(Two updates today! Good gravy. He must be bored out of his mind).
Eva Green is my favourite Bond Girl.Go figure.
You might have heard the fan idea that the name “James Bond” is a codename like M or Jason Bourne. I’m a big fan of this theory because it allows for a much richer understanding of the Bond films and what’s going on. It explains the change of actors, the plot inconsistencies, changes in tone and direction, and technological improvements. This is a theory that’s been going around for a long time (as far back as 1988, apparently, but really it goes back to 1967 as you’ll see), and from the fans its drawn a lot of negative comments, but every single one of those people are dickbrains because this theory has legs. Despite minor inconsistencies, it works, and it explains the whole continuity in a really satisfactory way. No, really. Come on, don’t walk away. I’m trying to tell you something interesting.
So this is the pitch – James Bond isn’t a person. He’s a nom de guerre. This was best described in this cracked article, and what I’ll do, rather than pick over old ground, is expand on it.
So having read that article, you’ll have a clear idea of where we stand. It happens to be my favourite fan theory, second only to the one where Fight Club is really Calvin & Hobbes.
So here’s a rough timeline I’ve put together from the films:
1962 -67 – Sean Connery’s Bond begins operations. He is the original Bond – the first to take up the mantle, as it were. Maybe the idea had been kicking around the SIS headquarters for a while.
1967 – David Niven plays an agent called “James Bond” in Casino Royale. It is also here that the idea originated of James Bond being a codename for the top agent in the SIS. In this film there are six.
1969 – George Lazenby’s Bond was so shaken up by the death of his wife (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) he was retired by a psyche board.
1971 – Sean Connery’s Bond failed a physical after You Only Live Twice, due to his chronic drinking and smoking. He recovered somewhat and was brought back as Bond for Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983) , but was ultimately judged to be an inferior agent to his successors. Retired, and probably became an advisor to SIS. Amazingly, later became an advocate of Scottish Nationalism. What a dick.
1973 – 1985 Roger Moore’s Bond was so tragically shit he was inevitably killed, probably in a hilarious and camp way involving blimps and raised eyebrows. After this SIS operations were revised to concentrate on defeating the USSR, instead of busting camp villains who sucked too much to be in Batman movies.
1987 – 89 Timothy Dalton’s Bond resigned his 00 status before License To Kill and never picked it up again after the film, recovering his old life so he could devote more time to being the bad guy in Hot Fuzz (2007)
1995 – 2002 Pierce Brosnan’s unnamed agent was Bond from Goldeneye until Die Another Day. In this film, Bond was captured by North Koreans and held prisoner with loads of scorpions. While in captivity he hallucinated the totally improbable events of the last film, including a Madonna cameo, an invisible car and a Korean guy becoming Rupert Everett. THIS FILM NEVER HAPPENED.
2005 – Daniel Craig’s Bond is the current iteration of the codename, having gained his 00 status at the start of Casino Royale. Various knowing references are made in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall to previous Bonds having existed.
So why would a false identity and history be useful to a secret agent? Well, duhh. But still, let’s look at it. Imagine that the recruitment process for the 00 program is like joining the Marine corps. The whole “psychological breakdown” thing, the whole “you are not your name, you are not your nationality”, all that Full Metal Jacket bollocks. It’s not just taking the code name – it’s becoming the person. Whoever the trainee is, they assume the false identity, rather like Bruce Wayne becomes Batman.
So what benefits does that confer? It means that their past no longer exists -it is removed from the database. Any trace of family or loved ones (in short, any vulnerabilities) are no longer. Bond is a blunt instrument used by the British secret service, and in order to be truly effective he has to be unassailable. That’s why Bond’s history eternally contains the fact that his parents died in a skiing accident and he has no close relatives. He has nobody who could be taken captive and used for bargaining, in short. His history is fabricated to a degree that any “weaknesses” determined by intelligence gathering are all a ruse. Spymasters and terrorist cells who might hope to gain insight as to what makes the guy tick are led down the garden path.
And, like a master actor, the unnamed secret agent assumes all aspects of the ones who have gone before, in order to give a false feeling of continuity. So he drinks the same drinks. He drives the same car – the DB5 -a car that has, after all, become synonymous with him .He mentions things that have happened before, to other Bonds. In fact, if you think about Bond’s personal history, it stinks of Britishness. He has a Scottish father and a Swiss mother, emphasizing a classic multiculturalism. Educated at Eton, that bastion of English upper-classedness, and then at Fettes, the Scottish equivalent. After schooling he joins the Royal Navy, that most British of institutions (it’s the navy, after all, that built the empire) and the Ministry of Defence. Can you think of a more elitist, institutionalised (in short, British) upbringing? Can you think of a back story more palpably false?
This was really brought home to me when I watched Skyfall in the cinema. This dialogue in particular:
(M and Bond are standing in Glencoe, looking at the scenery)
M: Is this where you grew up?
M: How old were you when they died? (meaning Bond’s parents)
Bond: You know the answer to that. You know the whole story.
I guess you could interpret that two ways. Either it’s Bond revisiting his childhood memories, or M treating him as the Bond he is, cover story intact.
So what value does a fake background offer to a covert agent?
Example: Bond’s captured by a terrorist cell. They have access to his file. The torturer taunts him with memories of his dead wife.
No dice, dude. It’s just a story. It’s not a weakness – it’s propaganda. It’s a false trail. You have no leverage.
And therein lies the other strength of the Bond mythos. He represents an eternal Albion, a Britain unchanged since the Second World War. He represents an immortal gritty resolution, a unique Britishness that can’t be killed off. Better shit your pants and shoot yourselves in the foot now, bad guys. James Bond is coming. The man who can’t be killed is on his way to kick your arse. There’ll be Union Jacks flying in your bunker before sundown.
The spymasters, or maybe the mysterious “M” who came up with this ruse and passed it on to his successors, knew the value of myth. They knew that Britain has a history of deifying great men, and of refusing to allow them to die. Like King Arthur, Lord Kitchener, Lawrence of Arabia or Sir Francis Drake, James Bond is the immortal Briton, defending the commonwealth, the people and the monarch. His name goes before him as a harbinger of strength, of determination, and of British pluck, like Biggles with a 9-mm. His name strikes terror in the hearts of the evil for its association. It symbolizes permanence and immutability.
Sort of what you’d want from a secret service, huh?
The alternative is that James Bond is a shape-shifting immortal whose personality changes every so often. OMG he’s Doctor Who!