On James Bond

James Bond: Now More Than Ever

By Bruce Bethke

He’s been called an embarrassing relic of the Cold War who should have been forcibly retired and put out to stud a generation ago, when the Berlin Wall fell. He’s been called a fascist, a racist, a neocolonial imperialist, and at the very least a shameless sexist, if not an outright misogynist. He’s been the butt of jokes and the subject of parodies almost from the day he first appeared in public, and he’s been described as a two-fisted, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, skirt-chasing, walking talking catalog of every bad behavior that can possibly be exhibited by the human male. It’s even been said that all you really need to know about him can be summed up in just two words: Pussy Galore.

With all of this embarrassing baggage, then, how can Commander James Bond, C.M.G., R.N.V.R., possibly have a useful place in the twenty-first century?

To answer this question, we must first ask another: who is he? Who is Secret Agent 007, Mr. Shaken Not Stirred, Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? Who is that man in the Saville Row suit, smiling with quiet confidence as he sits behind the wheel of that silver Aston Martin DB5, caressing the grip of his .32-caliber Walther PPK? Who is James Bond?

The answer to this question is not as easily found as it might seem. The peculiar challenge in assessing the proper place of James Bond in the modern world is in some respects quite similar to the challenge of picking the best brand of mineral water  …

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