Masculinity with Sensitivity: James Bond
James Bond is a man whom many look to as the epitome of masculinity. Since Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels in 1953, generations of both males and females have looked to Bond for what they desire to be or to have in their life. Fleming’s novels have been adapted in to several different mediums including, but not limited to, films and video games. But can the James Bond the world knows be who he is without the qualities from the films, novels, and video games combined?
James Bond is a fictional character created by Ian Fleming in a series of novels. Bond, called 007, works as a Secret Service agent for the British government. There were 14 novels written and several other short stories. Authors are still writing Bond novels and a set of novels has been written surrounding the events of Young Bond. Fleming’s novels have been produced in 22 films (with more to come). The earliest Bond film was released in 1962 and the latest film is set to be released in October of this year. Along with films and novels, James Bond has appeared in 26 different video games for all types of consoles. As technology has changed new games have been released and re-released for XBOX, Wii, Playstation, etc. The Bond stories, films and games have continued to attract readers, viewers and players since their creation in 1953. In each of these adaptations Bond’s masculinity reflects the ideal character of James Bond we have all come to know.
How masculinity is defined and has changed over the years is via the social and economic times. The masculinity we know of the Bond today was not reflected this way in 1953 when Fleming wrote his novels. In the 1950s masculinity was not as harsh as some see it today. Men took care of their families and provided for them. In the 1980s and 1990s when the economy was slowing down, more masculine images of men were portrayed (Landman). This more masculine image provided people with a hero, like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard films. As we have moved in to the 21st century, gender stereotypes are being broken down (Baines). The break down of gender stereotypes allows for a more deeply emotional and sensitive Bond that we see in the most recent Bond films: Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
The Bond in the novels is a much more complex character than the Bond the world has come to know in films (Black). Bond, at one point in the novels, chooses not to kill someone as he looks through his scope and sees that they are a cello player (Brosnan). This indicates that Bond is not the ruthless killer we have come to know in the films and video games. The Bond in the novels is much more sensitive and a deeper thinker than the earlier films let on to. Those who create films define masculinity and how the audience observes masculinity. Thus, Hollywood creates what we view as masculine and they appeal to a predominantly Anglo-American audience (Landman). In the GoldenEye game for the Nintendo 64 when you play as a first person shooter you are unable to see what your character looks like. You see that your character is holding a gun but how is masculinity portrayed through video games? The character uses a gun and kills supposed enemies. The character also rescues female characters from enemies. But until scenes appear, one could be playing as a woman instead of James Bond. Through video games, an air of mystery surrounds James Bond, which only contributes to his masculinity.
One part of Bond’s masculinity that cannot be overlooked is his sexual confidence. While Bond is more sensitive in the novels, across novels, films and video games Bond has always dominated in the bedroom. This dominance is an assertion of his masculinity (Landman). This characteristic of Bond is possibly one of the most prominent characteristics of Bond’s personality. And throughout all the adaptations of Bond, when there is a woman in power he is sure to still show his dominance. This sexual dominance is something our culture has attributed to masculinity for many years and since the novels in 1953, Bond has been at the top of his game.
Technologically, Bond has always had the latest gadgets and cars to assist him in defeating the enemy. As we have moved in to the late 20th and early 21st century, technology has changed. Bond uses more gadgets to assist him, in his already superb, abilities. With the newer films that are creating a softer hearted Bond, technology is not as prominent. Bond is made to utilize his masculinity through his abilities and knowledge more so than assistance from advancements of science. This helps us see Bond as more realistic and human and understand his own inner demons when he faces them. No matter what, James Bond is always able to capture a male audience.
Over the years Bond has gone from physically fit and experiencing inner turmoil to a ruthless killer and back again. In today’s world, the Bond we are experiencing in the latest films is showing us his soft heart and hard body. The traditional tough man ideal is changing and allowing for a more sensitive but masculine man. We are going back to the Bond Fleming created. The macho-masculine Bond in the films needed to establish his dominance and reputation. In the video games, playing as first person allows for the character to be more genderless. After getting the world on board with his personality, Bond is able to change with the times and become masculine with a little bit of sensitivity. Bond and his masculinity would not be what it is today without the influences of Fleming’s novels, 22 films, and 26 different video games.
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Baines, Paul. “Questioning Masculinity: Oh James-Looking at the new Bond.” Media for Social Change. N.p., 26 05 2009. Web. 3 May 2012.
Baker , Brian. Masculinity in Fiction and Film: Representing Men in Popular Genres (1945-2000). 2006. Print.
Black, Jeremy. The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming’s Novels to the Big Screen. Praeger, 2001. Print.
Brosnan, John. James Bond in the Cinema. Tantivy Press, 1972. Print.
Landman, J. “Remodelling James Bond-GoldenEye and Casino Royale-An enquiry into socio-cultural values.” Diss. 2011. Print.