My James Bond retrospective: a cultural analysis.

I’m taking a quick break from looking at each of the individual films and looking at the series as a whole, specifically from my perspective as a Christian. Bond, as a cultural icon, has withstood more than almost any other characters in pop culture history and managed to remain relevant to the contemporary trends within culture.

With every film, we are given a view at how Hollywood viewed the culture around it (or how culture informed and influenced Hollywood). As the series evolved, so did many of the characters and icons, including Bond himself. Bond goes from manipulating and objectifying women (watch Thunderball) to working for one (see Goldeneye). As society’s attitude towards women changed, so did Bond’s.

To a degree.

Bond was always the upper-class defender. He represents a club that’s just for men. An aromatic and flavorful Scotch, powerful and expensive cars, beautiful and alluring women (who never say no), finely tailored suits—they are all pieces of this club for which Bond stands. And the cultural power he wields is enormous. Just look at the box-office intake.

Even in his less-than-stellar outings (think Octopussy or Die Another Day), he proves that he can get men across the world to buy into his product—a life without consequences. He drinks at an incredible rate without liver problems, hangovers, or even getting drunk (save one scene in Quantum of Solace). He has sex with multiple women in each film without getting anyone pregnant, having performance issues, or even an STD.

Zero consequences.

But the underlying two-pronged message that this sends to men is both confusing and conflicted. At the same time Bond says that sex is everything and that sex is nothing. Do everything in your power to have sex, but you know what, sex doesn’t really matter all that much. You are both its slave and its master.

And it has affected generations of men who have been overtaken by pornography and casual sex thinking they can kick the habit whenever they want. But there are consequences, physical and emotional, but also spiritual.

Anytime we allow something to gain power over us, it’s obsession. We yearn for it. We do everything in our power to obtain it. And in doing so, we rob it of whatever true power it really had.

Take sex, for example. When it becomes the object of our affection, it consumes us, and we do whatever we can to obtain it. In my case, that would include the ease of pornography. In my sin, I’ve fallen for the lie that there aren’t any consequences. A friend of mine didn’t struggle so much with pornography as I did, but he spent every night trying to sleep with a new girl. And he was often successful.

But both of us robbed sex of the power that God had intended for it to have. Sex is a physical representation of the spiritual unity of a man and his wife. It has powerful implications with regards to openness, vulnerability, the protection of each other’s lives and interests, and the beauty of love in its most unveiled form here on earth.

Unfortunately for Bond, his flippancy with sex gives him no lasting joy, no community, and no one to trust with his life. For men across the world, this translates into an exaltation of individualism and the lack of necessity for open and honest community. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and plow through life on your own. No one will help you. You’re alone.

The implicit lie is that you’ll never feel alone. You will. God wired you for community, and by doing this by yourself you’re robbing yourself of the joy of a loving and vulnerable relationship with people you can trust.

Look at Bond. In his pursuit of sex, he misses out on meaningful connection with people. He will never feel the empowerment of a woman’s loving and uplifting words or the power behind her heart’s true rejoicing in him. Physical touch cannot replace those things. Physical nakedness is no substitute for spiritual vulnerability. And in that sense he is weakened by his own perceived strength.

In Casino Royale we get a glimpse at an open and vulnerable Bond as he falls in love with Vesper Lynd, the film’s leading lady. Many have said that his attitude towards women and frivolity with sex stem from the trauma he experienced at the end of the story. It’s possible, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Vesper even says to him, “You’ve got your armour back up.” While he denies that he has any armor left, I give Vesper more credibility here. More often than not, we fail to see the barriers that we put up, and the women in our lives are the ones that point them out to us. Vesper saw something in Bond that he was unwilling to admit: he will never let anyone close.

Bond is a physical manifestation of the desires that lie within men all over the world. We want to be rich, powerful, and physically strong. But I think he manifests the holes in our desires as well. If we were to live as Bond does, we’d be sacrificing so much on the altar of the prospect of a zero-consequence lifestyle. After all, even without the physical and emotional consequences, there are more far-reaching consequences to living as Bond does. And while we may be envious of him and his ability to do what he does, if he were real, I’m sure he’d be envious of our ability to live life to the fullest.

I’ll get back to my James Bond retrospective soon. For now, if you haven’t read what I’ve posted so far, you can start by clicking here.

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