Editorial: Pagan Gods
Warning! This editorial contains SPOILERS for the latest James Bond film. Don’t read it unless you’ve either seen No Time to Die, or don’t ever intend to.
James Bond, the not terribly secret agent, has existed as a film hero for 59 years – quite a career, especially in such an energetic line of work – and shows no sign of being retired. Daniel Craig is bowing out, but Bond himself is surely going nowhere.
Bond started out as the embodiment of what men, supposedly, aspired to be, and whom women, supposedly, aspired to be with. Physically and mentally unbeatable, he killed without consequence, drove down market streets without a thought and ploughed his way through sexy girls without getting pinned down.
As our society has changed, though, the Bond myth has had to evolve too. His consorts, in most recent films, are no longer sex objects to use and lose but, increasingly, fellow agents demanding respect. Bond himself has become an evermore questionable and questioned figure, a killer wounded by a traumatic past, unable to form attachments. His taste for stylish drinks becomes an alcohol problem.
No Time to Die takes this further than ever. Of the three supposed Bond girls, one rivals his violent prowess and saves the day, another takes his place and even his number, while the third (and don’t forget what I said about SPOILERS) is the mother of his child. Bond bows to today’s ideas of healthy manhood to the extent of making a home, driving a family car, carrying his daughter to safety and even looking after her cuddly toy.
It’s a story of redemption for the modern west. But, and you do remember what I said about SPOILERS, don’t you, it is telling that having saved Bond from his toxic masculinity, the film franchise has to kill him. It is reminiscent of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby’s one outing as 007, which No Time to Die repeatedly harks back to. That 1969 film allowed Bond to marry, but then had to kill his bride. We want health and happiness for ourselves but cannot allow them to our action heroes. The screen caters to our love of might – and fight – not right.
James Bond is one of our old pagan gods. They were violent, lawless, oversexed, powerful and flawed. They protected our nation and you would want them on your side, though you would not depend on them for loving kindness. And sometimes they even gave their lives for us.
This article was published in the November 2021 edition of Reform