Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: a bad role model

James Bond is, according to quite a few people.

Paul Johnson: "the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude snob-cravings of a suburban adult".

Bidisha: "The Bond films are generally sexist. I don't like anything that descends from a sewer of misogyny."

Theo Hobson: James Bond's sexual career does real harm to the male psyche. Heroism, British boys learn from the age of five or six, involves treating women like toys, thrilling and dangerous toys. Women will admire, even worship you, if you are a cool philanderer. We must resist the urge to titter here: I seriously believe that Bond is a big factor in the sexual malfunction of our times; the difficulty we have finding life-long partners, and the normalisation of pornography.

It's easy to mock this sort of nonsense and quite rightly when it derives from people who have that meta-priggishness of the truly humourless: the inability to spot things that are not intended to be take too seriously; come on, it's not as if Bond is Flashman (more's the pity, Flashy is far more fun).

I'm surprised that this self-righteous attitude hasn't been more directed towards Bond's drinking; this is after all a character who has to be packed off to a health farm to dry out on occasions. Admittedly this aspect is toned down in the later films lest American sensibilities be offended – but you can't have Bond without the martinis and other drinks.

And yet herein lies the problem with Bond's character: his fastidious but promiscuous taste for drinks closely mirrors his creator's (one might say the same about women, I suppose). We might raise an eyebrow at the fact that this supposed Scotsman shows such a fondness for bourbon, but consider the signature martini (taken from Flemming's own favourite recipe).

Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?'...

(The passage is reproduced in full here).

Shaking the stuff weakens it by diluting it with ice-water, lemon peel is a bit effete compared with the sharp salt snap from an olive, and the prissy affectation of insisting on a mass-produced gin (NB: in strict fairness Gordon's was at least a bit stronger in those days, they've watered it down since) indicates a real problem with Bond and drinking. Showy bad taste. As the BBC article linked to at the top notes:

The third major charge against our superspy is harder to excuse - excessive brand usage. Fleming's novels were full of name checks for products. Bond drank Smirnoff vodka and Dom Perignon champagne and wore a Rolex. But the film franchise has taken this to even greater lengths... In Die Another Day he changed his mind on the vodka issue and preferred Finlandia.

… the purpose these brand adverts served in the Fleming novels wasn't as a generator of filthy lucre, but rather as an indicator of class.

How vulgar. Champagne, as I have noted before, is fine at breakfast and lunchtime, but a discreet and constant consumption of claret and brandy bespeaks a far great sophistication. As it is Bond seems like the sort of fellow who would insist one can never drink red wine with fish.

Bond, again like his creator, was an Etonian. One should not be surprised that a man who was schooled there should be a cold-hearted psychopath, a snob and have a brutish attitude to women. But that they should show such poor form with regard to drinks is a grave disappointment. It is, to use the adjective for the second time in successive days, Widmerpoolian; and his gravest failing in Powell's eyes was trying too hard.

It's one reason why I wouldn't even think to ask whether Bond is a good role model: how could he be?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Is there seriously anyone anywhere who ever considered Bond as a role model? I refuse to believe anyone could be that stupid.

Puss

3:19 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Never underestimate stupidity, Puss. Never underestimate stupidity.

12:58 pm  

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