Throughout the semester, we will be busying ourselves with practical questions posed by the reality of our lives: “Will there be a war soon?”, “How can we enhance firm growth? “Who on Earth will give me a job?” But today I would like to address a far more pressing issue, one that has haunted me for years. Tell me, is James Bond a gentleman or a cad? Late last year, armed with paper and pen, I marched to the nearest cinema late to catch “Die Another Day” in pursuit of evidence to resolve this issue once and for all.
After 40 years and 20 productions1, Ian Fleming’s creation still manages to engage and excite us. We don’t watch James Bond to critique the acting skills or even to follow the plot, we go for the charming predictability and the predictable charm of the man who is Bond. James Bond.
The setting this time? Scorching fire and chilling ice in North Korea, Hong Kong, Cuba, London, Iceland. Encircled by evil megalomaniacs Toby Stephens (Gustav Graves) and Rick Yune (Zao), as well as lethal beauties Halle Berry (Jinx) and Rosamund Pike (Miranda Frost), Pierce Brosnan (James Bond) seemed as settled and at ease in his role since his debut in “Goldeneye” years ago. His mission? Something to do with satellites and global domination…but I digress, let us return to the matter at hand.
According to “The Oxford American Desk Dictionary”:
gentleman: A chivalrous or well-bred man. A well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behaviour2.
So, where can we find evidence of this in James Bond? Why don’t we start with honour? In the beginning of the “Die Another Day”, we see our hero tortured in a dank dungeon for 14 months as his captivators try in vain to extract information from him. Defiantly, he states: “I don’t compromise”. And consider the scene where he rushes to rescue a drowning Jinx in an icy cavern in Iceland. He certainly didn’t need to – sentimentality and time are rather costly elements in the world of espionage. In fact, he even broke the windshield of his dashing Aston Martin as he performed this heroic act. This is just more proof of James Bond’s gentlemanly qualities.
Another gentlemanly thing one notices is that James Bond fights fairly. He never seems to creep up behind his assailants, attack them when their backs are turned, and go home to put his feet up. Even though, quite easily, he could. There is always an honest show of fists, some sort of duel from which, eventually and inevitably, he emerges victorious. Yes, this is definitely more supporting evidence for Bond the gentleman.
Finally, let us never forget that as the scenes unfold, apart from one or two fight scenes, James Bond is always dressed with impeccable taste.
But wait! Let us not get swept away by Bond the gentleman just yet. We must try to analyze our character more deeply…
cad: A man whose behaviour is unprincipled or dishonourable3.
After spending 14 months in the dungeon at the beginning of “Die Another Day”, James Bond is freed. Immediately after, a physical examination reveals a liver that isn’t in the best condition. Even 14 months on the wagon seem unable to save James from all the vodka martinis. Even after this latest brush with death, our beloved spy falls into the inconsiderate routine of upsetting the intricate gadgets in Q’s laboratory. Is that becoming of a gentleman? In all the movies, James Bond always seems to take the liberty to do whatever he pleases, a trait that could be deemed dishonourable indeed.
Perhaps above all, James Bond has been seen to regularly exhibit raw, inconsiderate machsimo around fair, helpless damsels. From “Dr. No” (1962) to “Die Another Day” 2002, James continues to love them and leaves them. In “Goldfinger”, he even abandoned one fair damsel when she had been shot by an assailant! Oh no, James Bond is a cad!
Now, now let us not jump to any conclusions. We just have to admit that we are back where we started – in a state of confusion. It is at times like these that I start to question the question. Do we have to arrive at a definite conclusion? Maybe I should stop procrastinating and start working on nagging assignments. No, no–Maybe this state of confusion isn’t so bad after all. Could it be that James Bond’s character is just one of those things in life that we’ll never understand? Maybe we don’t really want to. Maybe we just need more evidence. Tell me, when is James Bond next gracing the silver screen?
1Information based on information at www.imdb.com
2Definition of “gentleman”: “The Oxford American Desk Dictionary”
3Definition of “cad”: “The Oxford American Desk Dictionary”