Literary criticism

The Bond Culture: A Study

By: Kousik Adhikari  

ThrillersAyn Rand in her ‘The Romantic Manifesto’ pointed out that thriller is in a way a kind of simplified version of the romantic literature. We could also add with some certainty that thrillers may be called also a cruder manifestation of romantic aspirations, the darker spaces we inhabit but feel shy to tell and show. The spy novel that is a form of thrillers in that sense is a typical romantic literature in a sense of the term, the brave and somewhat ruthless pursuits of those desires that perhaps remain unattainable hitherto. The hero is the soul of the thriller who is capable of thrilling readers, viewers, and audiences in different versions of modern media without necessarily being thrilled himself. The heroic aspiration of renaissance literature, the mythic tales of larger than life heroes and its associated varieties of writings which had the stage for so many centuries, seemed to be somewhat blocked by the naturalistic writing by such authors like Ernest Hemingway, whose heroes are deserter of wars as in ‘A Farewell toArms, or get died in the action as in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. But the people’s urge of such colossal figures traversing universe in giant steps has not altogether vanished. Spy thrillers are the more sophisticated, supposed flesh and blood human stories than the more unreal superheroes like Batman or Superman, because Bond knows how to be bleeding, not only to cause bleeding to others.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond, the celebrated superspy of British Intelligence is the modern Hercules. Bond has appeared first in Fleming’s novel ‘Casino Royale’ (1953) and earned only a very moderate sale but grew to be more and more popular in the next years to follow with fourteen novels and some collection of short stories. Fleming’s own firsthand experience as a British Navy recruitment and serving in the turbulent period of Second World War, coming in direct contact with different state persons as well as state-villains, proved more valuable to him in his penning this superhero, fighting for the queen. However it will be simply denying the fact, if we don’t give the due credit to the cinema medium for the so long lasting and perhaps ever increasing Bond phenomena, as the increasing sales show both in writing and cinema form.

Dr. No’, the first released film of Bond in 1962, starring Sean Connery as the superspy established the then almost unknown Connery to a famed hero as well as paved the way for Bond’s fame to be sprayed. It was followed shortly by ‘From Russia with Love’ (1963), ‘Goldfinger’ (1964), ‘Thunderball’ (1965), ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967) and ‘Diamonds AreForever’ (1971), all starring Connery, George Lazenby ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ (1969) and then Roger Moore in seven films during seventies and eighties in the films like ‘Live and Let Die’, ‘The Man with the Golden Urn’, ‘The Spy who Loved Me’, ‘Moonraker’, ‘For Your Eyes Only’, ‘Octopussy’ and ‘A View to Kill’. From 1982, Timothy Dalton takes on in the films like ‘The Living Daylights’ (1987), ‘License to kill’ (1989). Form 1994; Pierce Brosnan in the films like ‘Goldeneye’(1995) etc., and now Daniel Craig from ‘Casino Royale’ (2006).

Apart from the dubious question of possibilities and impossibilities, Bond is undoubtedly a culture from the last half of the last century and this present one. His omnipotent juggling with beauties and bullets is sensational and historical. We can very pertinently quote Ian Fleming’s statement from one of his interviews, just one year before his death where the master-maker terms Bond as, “He is a creature of his time. I wouldn’t say particularly typical of our times, but he is certainly a man of his times.” Yes, we do recognize that Bond is a modern present day Hercules, very capable for battles and beauties at once. As Bond migrates from his various adventures, that are perhaps only relating a portion of a spy’s life, different atmosphere, cultures are touched on. One of the more interesting facts is that so many films have been done with so many heroes to our present Daniel Craig, Bond has been able to sustain his naughty magic through generations, diverse in their taste and tricks. Though it should also be admitted with the flowing of time, be becomes more robotic, powered and mechanical than ever and sometimes that naughty boyish charm is missed which almost sets in the west.

Fleming’s Bond novels reflect the cotemporary society’s conditions, its societies. He was supposedly a cold war hero, ruthlessly devastating British enemies. He is above all having control of himself which almost seems metaphysical sometimes and likely to control his own universe almost to the all impossible extents. Michael Dirda, the Pulitzer winning writer comments in this context that Bond is ,“What renaissance courtiers always aspired to exemplify: sprezzatura…the ability to perform even the most difficult task with flair, grace and nonchalance, without getting wrinkle in your clothes or working up a sweat.” Fleming also in a sense provided the British in the post 1950s a superhero, who can possibly boost the dwindled British, giving some solutions and moral encouragement to a nation who had lost the never-setting sun and plunged into new economic crisis, still trying desperately to maintain its status in the lost world. Bond is capable male, rarely showing emotions, the toy of the ladies, protecting and safeguarding the interest of the nation, only at times perhaps to inform its audiences and readers that they are confronting a human, not any god or alien creature suddenly landed on earth. These figures evolve and change in many aspects, the typical Bond figure fighting and thrashing the hardcore villains quite easily in formal suit, turns into Craig’s informal cargo shirts. Though the passion for bullets and belles remain the same over the years, he becomes a cultural and global phenomena whom the generations strive to imitate in a way or other. In 1983, Asteroid 9007 is named in the honor of this Bond, which puts him beyond the borderline of British and even the world, which he fights to retain to the vast and vast universe. From the year 1960, three is a widespread use of Bond’s figure in different types of commodity advertisements, which perhaps an Superman or Batman could not promote in the humanly way and with this Bond figure has reached from its surreal state to one semi-real state and above all Bond is that perennial male who is bound with his duties of male both in bed and battle with equal enthusiasm, readiness and of course a certain grace. The characters that walk, dream, eat and fight in his movies are the ultimate projections of the darker fantasies of human that we all long and feel shy to admit. It’s a paradise that we can only relish in dreams and fear to tread.

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