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” .

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