[Image] Home | Author  
 

Lights Out

by Ian Dunross
What will be left of you, James?
April 28, 2011
[image]


[Photo]

Other absurd acts have surfaced, even degrading the Bond character. Take, for example, the bizarre report about Daniel Craig cavorting with a police officer in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Leaving in his wake a piece of paper on the floor, the actor . . . wait, what's that? This isn't Daniel Craig? Instead, I had inadvertently described the controversy of Larry Craig? I am deeply regretful of my historical inaccuracy. It was then senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) who was caught, shall we say, in a lewd escapade in said restroom on June 11, 2007 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The muscular Daniel Craig, on the other hand, was allegedly cavorting with a male companion in Venice, California in the spring of 2010. It was truly a newsworthy event, reaching epic historical dimensions akin to the Battle of Waterloo—after all, the source was none other than the erudite historical journal known as The National Enquirer; and the rumor, along with the surprising lack of photos, compelled the Ministers of Profound Historical Events (again, the mainstream media) to give it attention.

Indeed, in this over-populated world, is there even a chance for anyone, especially a celebrity, to be undetected? The camera is everywhere—surveillance cameras, camera phones, compact cameras, and so forth—which means photographers are everywhere. The eye is everywhere. The lens is everywhere. Anyhow, you'd think that both Craig and Eon Productions would refute such an allegation to preserve the lucrative playboy image of their product, James Bond. Oddly, though, both sides were quiet, especially Craig and his handlers. This could be looked upon as a deliberate tactic not to give the rumor any importance and to let it disappear by itself. Nevertheless, will this sort of shenanigan affect the public's perception of Craig as 007? Then again, I must admit I do worry about Craig's overall career: a poll in Tallinn, Estonia revealed that 86% of the citizenry believed that his upcoming film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, while 10% were under the impression that he is Judy Craig, lead singer of the all-girl band, The Chiffons. Sadly, the remaining 4% mistook him for former senator Larry Craig. To make matters worse, Dolph Lundgren and David Spade continue to block his path to other lucrative roles. I therefore started to develop a screen treatment for Mr. Craig—a biopic of Anderson Cooper, but it's slow going, and I'm stuck on the scene depicting the CNN anchorman's historic meeting with Pee-Wee Herman.

Fortunately, the speed of history ushered in 2011, making everyone forget everything, including the alleged escapades of The Anointed One. But a new set of hilarity unfolded: somewhere in the world's turmoil, Sam Mendes managed to emerge in the headlines as the confirmed director of Bond 23 and is anticipated to bring intelligence to the film, oozing naturally from his Academy Award-winning stature, though we are not expected to believe him, considering all the bullshit political polemics in his previous films. Meanwhile, in an attempt to bring prestige to the cast, the less-than-brilliant studio executives in Ray Bans have been luring Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem to the villainous roles. A pity. Neither actor blazes with dignity: the former conjures images of a campy Lord Voldemort to which the young cast of Harry Potter acted circles around him; the latter, looking greasy and sporting bright red lipstick, was quite revolting to watch in an HIV awareness commercial, diminishing whatever Oscar prestige he's gained thus far. We are back where we started: namely, a pre-production buried underneath a mountain of confusion.

[Photo]

The absurdity reached its peak on March 7, 2011, when Daniel Craig appeared in drag in a short promotional video that commemorated the centenary of International Women’s Day. Commissioned by EQUALS (a coalition of charities) and produced by none other than Madam Barbara Broccoli, the video essentially denounces the James Bond character and his chauvinism to “highlight inequalities experienced by women around the world” (“Daniel Craig ‘drags up’ in James Bond charity video”). The voiceover, representing Judi Dench's M, asks whether Bond, as “someone with such a fondness for women,” has ever considered “what it might be like to be one.” Hence, Craig in drag. Seeing him emerge from a blurry white light, in a dress, with full make up, and sporting a long blonde wig was as horrible a thing as any person could be asked to endure.

Despite its noble intention to raise awareness for the plight of women, the video self-destructs. The sheer notion of introducing Judi Dench's M actually offsets the theme of gender inequality. Moreover, contrary to mainstream perception, Fleming's Bond—which has been the bang-the-drum marketing campaign for Craig's portrayal—is not the profound misogynist that this video would want us to believe. Sure, the character is a womanizer; but let's read the novels correctly: Bond is also a burned-out secret agent who yearns for a woman to be with. When we first meet him in Casino Royale, he's already tired of the so-called game of love:

He found something grisly in the inevitability of the pattern of each affair. . . . Even more he shunned the mise-en-scene for each of these acts in the play--the meeting at a party, the restaurant, the taxi, his flat, her flat, then the week-end by the sea, then the flats again, then the furtive alibis and the final angry farewell on some doorstep in the rain. (148)

Somehow, the heroine Vesper Lynd captivates him and realizes that he cannot live without her:

But somehow she had crept under his skin, and over the last two weeks his feelings had gradually changed. . . . He found her companionship easy and unexacting. There was something enigmatic about her which was a constant stimulus. (157)

In addition, the character is presented as a fantasy figure for a certain type of woman: he can love her so long as her involvement with him is uncomplicated, remaining in essence a short-term fantasy. And who is this woman? Well, he keeps running into a distinct type: young, fairly adventurous, and sexually drawn to him, delving into a stage in her life where she, just as Bond, is not seeking permanent involvement. For the films, raise this characterization by several notches on the Bond-girl dial, and you get a heightened variation of the fantasy.

Let's also keep in mind the underlying gallantry of Bond, something that Madam Broccoli has apparently forgotten: evident in the novels is his tendency to reach out to a woman and help her. It reaches warm acknowledgment in On Her Majesty's Secret Service when Bond's future father-in-law, Marc-Ange Draco (a Corsican mafia boss, of all people), praises him for the concern that the agent expressed to his daughter, the heroine of the piece,Tracy di Vicenzo: “‘Your gentlemanly conduct in the casino, for which’—he looked across at Bond—‘I now deeply thank you, was reported to me. . . . What you did, the way you behaved in general, may have been the beginning of some kind of therapy’” (41). This is in reference to an incident in which Bond volunteered to pay off the gambling debt to which the young woman recklessly amassed (she had made a bet without the actual funds). Bond, then, had rescued this damsel in distress, and Marc-Ange contends that the agent's intervention may have prevented the suicide of his unstable daughter. She, Tracy di Vincenzo, is the third woman who Bond has fallen in love, which again suggests his yearning for the ideal woman: any life, even that of a cold secret agent, can be disrupted by the urgency of love. Previously, Tiffany Case, from Diamonds Are Forever, enters his life for a short while, moving into his flat off King's Road; and again, the first is Vesper Lynd, whose entanglement with Bond needs no further lucubration from me. The astute reader, though, will recall that Bond also lives with Kissy Suzuki on a Japanese island for a year in You Only Live Twice. This is the only time in the series when the secret agent delves into tranquil domesticity, even though he is suffering amnesia at the time. Yet Bond, ever the solitary figure, eventually leaves her to find his identity, unaware that she is pregnant with his child. This summary, I think, is all it is necessary to invalidate the video's denouncement of the character: to say more would be to anticipate what Fleming depicts in his fiction. It is enough here to grasp that, when it comes to women, the character—ruthless and cold to some degree but a romantic at heart—is difficult to discern as reflected in the mirror of an ambiguous personality.

So where does this leave the video? “You see, Daniel Craig is a real life hero,” wrote a sneerer in Boston, gloating that the video only fuels his political passions and that seeing Craig in drag was a true radical statement that subverts the conventional. The video has, apparently, bigger political dimensions:

I know you'll criticize Daniel's Bond. Go ahead. I'll defend him! This is a cause worth fighting for, so I visit forums and blogs, making sure to put in a good word for Daniel and to defend this video. He [Craig] is an inspirational figure, he cares about humanity and that's why he dressed up as a woman. This is all for social justice! This is all for the struggle against oppression!

I emailed back: Good for you, and while you're on this crusade to battle oppression, do stop in Tibet and liberate its people from tyranny. What my good friend in Boston fails to consider is: by presenting a fictional character to express gender inequality, how effective will this video be? Personally, I think the video shows more about the current state of the Bondian film franchise than any statement about oppression. With repeated viewing (which suggests that I myself could use some good Adlerian therapy), I realized that the current handlers of the franchise (namely, Eon Productions and Craig himself, for that matter) have snapped and now hold nothing but contempt for the character, despise all of 007 fandom, actively seek the death of joy, and attempt to convince audiences that the devil-may-care womanizing character of James Bond, as conceived by Fleming, is utterly unthinkable and completely horrid, and that the only way to redeem the character is to stuff him in drag so that he can express the inequalities suffered by women. In other words, feminize the character and, in this process, rewrite Fleming's creation to accord with political correctness. But some sort of paradoxical law is at work: these handlers who are denigrating the character to make him appeal to PC sensibilities are, at the same time, doing their utmost to make sure that audiences forget the style of the character—the nonchalant ladykiller, the supercool secret agent in a world of fast cars and fast women that underscore the essence of the franchise. In their will to forget, the handlers are erasing Bond, just as they airbrushed Peter Morgan from the painting of the league of extraordinary screenwriters.

Other questions come to mind: can Bond only understand the plight of women by becoming a transvestite? Will stuffing the current incarnation of Bond in full drag rectify, or perhaps vindicate, the mistreatment of women? Or is this a signal from Madam Broccoli that the making of Bond movies will be remarkably different from here on? Put another way, will future Bond films have a heightened awareness for feminism and no longer contain the legions of bikini-clad babes and the fantasy of sexual frivolity? In Craig's two 007 adventures, we are treated to an encroaching sense of emasculation of Bond: gone is the aggressive playboy, replaced by a meek metrosexual persona. By the second film, he is quite relaxed to be surrounded by effeminate villains casting lingering glances at him, giving the impression that they all long to be in La Cage Au Faux and not a Bond film. In this reboot of the series, it seems there is no longer any need for Fleming's hero. What will be left of you, James?


[image]

List of Illustrations

“Daniel Craig in the Lens.”  Personal graphic by author.
“Craig in Drag.”  Online Photograph.  The Telegraph.  8 Mar. 2011
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/celebrity-news-video/8366190/
Daniel-Craig-drags-up-in-James-Bond-charity-video.html>.
 

Works Cited

“Daniel Craig ‘drags up’ in James Bond charity video.”  The Telegraph.   8 Mar. 2011.   Web.  9 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/celebrity-news-video/8366190/
Daniel-Craig-drags-up-in-James-Bond-charity-video.html>.
Fleming, Ian. Casino Royale. 1953. New York: Berkley, 1982.
---.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  1963.  New York: Signet, 22nd printing: n.d

Using any text or paraphrasing any of the ideas on this web site without proper citation is plagiarism. It is a serious misconduct that can range from failure in an academic course, even dismissal from school, and litigation. To avoid plagiarism, refer to the MLA citation styles described at The Owl At Purdue, the web site of the Writing Lab at Purdue University.