The Swishy Villainy & Psychodrama of Skyfall

Mark Simpson fondles the pecs and thighs of James Bond’s latest ‘outing’

When at their first meet­ing in Skyfall a rather for­wards Raul Silva, played by a bleached-blond Javier Bardem, takes cad­dish advant­age of James Bond’s/Daniel Craig’s indis­pos­i­tion – tied as he is to a chair – run­ning his hands over 007’s craggy face, ripped chest and power­ful thighs, and flirtatiously-threatingly sug­gest­ing “Well, first time for everything, Bond…” you could feel the audi­ence in my local cinema freeze.

And when Bond delivered the now-famous lac­onic retort “What makes you think it’s my first time?” you could hear the audience’s sharp intake of breath over the THX sound sys­tem. Wot?! James Bond a bender!?!

Oh bloody hell!, I wanted to shout out, at Raul, the audi­ence and the world in gen­eral. Has ANYONE been pay­ing atten­tion? Of COURSE it’s not Bond’s first time! In Casino Royale Bond tried a spot of CBT with Mr Big and his knot­ted rope, while tied to a RIM CHAIR!!

Casino Royale rebooted and updated the tired, ter­min­ally naff Bond brand in 2006 in the pec­tor­ally prom­in­ent form of Craig, a man whose appoint­ment to the role ini­tially pro­voked a chorus of com­plaints from Bond fan­boys about his blond­ness, smooth­ness and the fact he kissed a man in another movie.

Craig’s Bond proved a sen­sa­tion on screen, one which finally real­ised the tarty prom­ise of Sean Connery’s beefily glam­or­ous, dis­turb­ing sexu­al­ity in 1962’s Dr No – long since for­got­ten in the sex­less knit­wear cata­logue model Bonds of the 70s-90s. By recon­nect­ing Bond to the met­ro­sexy revolu­tion in mas­cu­line aes­thet­ics, the male desire to be desired, that the ori­ginal Bond movies anti­cip­ated but which had been left to other movies to exploit, Casino delivered us Bond as a 21st Century fully-fledged, self-objectifying sex-object. Bond as his own Bond girl. Hence Craig’s Ursula Andress in Speedos moment.

So when Silva has a good feel of Bond’s pecs and thighs in Skyfall he’s just doing what pretty much every­one, male and female, has wanted to do since Casino Royale.

If Casino Royale outed Bond’s omni­sexual tarti­ness, Skyfall, which is at least as good a movie – effa­cing the mor­ti­fy­ing memory of Quantum of Solace – outs the queer­ness of the Bond vil­lain. Someone who was often impli­citly coded queer (those cats, those cigar­ette hold­ers, those hulk­ing goons), partly as a way of mak­ing unmar­ried, shaken-not-stirred Bond seem straighter. After all those dec­ades of cod­ing, Bardem’s openly flir­ta­tious swishy vil­lainy seems exhilir­at­ing. It’s cer­tainly a great pleas­ure to watch.

Though, like Bond, Silva isn’t actu­ally gay. As a res­ult of the spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing Bond’s ‘shock­ing’ admis­sion of his bi-curious past in Skyfall Craig was asked in an inter­view recently whether he thinks there could ever be a ‘gay James Bond’. “No,” he replied, “because he’s not gay. And I don’t think Javier [Bardem’s] char­ac­ter is either — I think he’d fuck anything.”

Much like Bond, then.

What’s ‘gay’ about Skyfall isn’t the thigh-squeezing, or even Daniel Craig’s cir­cuit party tits (which I’m happy to report are reg­u­larly on dis­play again) it’s the glor­i­ous camp excess. “Was that meant for me?” Bond asks Silva dur­ing an under­ground pur­suit, after he det­on­ates a bomb behind our hero by remote con­trol, blow­ing a hole in the roof of the vault. “No,” dead­pans Silva. “But this is.” Right on cue a tube train falls through the hole, headed for Bond, while Silva dis­ap­pears up a ladder.

Some film crit­ics com­plained that this scene is ‘over the top’. This makes me won­der: a) What kind of movie fran­chise they think Bond is, and b) Whether they have any sense of humour at all.

The whole premise of Skyfall is of course pretty camp: that Silva, a former ‘favour­ite’ agent of M’s is going to so much trouble – hack­ing MI6, steal­ing, decrypt­ing and pub­lish­ing lists of secret Nato agents, blow­ing up the MI6 build­ing, per­son­ally storm­ing the Houses of Parliament dressed as a David Walliams char­ac­ter – just to get his own back on M (played by gay icon Judi Dench) for drop­ping him.

That’s some hissy fit.

Fortunately camp isn’t code here for ‘crap’. It’s a test­a­ment to Bardem’s skill as an actor and Sam Mendes dir­ec­tion that he’s vividly, entran­cingly men­acing. He steals every scene he’s in. Actually, his hair steals every scene he’s in. What’s more, you really feel, per­haps for the first time, that this Bond vil­lain has a point. After all, what kind of fucked up fam­ily is MI6? Particularly since in the open­ing scene of the movie Bond is betrayed too – badly wounded and nearly killed after M orders another MI6 agent to take a dodgy shot at the bad­die Bond is bat­tling (atop a mov­ing train, of course). ‘M’ is for ‘Mother’ – bad Mother.

Skyfall is very queer psy­cho­drama – delving deep into the twis­ted fam­ily romance of MI6 and the orphan Bond’s quasi inces­tu­ous devo­tion to M. Silva may be on a deli­ciously queenie ram­page, but we all know that it’s Dame Judi who is the real (Virgin) Queen. When Craig appeared in that embar­rass­ing clip for the open­ing cere­mony of the London Olympics this Summer it was quite clear to every­one that con­sti­tu­tional mon­arch Elizabeth Windsor was Judi’s mere under­study. M has the power of life and death, after all.

Silva’s first scene with Bond – ‘Do you like my island Mr Bond?’ – is grip­ping, and not just in a grop­ing sort of way. But the scene where he meets M and denounces her crimes and invites her to gaze upon her handi­work trumps it as a piece of pure theatre. Again, it’s delib­er­ately over­wrought – but then, so is any fam­ily romance. Even the ruth­less, steely M is clearly affected by this con­front­a­tion with her abor­ted boy toy.

Perhaps because there’s not enough Bardem in it, the shoot-em up final reel is a bit of an anti-climax after the emo­tional tube-train crash of the first couple of hours. Even in a Bond film as Freudian as this one it is too sym­bolic for its own good. More like a bad dream than a finale, Bond and M – and an ancient Albert Finney – are holed up in his fam­ily estate in the Scottish Highlands, which he hasn’t vis­ited since his father died when he was a boy. His bur­ied past, in other words.

The Gothic, moul­der­ing pile is called ‘Skyfall’ – a name which is pos­sibly inten­ded to bring to mind God’s favour­ite, Lucifer, being cast out of heaven. Sure enough, Silva, the agent who was cast out of MI6 by M, arrives with his goons and start shoot­ing the place up in the kind of pyro­tech­nic assault we’ve seen in a hun­dred other movies.

Though as with the rest of Skyfall, the final reel is beau­ti­fully lit. The attack begins at dusk (Lucifer is the ‘even­ing star’) and the light pro­gress­ively turns bluer until it is as dark as death, the only light the hellish orange of Bond’s ances­tral home aflame. Like the fam­ily romance itself, Skyfall is suf­fused with nos­tal­gia. Nostalgia for the Bond fran­chise (it’s a half cen­tury since Dr No was released). Nostalgia for 1960s aes­thet­ics. Nostalgia for Britain and Britishness. For the Mother Country. And mother-love.

Heavily preg­nant with sym­bol­ism, Bond and his Secret Service mother drive to their Highland hon­ey­moon from hell in his Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 he’s kept in a London lock-up, pre­sum­ably since the 1960s. On the way he dis­plays what Freud would call his ‘ambi­val­ence’ by jok­ingly threat­en­ing M with the ejector seat, fin­ger­ing the red but­ton on his gear stick. Of course, Bond never repu­di­ates his mother-love and remains true to Judi.

However, it won’t be giv­ing too much away to say that Skyfall does finally press that but­ton on 007’s behalf.

This review was ori­gin­ally writ­ten for the adult site Nightcharm

Bond on a Budget: Quantum of Solace is Plenty Cheap

Mark Simpson straps Mr Bond into a rim-chair and aims a knot­ted rope at his nuts

I’d rather stay in a morgue!’

So sniffs Daniel Craig in the latest Bond vehicle Quantum of Solace when presen­ted with less than salu­bri­ous accom­mod­a­tion in La Paz, Bolivia. Instead of check­ing in, he sweeps off to a flash five star Wallpaper magazine hotel even more pre­pos­ter­ous than his new movie’s title.

The audi­ence at my local cinema seemed to mis­take this sniffi­ness for quip­pi­ness and giggled nervously — per­haps out of des­per­a­tion for any gags or relief at all in this morgue-like movie that I for one was very sorry I’d checked into: a couple of deathly hours that felt like a very long dark night of the soul indeed.

I quite enjoyed, in a slutty kind of way, my one-night stand with the new 007 a couple of years ago in Casino Royale, espe­cially the way that Craig’s glisten­ing tits announced that Bond had finally become his own Bond Girl, but this was a rematch that made me want to lose his num­ber big time. In fact, by the end of it I des­per­ately needed his BMW defib­ril­lator from Casino.

So yes, I’m feel­ing a little bit­ter and jaded, not to men­tion used and abused — and not in a good way. So bear with me while I get pedantic on Mr Bond’s perky ass, strap him into a rim-chair and aim a knot­ted rope at his nuts.

For starters, ‘morgue’ is an Americanism, and Bond is meant to be a very British kind of action hero in a very British fran­chise. 007 resort­ing to such lazy transat­lantic tics is tan­tamount to the Queen greet­ing heads of state with WASSSSUP! and a fist-bump. Adding hypo­crisy to inac­cur­acy, this film has some very creaky anti-Americanism in it — tempered, equally creakily/cynically, by a ‘good guy’ CIA man with dark skin who is clearly meant to be Obama in a trenchcoat.

Worse, the ritzy hotel Craig checks into instead of the dowdy down-market one he’d been presen­ted with has a cold, impass­ive, glossy magazine black and white décor that looks much more like a mor­tu­ary than the one he sniffed at. And in fact it ends up one: a dead body is placed on his swanky bed later in the film (dipped in oil, a jar­ring, ill-conceived visual ref­er­ence to a much super­ior, glor­i­ously trashy film from another cen­tury, another civil­isa­tion: Goldfinger - black gold, ged­dit?).

I’d like to think that the deathly boutique hotel was a delib­er­ate com­ment­ary on the mor­bid­ity of con­sumer cul­ture, but given the mur­der­ous lack of wit on evid­ence in this undead movie I sus­pect it was rather unin­ten­tional. Likewise, the way that the can­cel­la­tion of an AWOL Mr Bond’s credit card by his MI6 Sugar Mummy Judi Dench is presen­ted as one of the worst chas­tise­ments pos­sible, almost on a par with los­ing his girl­friend in the last movie.

Perhaps the most unfor­give­able thing about a film as expens­ive as Quantum is its cheapness — a cheapness it thinks is ‘ser­i­ous­ness’. If Quantum is a hotel, then it’s one of those fash­ion­able ones that charges you the earth but doesn’t bother to change the bed­ding. The destruc­tion of the villain’s lair sequence at the end, which should look orgas­mic­ally expens­ive, instead looks like some­thing papier-mâché explod­ing in a sub-par epis­ode of Thunderbirds (come to think of it, Craig does walk like a Thunderbird…). Cheaper still is the use of Sony product place­ment instead of Q’s gad­gets: show us some­thing we can’t buy, please.

Cheapest of all is the quick-cut edit­ing used dur­ing ‘action’ sequences, such as the car chase which opens the film. Instead of extens­ively story­boarded, care­fully cho­reo­graphed and labor­i­ously shot fights and chases presen­ted for your lazy, sco­po­philiac enjoy­ment, you get a blur of bad edit­ing that is lit­er­ally unwatch­able on a big screen unless you enjoy the sen­sa­tion of your eye­balls bleed­ing. An epis­ode of Top Gear is much bet­ter shot than Quantum. Actually, even the made-for-TV ads that appeared before the film, crudely blown up for cinema, are bet­ter edited. Because you can see bug­ger all, this kind of edit­ing could make John Sergeant look like an action hero.

Tellingly, the last Bourne had the same infuri­at­ing jump-cut mania. And while Casino made a super­an­nu­ated Bond fran­chise look like he’d got his mojo back from the less stuffy American Bond rip-offs like Bourne, Quantum just looks like a more tedi­ous, lower budget — more ‘morgue-like’ — Bourne Identity.

At least Craig gets his tits out again — though only once, dur­ing the film’s only sex scene (and of course, this being the new out-and-proud metro-Bond we see much more of his tits than his lady friend’s). But the flash of his tits is almost as curs­ory as his ter­rible seduc­tion line: ‘I can’t find the sta­tion­ery. Perhaps you can help me?’ A chat–down line almost as res­ist­ible as this movie.

Though maybe he was being ser­i­ous. Maybe Craig, who can act when given the chance, had decided — since no one else had bothered - to write him­self some lines and a plot.

By far the best, sex­i­est and most lux­uri­ous scene from Quantum doesn’t appear in the film at all. It’s the Sony HD ad that has been run­ning on heavy rota­tion on telly for the last few weeks which por­trays a well-tailored, well-groomed, cheek-sucked Craig as a kind of CGI Saint Sebastiane, lacer­ated by slo-mo explo­sions. He doesn’t say any­thing, just shares his pale blue mas­ochism with us.

At under a minute and free of charge it’s the bet­ter Bond not by a quantum but by a coun­try mile.

Bashing Bond’s Blond Bollocks

I finally saw the new Bond film star­ring the new Bond Daniel Craig last night (my OUT essay was writ­ten sight unseen — winging it entirely by the seat of Craig’s pants).

The new Bond delivered.  Some (swoon­ingly sub­ject­ive) observations:

Bond is now the ‘Bond Girl’ of the open­ing cred­its. It’s his sil­hou­ette we see – and nary a dan­cing naked babe in sight.

Perhaps to com­pensate for this, in the actual film he gets his tits out a lot.

He emerges from the sea glisten­ing, show­ing off his pumped boobs, like Ursula Andress in ‘Dr No’ — save his nipples are more prominent.

Perhaps because of all that time he’s spent in the gym with his circuit-party per­sonal fit­ness trainer he has a nar­ciss­istic self-sufficiency and isn’t very inter­ested in shag­ging birds for shagging’s sake. He uses his body like a female spy: as bait. Luring, teas­ing, sedu­cing his female tar­gets and fish­ing for inform­a­tion just as they’re eagerly slid­ing their tongues down his six pack. Unlike pre­vi­ous Bonds, he doesn’t even have the cour­tesy to shag the girl after he’s extrac­ted the inform­a­tion about the man he’s after.

For the first time it’s entirely pos­sible to ima­gine Bond sleep­ing with a man – espe­cially if it meant he would get some­thing he wanted. Not least because Craig’s Bond is clearly MI6’s rent boy.

Speaking of which: The main sex scene in the film, and cer­tainly the most expli­cit, fea­tures Craig being tor­tured in the buff in a rusty dun­geon (or is it a back room in a gay leather bar?) by the evil Mr Big who pauses to com­pli­ment him on his physique. Craig sits strapped bol­lock naked in a rim chair while his (unseen but vividly ima­gined) blond bol­locks are bashed with a big ugly heavy knot­ted rope. Although in agony, he appears to actu­ally enjoy the exper­i­ence and eggs his tor­turer on: ‘To the right a bit!’ When the rope thwacks his gon­ads even harder and repeatedly he yells: ‘YESSSSSSSSSSS!’. All in all, he comes across as a clas­sic Pushy Controlling Bottom.

His mas­ochism is of a piece with his nar­ciss­ism and his sex-object status. According to Dr Freud, to invite the gaze, as Bond does in this film over and over again, like a tart in the last shop­ping week before Christmas, is pass­ive and there­fore mas­ochistic. Craig’s Bond may oscil­late between thug­gish sad­ism and kinky mas­ochism, but our voyeur­istic, sad­istic enjoy­ment of his phys­ical and ulti­mately emo­tional suf­fer­ing (he falls in love) is a con­stant. We keep bash­ing his bol­locks with a big knot­ted rope, long after he’s told us what we wanted to hear. Or, if our name is Judi Dench, we simply keep pulling his OHMSS string.

The film makes sev­eral other expli­cit state­ments about Bond’s pos­i­tion in the new (metro)sexual order of things. In one scene he gives his pretty female sidekick (Vesper Green) a dress and tells her, over her protests that she has already chosen one: ‘I want you to look fab­ulous’. She gives him a din­ner jacket, over his protests that he has brought his own, say­ing she wants him to look like someone she would have on her arm. Bond looks pouty but does as he’s told. He’s clearly intrigued by the idea of a woman who might boss him about and dress him up.

His pushy con­trolling bot­tom is at the fore­front of her mind when they first meet. ‘I will keep my eye on our Government’s money and off your perfectly-formed arse,’ she prom­ises, uncon­vin­cingly. ‘You noticed then?’ says Bond, a little too eagerly.

Yes, she did. So did we, Daniel. But I think you know that.

She, of course, doesn’t quite keep her mind on the job – and we don’t keep our minds on the plot.

Which is just as well. An occa­sion­ally slightly silly film which is also rather over­long (the end­less, unin­tel­li­gible card game almost makes you miss the ‘count­down to Armageddon’ explos­ive cliché of pre­vi­ous Bond films) is redeemed partly by being as well-made as his Aston Martin, but mostly by the spec­tacle of Mr Bond’s perfectly-formed 21st Century exhibitionism.

Bond has become his own Bond girl and is finally the sex-object of his own movies in the way that the stars of Bond knock-offs have been for years — like Tom Cruise in the Missy Impossible series. (You can be sure that flat-chested Mr Cruise has turned quite green with envy at the sight of Mr Craig’s bazookas.)

All in all, the best Bond movie in dec­ades and the best Bond — per­haps the only Bond — since Connery.

 

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Scoring The Gayness, Bondness & Shagability of the 007s

In hon­our of this week’s launch of the new Bond movie ‘Casino Royale’, star­ring Daniel Craig as the new, pumped, shaved, very tight-shirted blond Bond — he may be a secret agent but Craig’s pecs have very pub­licly outed his met­ro­sexu­al­ity — here’s a break­down of the dif­fer­ent Bonds accord­ing to their gay­ness, Bondness, and shagability.

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SEAN CONNERY – 1962–1967; 1971

Author Ian Fleming thought the Scottish actor ‘an over­grown stunt­man’ but was later won over by the burly, latent-metro Bond. Who can blame him?

Gayness: 009 (body­builder, fake tan, lip­stick, wigs)
Bondness: 009
Shagability: 009 (but you might get a slap)

 

 

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GEORGE LAZENBY (1969)

The craggy Aussie former unarmed com­bat instructor played bond for only one film: OHMSS. Not per­haps the greatest actor, but who cares in that kilt? He pre-empts Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct by dec­ades – and com­pletely out­classes her.

Gayness: 008 (that kilt again – plus he pre­tends to be gay)
Bondness: 008
Shagability: 009 (that kilt!)

 

rogermoore_dining360x360.pngROGER MOORE (1973–1985)

The longest serving Bond, Moore played 007 for effete laughs. Probably because he knew he couldn’t com­pare to what had swung before him. Maybe that’s why he didn’t wear a kilt.

Gayness: 005 (only for the catty quips and arched eye­brows)
Bondness: 005
Shagability: 004 (can you find his arse in those high-waisted flares?)

 

007Dalton.jpgTIMOTHY DALTON (1987–1989)

The Royal Shakespeare Company Bond. Jean-Luc Picard plus hair. Why?

Gayness: 001 (only because he’s RSC)
Bondness: 002
Shaggability: 001 (a mercy fuck)

 

pierce_brosnan_bond_2.jpgPIERCE BROSNAN (1995–2002)

Bond finally runs out of spunk. Proficient but sex­less Irish actor, polit­ic­ally updated by fem­in­ism -– but not aes­thet­ic­ally. By ‘Die Another Day’ he resembled an Eighties knit­wear cata­logue model trapped in a Noughties com­puter game.

Gayness: 000
Bondness: 002
Shaggability: 000 (no, no seven!)

 

bahamas.jpgDANIEL CRAIG (2006-)

Bond finally comes out of the metro-closet, baby! First work­ing class Bond since Connery and also the first since the Sixties to pos­sess a body. And, boy, does he like to show it off! Bond is at last the sex-object he clearly craved to be thirty years ago. Bond, in other words, finally becomes his own Bond Girl.

Gayness: 009
Shagability: 008 (nice tits shame about the face)
Bondness: To be determined….

James Bond Comes Out

The new blond Bond has a sur­pris­ing amount in com­mon with the bru­nette ori­ginal – pre­cisely for the reas­ons he’s been bashed, says Mark Simpson

(Out, November, 2006)

BOND IS BLOND! He’s smooth! He works out! He doesn’t have any eye­brows! He kissed a guy!

Ever since English actor Daniel Craig was cast last year as the U.K.’s most fam­ous spy—and the face of the world’s most suc­cess­ful, longest-running block­buster brand—the British pop­u­lar press and Bond fan­boys have been up in arms, shriek­ing about his unsuit­ab­il­ity for the role.

They com­plain about all sorts of sup­posed fail­ings, includ­ing that he required coach­ing to handle a gun and play poker, and that he snogged another male on film (as Francis Bacon’s lover in Love Is the Devil and also in Infamous). Apparently, you see, he’s “not manly enough” to play cinema’s most fam­ous action hero. Essentially, they’ve got their off-white tighty whit­ies in a twist because Bond has gone metrosexual.

However, there is some­thing that needs to be poin­ted out here, like the pleas­ing bulge of a Walther PKK semi­auto­matic in a Savile Row trouser pocket: The early Bond movies were thrill­ingly per­verse, shock­ingly sexy, and not a little queer. This will trau­mat­ize mil­lions, but the ori­ginal James Bond, by the dingy, stringy-vested, “no sex please it’s bath night” stand­ards of early 1960s Britain was some­thing of a met­ro­sexual, albeit a lat­ent one (he’s a secret agent, after all).

Watching again the very first Bond film, Dr. No—released 44 years ago and played a zil­lion times on TV and cable but nev­er­the­less still some­thing of a revelation—I’m struck by a num­ber of things about the ori­ginal Mr. Bond, sup­posedly the gold stand­ard of authen­tic mas­culin­ity and vir­il­ity in an increas­ingly sis­si­fied world:

(1) His fake tan
(2) His full, glossy, pink lips, much more lus­cious than Ursula Andress’s (or even Tom’s in the Missy Impossible fran­chise)
(3) His worked-out body (Connery rep­res­en­ted Scotland in the Mr. Universe con­test in 1953.)
(4) His fine tail­or­ing, care­ful groom­ing, and man­i­cured hands
(5) His fet­ish for gad­gets and giz­mos
(6) His taste for fussy cock­tails (shaken, not stirred)
(7) His wigs (Connery went bald in his early 20s.)
(8)His over­act­ing in the fam­ous big-hairy-spider-in-bed scene….

Add to this damning list of charges his fond­ness for exotic loc­a­tions, the com­pany of high-fashion mod­els, and all those gor­geous, exquis­ite interi­ors — not to men­tion his incur­able bach­el­or­hood — and Bond is prac­tic­ally a black­mail tar­get (male homo­sexu­al­ity remained illegal in England until 1967).

Perhaps this is why the evil-genius vil­lains always had to be so camp and fussy, with their cats, cigar­ette hold­ers, leather gloves, com­ic­ally butch factot­ums, and makeover plans for the world. And per­haps also why Bond has to be so nasty to the ladies-though his sad­ism merely makes him all the more per­verse and kinky. Even his fero­ciously, fre­quently fatal (for the ladies) hetero promis­cu­ity is devi­ant by the buttoned-up stand­ards of the era: As the trail­ers put it at the time, “He’s licensed to kill-when he likes, whom he likes, where he likes.”

Most working-class U.K. males in 1962 (Connery was one of them) were licensed to marry young, impreg­nate their wives three or four times, and then take up pigeon-fancying. Wartime-rationing of food and lux­ury items didn’t end until 1954, two years before Elvis’s first hit and less than a dec­ade before Dr. No was made — although sex-rationing con­tin­ued for dec­ades afterwards.

Connery’s Bond, by con­trast, is a vain single young man jet­ting around the world and lit­er­ally tak­ing his pleas­ures where he pleases, liv­ing a glossy magazine life­style, albeit as an under­cover agent. This life­style was not to come out of the secret-service closet until over 30 years later with the emer­gence of the met­ro­sexual — a man whose mis­sion was also to save the West, but by shop­ping instead of shooting.

But per­haps the most proto-metrosexual aspect of the first James Bond is that he is also a sex object almost as rav­ish­ing as any of the ladies he rav­ishes, almost as fet­ish­ized as any of the objects of desire he toys with: a play­boy we would like to play with. Raymond Chandler might have fam­ously described the Bond of Ian Fleming’s nov­els as “what every man would like to be and what every woman would like to have between her sheets,” but the ori­ginal screen Bond, for all his mas­ter­ful­ness, was a voyeur­istic pleas­ure that men might want between their sheets and women might want to be.

With the pos­sible and very brief excep­tion of George “legs” Lazenby (he made only one Bond movie in 1969; he has spent much of his sub­sequent career play­ing a lothario in a dif­fer­ent franchise-the soft-porn Emmanuelle series), none of the other Bonds that came after have the charge, the sex­i­ness, the per­versity, the proph­ecy of Connery’s ‘60s Bond. Ironically, it has been left to any­one other than Bond to real­ize the lat­ent met­ro­sexu­al­ity of the ori­ginal, or even just main­tain its charge. Bond has gone back­wards toward the wall while the world’s males have leaned over for­wards. Pretty boys Matt Damon and Tom Cruise in their respect­ive Bourne Identity and Mission Impossible Bond knock­off incarn­a­tions are closer to the real spirit of Bond than, well, Bond.

For starters, neither Roger Moore nor Timothy Dalton nor Pierce Brosnan even have bod­ies. They’re clotheshorses embalmed in hair spray - 1950s knit­wear cata­log mod­els. In fact, this is exactly what Roger Moore was before his TV career took off. By the time of his last out­ing in Die Another Day, Brosnan looked like a 1950s knit­wear model trapped inside a com­puter game. And as for the sex scenes… well, they look like abuse. Of Brosnan. After Connery’s bit of pol­ished ‘60s rough, James Bond seemed to be frightened of his own sexu­al­ity, of giv­ing away too much.

Yes, post-‘80s, fem­in­ism may have finally been acknow­ledged: Brosnan’s boss is female. And the Bond girls may have become less, well, girly (e.g., Halle Berry in Die Another Day as the high-kicking sidekick), but this just makes Bond’s own mas­culin­ity all the more uncon­vin­cing. Worse, it makes it extremely unappealing.

Paradoxically, we now live in a world where England’s sweaty soc­cer team can be cap­tained by the most met­ro­sexual male alive, but England’s ima­gin­ary spy of the sil­ver screen, who helped make Beckham’s gen­er­a­tion what it is, has to be more retro than metro.

Until now. The makers of the Bond films seem to have finally woken up to the prob­lem. They have not renewed hairy bru­net Brosnan’s con­tract and have instead cast smooth, blond Craig in the role for the next three films-the first Bond actor who was born after Fleming’s death. Underlining this over­due remod­el­ing, the makers have announced that Casino Royale is a “reboot” of the brand that will wipe out the pre­vi­ous cine­matic timeline. Bond is being reborn. Perhaps as what he prom­ised us he could be 44 years ago.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2009