On James Bond

"Bland...James Bland"

By Lee Pfeiffer

In Goldeneye, Judi Dench’s M tells Bond he’s a misogynist, sexist pig–a relic of the Cold War. Despite probably disqualifying Bond from being awarded the Employee of the Month parking space, the criticism was taken by 007 in characteristic stride. Bond had always had a prickly relationship with his previous onscreen bosses, but the scenario traditionally presented 007 and M more or less as unruly student and benevolent but stern headmaster. The GoldenEye exchange was the first attempt to shed some significant light on how Bond actually related to the figure of immediate authority in his otherwise freelance existence. As such, audiences were able to see human elements expressed that had not been explored in previous films. (The scene–and exchanges with M in future films of the Brosnan era– did take pains to note that there was an underlying mutual respect between the two.)

The aforementioned sequence was somewhat jarring for audiences because over the course of the previous thirty-two years, there were precious few attempts to explore the personal life or psyche of James Bond. Considering how intimately the public has come to know the films themselves, it is rather surprising how little they know about the central character of Agent 007. Ian Fleming’s books were more generous with attempts to explain Bond’s early life and some of his motivations, though even Bond’s literary father seemed content to only offer the occasional tantalizing morsel of information. The films made Bond even more opaque–especially in contrast to other legendary screen heroes.  …

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