The name is Bond, Dames’ Bond. As archaic as the slang is, even more clichéd is James Bond’s persona. As Daniel Craig says goodbye in No Time to Die, the 25th film in the legendary franchise sired by Ian Fleming, he might have set the template for a new kind of Bond, an warrior unburdened by the detritus of Britain’s glorious past as the arbiter and civiliser of the world.
A spy himself, the dapper Fleming gave the world’s best known spy the licence to lady-kill—the man of every man’s dreams. Bond always has the best riposte. (“I think he got the point,” after killing the villain’s henchman with a spear gun). Spouts unbeatable pickup lines (Honor Blackman: “My name is Pussy Galore.” Sean Connery: “I must be dreaming”, in Goldfinger). Always gets the girl (“Miss Anders, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on.” Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun.) Always has the last laugh (“Minnows pretending they’re whales. Just like you on this island, Dr. No.” Sean Connery, in Dr. No.) James Bond was a god in a tux with a Walther PPK in his hand instead of Thor’s thunderbolt, bedding his way through an ocean of pulchritude to deliver us from evil. He also symbolised all that is wrong with men.
Check this line out in The Spy Who Loved Me: “All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken.” In Fleming’s words, “Women are often meticulous and safe drivers, but they are very seldom first-class.” Sean Connery, the first 007 typified imperial Britain’s quintessential upper class hero wearing Savile Row suits, smoking bespoke cigarettes, driving cars with deadly party tricks and has the seductive moxie of Casanova. Connery set a prototype that was followed faithfully by directors.
The 1950s when Fleming was at his best was a heady time of blondes with curves and shy libido, and men in posh clubs talking like toffs. The male ego was muscular and hunted lions in the savannah and doffed his hat to ladies. Fleming’s Bond was Imperial Britain’s last goodbye, the nostalgic fantasy of the Englishman who conquered the world with his wit and wiles, ruthless and dedicated to the Queen. Until now.
Daniel Craig’s Bond shows how far values have changed. In No Time to Die, Bond is in love, and willing to do anything for love. Imagine that! The only time Bond ever cried was in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service when wife Tracy is murdered by the villain. Craig’s Bond is not just a wisecracking dude, but a rugged introvert who hides a sensitive, even mushy, side. He believes in relationships. He takes flowers to his dead lover’s grave. He feels betrayal deeply, is haunted by secrets, and shaken to the core when he knows the truth. It is also the redemption of James Bond. He is now the dream image of the modern man, who is human while being superhuman. In the era of gangrapes in Hathras and the Taliban’s horrors, this is no time for such men to die, because you live only twice—as double entendre, of course.