James Bond: A Cultural Icon
James Bond (the movie and the person) became a cultural icon because the character of “James Bond” came to represent many things. James Bond (the movie and the person) represented many things that are important to the people. He represented the idea of fighting crimes and criminal actions at all cost. He represented the idea that the welfare of the people, of national security, is of utmost importance. He represented sacrifice. He represented the government that the people wants and needs to believe exist, a government that is constantly looking after the best interest of the people, the government who is not corrupted by money and power, and the government that is morally upright. He represented the man that men wanted to become as it represented the man that women would definitely fall in love to. He represented the cutting edge and the high tech, the sophisticated and the intelligent. Above all, James Bond represented survival.
The James Bond Longevity and Sustainability
James Bond managed to sustain his popularity because of many reasons. One of the first possible reasons may perhaps be because of the timelessness of the James Bond stories. The James Bond story is never tied to a particular life or era, at least, not after the Cold War era James Bond movies. It always evolved, and more than evolving, it always seem to be ahead of its time because one of the trademarks of James Bond movies is featuring high tech gadgets like weapons, accessories and of course, cars. The conflicts that James Bond movies try to resolve are very seldom tied to a particular timeline or era. Because of that, the James Bond movies have an air and aura of timelessness. People do not feel that it is outdated or outmoded and James Bond was never anachronistic in the present time. Another possible reason why James Bond as a person became an idol, a household name and an icon, is because the personality of James Bond as a person has a certain important effect on women and male audiences. For women who watch the movie, they are not exposed to a movie that merely displays pure male ego and banks on the traditional action stunts, testosterone-pumped shooting and chasing of the good guy of the bad guys. Instead, the movie features a male character who is skilled, suave, sophisticated, well mannered, good looking, very capable and independent, street smart, intelligent, instinctive and most of all, a very good lover (proof of this is the consistent presence of sexy love scenes or romantic scenes that point to James Bond characteristic of being a very good lover).
For the women audience, James Bond was the ultimate hot male – he is not just pure muscle, he is a combination of brains and brawns. Take for example the actors that portrayed James Bond – from Sean Connery to the current James Bond Daniel Craig. They exude the beauty of the male form, something that women may find irresistible and something that men might be envious of. While the exact selection criteria for the next James Bond actor is something that is not made public, it is easy to deduce that the characteristics for the James Bond actor includes being physically attractive (because everything else can be taught, like class, sophistication, style, charm, charisma, etc).While he can easily kill, he is not always rough and rugged and can easily blend in a crowd in a black tie event. He is not a merely a matinee idol, he sets the standards for what a man can actually be. This is one of the reasons why women love James Bond, which in turn contributes to James Bond’s longevity and the sustainability of the James Bond personality. For the male followers of James Bond movies, James Bond is someone they wanted to become – the man with the best cars, the man who beds women with curvaceous bodies, sophistication and mystique, the man who has the best wrist watches, the man who dresses fashionably and the man who is very confident of himself. Watching James Bond and the movie, many male followers consciously or unconsciously wish to be like James Bond, wants to be like James Bond that they always follow James Bond movies and want to see more new escapades by James Bond because for some male audiences. The thrilling and exciting life of James Bond is a source of excitement and thrill that they share and feel, as if they are imagining they were James Bond and his escapades are the escapades of the male audience. The producers of the film know this. And this particular fact serves as one of the many guarantees that future James Bond movies will continue to become successful because there are men who dream of living the James Bond life and they do it watching the movie. While some women dream of a James Bond-type of man in their lives and they find the satisfaction of knowing such type of man by watching James Bond movies. In understanding the longevity of James Bond and how it managed to sustain itself through the years and still manage to be a crowd drawer even if James Bond as an idea is decades-old, it is important to note how the changes that James Bond (the movie and the person) made in some important aspects contribute to the continued success and retained popularity. An important aspect on the discussion of change is focused on the consideration on how Bond has progressed and developed as culture has changed, including changes regarding the role of women, the end of the Cold War, changes in technology, and changing threats to world security. As mentioned earlier, the post Cold War era James Bond changed into movies that focus less on referring to a particular timeline in the real world but instead on the conflict, the characters and the unfolding of events (Black 5). This is perhaps between the Cold War Era and the era on the war on terrorism. There are no significant era that stood out which can be used as a backdrop for the spy and espionage job of James Bond, making the movie creators of the James Bond move towards targeting groups and individuals which are threats to national security because after the Cold War, the “Russia-is-the-enemy” theme is not workable anymore. James Bond has to find new avenues as a source of new enemies, the world suddenly is not left and right since threats to national security now seems to be coming in from many different sides. As James Bond changed focus and target when it comes to enemies during and after the Cold War era, the changes in technology followed, as well as the changes in the role of women. In the more recent James Bond movies, the role of female characters became more significant. In the last two James Bond, the woman in Bond’s life and the emotional attachment of Bond to his lady love was very significant in how the James Bond movie developed. While in past James Bond movies James Bond was portrayed as a playboy, the change in the role and significance of women in the recent James Bond movies portrayed a James Bond that is more emotionally attached and devoted to his lady love (Lindner 22).
James Bond, the movie and the novel, is without a doubt one of the significant works in the field of film making and literary. Of course there are noticeable differences between the novel and the movies. The inconsistencies between the movie and the novel, how the film version was different from the novel version is something that is expected because it is very rare that film adaptations of novels become ultimately faithful to every detail of the novel version as it becomes a movie. But regardless of these differences that those who read the novel and watched the movies might notice, what is important is that these differences are not enough to say that the movie version has completely moved away from the essence and original ethos of the novel. Indeed, James Bond has made a significant cultural impact not only in the place of origin of the film/novel, but also to different countries (Black 97) who saw, witnessed, watched and idolized James Bond and the action flick. An important cultural impact by the James Bond movies and by James Bond himself is the growth of the spy/espionage action drama (Lindner 56) and the acceptance of the public of this particular form of movie. Another important cultural impact of James Bond is the fact that the cultures of many different countries that he visited are showcased. The movie was one of the earliest forms of tourism propaganda through film. It was a case of James Bond influencing culture as the culture of other countries influencing James Bond in return. And because the movie and the character, James Bond continued to movie well in the meshing of cultures in this give and take relationship in influencing and being influenced by culture in return, James Bond continues to be diverse.
Black, Jeremy. Politics of James Bond: From Fleming’s Novels to the Big Screen. University
Of Nebraska Press, 2005.
“James Bond, Casino Royale downloaded en mass.” Actress Archive. 24 November 2006. 21
November 2008 <http://www.actressarchives.com/news.php?id=2974>.
Lindner, Christopher. The James Bond Phenomenon: A Critical Reader. Manchester
University Press, 2003.