A True Man's Man?

March 6, 2008
By Mary Baranack, North Royalton, OH

Let me just say that when I first realized the topic for this “Special Topics” English class, I was not all that impressed. I was definitely not looking forward to ten weeks worth of learning about the infamous James Bond. Having only seen snippets of the various popular films, I immediately saw Bond as a very debonair misogynist. I assumed he was a pompous, fearless, suave man, and I was clueless as to why women were drawn to this shallow shell of a man. But my preconceptions about the class, as well as the spy were wrong. After being genuinely introduced to the character through Ian Fleming’s novel, Casino Royale, I was astounded as to how wrong my first judgments were. So with my deepest regrets to 007 about my harsh preconceptions, I explore my new-found fondness of the famous British spy.

I have heard Bond referenced as the man every guy wishes he was and the man every woman wants to be with. He is the ultimate guy’s guy, and this public view is supported by many of Bond’s habits and personal idiosyncrasies, especially his deadly job and appetite for beautiful women. I soon realized that decoding the cipher which is James Bond undoubtedly rested on the aspects of his job. Bond is his job. I am drawn to his dangerous, mysterious choice of occupation, and honestly believe that Bond would not be the public entity he is without his Double-O status. Bond’s job requires him to be unnaturally tough and unrelenting; Mathis alludes to this when he says in Casino Royale, “… don’t let me down and become human yourself. We would lose such a wonderful machine” (Fleming 139). Other than a knack for bumping off the bad guys, a Double-O’s job requires many indispensable skills. While Bond seems to embody the majority of them, I believe that he truly succeeds due to his strong will of independence and extreme eye for detail. Bond would undoubtedly prefer to work alone, but when Mathis mentions having to work with a partner, the British spy divulges his wish of getting one who is neither stupid nor ambitious. Bond’s keen sense of detail is seen in his habit of being overly-cautious; at one point he marks the level of his toilet water as a means of a burglar alarm. He also takes his work very seriously. During Casino Royale, Bond sits for an hour and plans out all the aspects for the baccarat game against Le Chiffre – the roles of his and Le Chiffre’s entourages, but more importantly, all the possibilities of winning or losing.

While these outwardly masculine characteristics are extremely alluring to Bond’s devoted fan-base, they were the primary reason I originally condemned 007. Looking past Bond’s blatantly macho exterior, I unexpectedly noticed that the spy has some hidden traits that both the public and 007 himself would not like to admit to. After he was thwarted by the Muntzes and his massive clean-out by Le Chiffre at the casino tables, he immediately renders defeat and begins to plan his trip home. This pessimistic attitude completely negated my prior belief that he never gave up and never gave in. Even before his loss to Le Chiffre, Bond publically expresses his doubts to M when he says he could not promise to win against Le Chiffre. These doubts became my yellow brick road to finding Bond’s hidden box of emotions. I was delighted to see that the ruthless agent had feelings and witnessed them when he began to feel fearful, puny and utterly helpless during his unforeseen capture by Le Chiffre’s men. Then Bond’s true feelings about his profession came out: he is not proud of his Double-O status, and 007 even talks to Mathis about resigning. I was dumbfounded. James didn’t like his job? He was going to quit? I couldn’t seem to figure out why he would want to leave such a thrilling and enticing job. Then James expresses his desire to have a carefree lifestyle and wonders, “How many times in his life would he have given anything to have turned off the main road to find a lost corner like this where he could let the world go by and live in the sea from dawn to dusk,” (153). I saw his point of view – he was happy to be alive – and while many wanted to be like him, he just wanted to be like everyone else.

To my satisfaction, the flaws in Bond’s tough-guy facade continued to pervade. I saw that the suave spy has an unnatural need for specifications, especially in his tastes for liquor and cuisine. I snickered when I saw Bond’s specific breakfast order of “…half a pint of orange juice, three scrambled eggs and bacon, and a double portion of coffee without sugar” (22). It got better when he orders his super-manly beverage of choice “A dry martini…in a deep champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of Vodka, half measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a thin slice of lemon peel” (45). I do not know many men who are that anal retentive about a meal, let alone a cocktail, and it seemed oddly unnatural for someone with such a perilous job. I cannot see firemen ordering a Cosmopolitan, and I definitely do not imagine a world-saving spy ordering such a girly martini. The more I read about the famous spy, the more feminine I realized he was. I was taken aback that the British spy was not as self-assured as I originally believed, but could not deny Bond’s unease when I noticed he was walking around at 3 in the morning with his hand on his gun – in a park nevertheless. Freud would gasp. And to put the cherry on top of the metrosexual sundae, Bond enjoys having his pyjamas and hairbrushes (yes, more than one) laid out before bed. He even orders a massage to relax before his big baccarat game against Le Chiffre. Now, I have no problem with a man enjoying a nice massage or even a manicure, but it seemes very effeminate for the supposed red-blooded secret agent. As each of these overtly feminine characteristics nicked at Bond’s hard exterior, my attitude toward the spy softened a bit.

I surprisingly found my greatest appeal to 007 in his relations with women. Bond’s love-hate relationship with women is illustrated by the public’s opposing views of the secret agent: a Casanova and a misogynist. James’ playboy status is supported by his slew of “Bond Girls” – the magnificently beautiful, brainless women who sleep with Bond at the drop of the first martini. And Bond’s sexist reputation is clearly validated by his regard of women as a means of recreation as well as his negative attitude about women working in the field of espionage: “Why the h*** couldn’t they stay at home and mind their pots and pans… and leave men’s work to the men” (99). Bond’s sexual deviances, in addition to his misogynistic comments, are what made me originally loathe the adored 007. But, surprisingly, Bond knows that his playboy lifestyle will not last forever and alludes to this when he realizes that “… he had never yet been made to suffer by cards or by women… but accepted the fact, he too would be brought to his knees by love or by luck” (42). Ironically, Bond quickly meets the woman who was going to test his shocking conviction – Vesper Lynd, his “Double-Two” for the Le Chiffre mission. Bond is flustered when he first meets Vesper; he is thrilled by her beauty and her so-called “splendid protuberances” (25). Bond is also intrigued by her dissatisfied gaze and found he wanted to “shatter it roughly” (33). Due to my prior convictions about Bond and his women, I believed he would simply have a quick affair with his leading lady, but oh how I was wrong.

Under closer inspection, I found that Bond seemed to have an unusual interest with Vesper. Mathis noticed this unexpected and intense attraction during Bond and Vesper’s first meeting and boldly tells Vesper, “I don’t think Bond’s ever been melted. It will be a new experience for him. And for you” (34). To my great pleasure and awe, Bond begins falling head-over-heels for Vesper and even names his beloved drink after her. He talks about how his heart “lifts” when he sees her and then describes how badly he wants her – but only after the job was finished. I was overwhelmed by these statements; I never thought that Bond’s heart and a woman’s name would be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone the fact that Bond’s job could actually get in the way of him sleeping with a woman. I became more and more confused about Bond’s true feelings about women as his and Vesper’s relationship intensified page by page.

I nearly needed one of Bond’s famous martinis when I saw that he asks Vesper to marry him. I never thought Bond would get married; I did not think he even knew what marriage was. It appeared to me that Vesper had indeed melted the spy, and he seemed extremely happy with her. Sadly, Bond’s blissful state of nature comes to a swift end when he discovered that Vesper had committed suicide. Bond is extremely confused as to why his true love has taken her life, but he soon finds the answer in her good-bye letter – Vesper was a double-agent for the Russians. My heart immediately reached out for James; he had not only lost, but was greatly deceived by the only person whom he had loved. I wanted to be there for him, to help get him back on his feet. Bond does not take this deception lightly, and I sincerely believe that this blow to both Bond’s ego and, dare I say, his heart, marks the end to the soft side of James that I came to love.

Then the story was over faster than I wanted. In the short time it took me to read Casino Royale, I learned so much about Bond and I wanted to learn more. I was excited for the remaining weeks in my English class. I wanted to see how much more I could find out about the infamous secret agent as I was thrilled by how much I had learned in just one novel. The discovery of Bond’s hidden depth, unexpected amount of emotions, and sensitive side allowed me to overcome my previous – and harsh – convictions of 007. Although I now understand why women fall for the intriguing James Bond, I don’t believe that I would allow him to shatter me roughly.

Works Cited

Fleming, Ian. Casino Royale. Great Britain: Jonathon Cape Ltd., 1953.

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