After 50 years, 23 movies and six incarnations (we are talking the official stats here folks), let’s take a look at how James Bond has really changed over the years.
Firstly, however, it should be mentioned that most of the books the Bond movies are based on were written in the mid 20th Century, with the films made in the last half of the same century; obviously, times and attitudes changed.
Today, standards and morals are higher; well, at least they’re certainly different to what they once were. This is not to judge but to show we have all evolved in the same time frame.
In the books, in the long time between his cases, Bond would confine himself to solitude, drinking heavily (often neat vodka), smoke incessantly and exercise.
This is perhaps not the most obvious image of a hero, and in the latest Bond guise of Daniel Craig we do see him drinking heavily (often with little effect) to emote depression and anger. I’ve nothing against a bit of boozing (and likewise smoking), but all in all it’s a much healthier (and perhaps more realistic) take on abuse.
We saw Sean Connery and Roger Moore be physically violent with women. To be honest, however, all the Bonds have had occasion to be overzealous with women; but as times have changed, attitudes have been corrected – and let’s be clear, since big studios are bankrolling these films, only in the direst of situations will we now see Bond manhandle a female. Even then, hitting is (almost) beyond the pail.
Clothes, cars, gadgets and gizmos are also all relative to the periods in which the books and the films were developed. We have seen “Little Nelly” – a solo helicopter that could be packed into a suitcase – along with ejector seats in cars and handheld telephones that can explode.
Misogynistic, a relic and a dinosaur; these have all been used to describe Bond, both as a man and an agent. In his early outings (when the character was played by Connery and, in one film only, George Lazenby) we saw a very firm-minded, hardheaded individual who did things his own way, in his own style. As, together with Bond, we moved into the 1970s and 1980s, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, although highly contrasting Bonds, gradually evolved their mindsets to be less bullish, as well as more open to others and other ideas. We even saw him accept help more regularly from others, including women! Stacey Sutton and Pam Bouvier were all great strong females assists. And of course we even had the strongest of female Bond villainesses, May Day, who, unlikely at it may seem, at least in the realms of reality – and this is a spoiler alert – changed allegiance from her sociopathic mentor after just one night with Bond. How she is viewed by women’s libbers remains open to interpretation.
As Pierce Brosnan and Craig moved the character up to and into the 21st century, we have seen him, although still dangerously solo, have a much lighter side, a more emotional side and even an embracing side. He forms trust and, pardon the pun, bonds with his boss, ‘M’, and some MI6 officials; and we see him fall in love, lose it, and still remain utterly determined.
So, Bond has changed; he may not ever be in danger of being metro-sexual, but he has evolved enough for the character to remain celebrated and welcome for years to come. And despite all the alterations he has and will make, one thing will never change for him – his motivation… “For England!”