cut that falls heavily to their shoulders.

Their features, especially their eyes and mouths, are often widely spaced (e.g. Vesper Lynd, Gala Brand, Tiffany Case, Tatiana Romanova, Honey Ryder, Viv Michel, Mary Goodnight). Their eyes are usually blue (e.g. Vesper Lynd, Gala Brand, Tatiana Romanova, Honey Ryder, Tracy Bond, Mary Goodnight), and sometimes this is true to an unusual and striking degree: Tiffany Case’s eyes are chatoyant, varying with the light from grey to grey-blue, while Pussy Galore has deep violet eyes, the only truly violet eyes that Bond had ever seen.

The first description of a Bond Girl, Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd, is almost a template for the typical dress as well as the general appearance of later Bond Girls; she sports nearly all of the features discussed above. In contrast, Dominetta “Domino” Vitali arguably departs to the greatest degree from the template, dressing in white leather doeskin sandals, appearing more tanned, sporting a soft Brigitte Bardot haircut, and giving no indication of widely-spaced features. (The departure may be due to the unusual circumstances behind the writing of the novel Thunderball, in which Domino appears.) Even Domino, however, wears rather masculine jewellery.

The best-known characteristic of Bond Girls except for their uniform beauty is their pattern of suggestive names (the most risqué and famous being Pussy Galore). Some of these, but not all, have explanations in the novels. While Solitaire’s real name is Simone Latrelle, she is known as Solitaire because she excludes men from her life; Gala Brand, as noted above, is named for her father’s cruiser, HMS Galatea; and Tiffany Case received her name from her father, who was so angry that she was not a boy that he gave her mother a thousand dollars and a compact from Tiffany’s and then walked out on her. Conjecture is widespread that the naming convention began with the first Bond novel Casino Royale, in which the name “Vesper Lynd” is a pun on West Berlin, signifying Vesper’s divided loyalties as a double agent under Soviet control. Several Bond Girls, however, have normal names (e.g. Tatiana Romanova, Mary Ann Russell, Judy Havelock, Viv Michel, Tracy Bond [née Teresa Draco, aka Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo]).

January 14, 2012

bold and the beautiful …

Many Bond Girls have some sort of independent job or even career, and often it is not a particularly respectable one for 1950s women. Vesper Lynd, Gala Brand, Tatiana Romanova, Mary Ann Russell, and Mary Goodnight are in intelligence or law enforcement work.

By contrast, Tiffany Case and Pussy Galore are very independent-minded criminals, the latter even running her own syndicate.

Most other Bond Girls, even when they have more conventional or glamorous jobs, show an investment in their independent outlook on life.

While the Bond Girls are clearly intended as sex objects, they nevertheless have a degree of independence that the Bond films tended to dispense with until nearly 1980.

Most of the novels focus on one particular romance, as some of them do not occur for a while into the novel (Casino Royale is a good example). However, several exceptions have been made: In Goldfinger, the Masterton sisters are considered Bond girls (although Tilly is a lesbian), and after their deaths, Pussy Galore (also a lesbian) becomes the primary Bond girl. In Thunderball, Bond romances Patricia Fearing, followed by Domino Vitali. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond enters into a relationship and an eventual marriage with Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo, and sleeps with Ruby Windsor, a patient he meets in Blofeld’s hideout while posing as a genealogist. In You Only Live Twice, Bond has relationships with Kissy Suzuki, mainly, but also romances Mariko Ichiban, and a girl so insignificant that she is unnamed.

January 14, 2012

Forever Jung With James Bond …

Most Bond Girls are apparently (and sometimes expressly) sexually experienced by the time they meet Bond(although there is evidence that Solitaire is a virgin).Not all of their experiences, however, are positive, and many (though by no means all) Bond girls have a history of sexual violence that often alienates them from men (until Bond comes along). This darker theme is notably absent from the early films. Tiffany Case was gang-raped as a teenager; Honey Ryder, too, was beaten and raped as a teenager by a drunken acquaintance. Pussy Galore was subjected at age 12 to incest, and rape, by her uncle. While there is no such clear-cut trauma in Solitaire’s early life, there are suggestions that she, too, avoids men because of their unwanted advances in her past. Kissy Suzuki reports to Bond that during her brief career in Hollywood when she was 17, “They thought that because I am Japanese I am some sort of an animal and that my body is for everyone.” The abuse and violence facing the women is also evident in the films, such as Lupe Lamora being abused by her lover Franz Sanchez in License to Kill, as was Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun, who sent a golden bullet to Bond in the hope he would track down her cold lover Francisco Scaramanga and “set her free”, later saying “he’s a monster, I hate him”. The inference is that these episodes often (though not always) turn the Bond Girls in question against men, though upon encountering Bond they overcome their earlier antipathy and sleep with him not only willingly but eagerly. The cliché reaches its most extreme (some would say absurd) level in Goldfinger. In this novel Pussy Galore is clearly a practicing lesbian when she first meets Bond, but at the end of the novel she sleeps with him. When, in bed, he says to her “They told me you only liked women,” she replies “I never met a man before.”

Wonder, silence, gratitude

one who is going upstream ......

one who is going upstream ......

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