Chill, 007 fans: This gentleman agent is used to criticism

“But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist,” Daniel Craig said while promoting SPECTRE.

Recent stories on websites and British tabloid papers about how millennials are critical of old James Bond films has upset fans of the gentlemen agent.

On social media, that’s generated comments such as, “Bite my bum millenials,” and “I blame the parents……poor upbringing.”

The thing is, the criticisms mentioned in these stories aren’t new. They’ve been around pretty much as long as Bond has. Specifically, Bond is a womanizer, represents imperialism, has racial overtones, etc., etc.

One critique that sometimes is cited is an April 1958 review by Paul Johnson in the New Statesman of the novel Dr. No.

There are three basic ingredients in Dr No, all unhealthy, all thoroughly English: the sadism of a school boy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult. Mr Fleming has no literary skill…

The plot can be briefly described. James Bond, an upper-class Secret Service Agent, is sent by his sadistic superior, M., to Jamaica, to investigate strange incidents on a nearby island.

This review was published almost 60 years ago, yet mirrors some of the criticisms contained in the recent “Millennials vs. James Bond” stories. Those stories rely heavily on Twitter posts. As the website Medium noted in a Jan. 28 story, not all of the tweets are even written by millennials.

On occasion, similar critiques were made when Bond went to the big screen.

In 1973, for example, Time magazine’s review for Live And Let Die declared Bond to be “a racist pig.”

Needless to say, Bond has survived all that — and not always with help from the principals of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 films.

First, consider what Eon’s Michael G. Wilson told USA Today in 2012. Bond is not even a hero, Wilson has said. “There are plenty of imitators, but Bond really is the first one that was an anti-hero,” Wilson told the newspaper.

An anti-hero is defined as “a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.” (emphasis added)

In 2015, Bond star Daniel Craig said of 007: “But let’s not forget that he’s actually a misogynist. A lot of women are drawn to him chiefly because he embodies a certain kind of danger and never sticks around for too long,” (emphasis added)

A misogynist is defined as “a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts or mistreats women.” That’s harsher than the definition of a chauvinist, “a person who believes one gender is superior to the other.”

That gave an opening to writer Laurie Penny in an October 2015 commentary in the New Statesman.

“James Bond is a guilty pleasure but one in which the pleasure is increasingly overwhelmed by the guilt. Even Daniel Craig seems to know this,” Penny wrote.

Then, there’s Eon boss Barbara Broccoli, who told the Evening Standard in 2012, that women characters in Bond movies today are better than most of their earlier counterparts. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,”

In the interview, Broccoli wasn’t specific about the “clipboard” women. She complimented the characters of Honey Rider (Ursula Andress) in Dr. No and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) in Goldfiner. In Moonraker, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) was holding a clipboard, but she was also a CIA agent and an astronaut.

Recently the website Haphazard Stuff did an in-depth review of 2012’s Skyfall. But it took the occasion to note all the times that women actors in Bond movies over the decades said their characters weren’t like the “empty-headed” Bond girl stereotype. It’s the video below, roughly from the 12:00 to 18:00 mark.

Remember, the actors said this as part of promoting the movies they were in. It’s almost as if running down its earlier product as part of promoting the current product is part of Eon’s standard operating procedure.

In any case, Bond fans should take a deep breath and move on. Millennials likely are no more critical of Bond novels and movies than previous generations. Bond has been fired at for a long time. But he’s still here.

Ian Fleming’s gift to copy editors

For copy editors, a gift that keeps go on giving

The gift that keeps on giving

For copy editors, From Russia, With Love, the title of Ian Fleming’s fifth James Bond novel, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Since the 1957 publication of the book, and its 1963 movie adaptation, From Russia, With Love (with or without comma) has proven irresistible to those who edit copy, lay out pages and write the headlines that accompany stories. Tools of the copy editor’s trade include puns and movie and books titles. They’re ways to grab the attention of readers, to entice the audience to invest their precious time.

As a result, anytime a story concerns anything Russian, copy editors have been known to channel their inner Ian Fleming. A few examples:

— Sports Illustrated, May 6, 2013 issue: The NHL Playoff review includes a feature story about Alex Ovechkin, the Russian-born star of the Washington Capitals professional hockey team. The headline? From Russia With Love.

— The New York Times, MARCH 30, 2003: The paper carries a ballet review written from St. Petersburg, Russia. The headline? From Russia With Love.

— The New York Times, July 4, 2004: The paper carries A TWO-PARAGRAPH LETTER TO THE EDITOR complaining about a monument on the Jersey City waterfront. The headline? From Russia With Love: A Teardrop Memorial.

— The Washington Post, July 27, 2008: The paper has a story about NASTIA LIUKIN, A RUSSIAN-BORN GYMNAST COMPETING FOR THE U.S. The headline? From Russia With Love.

— The Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2006: The paper has a story about “resplendent Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky” performing in Washington. The headline? From Russia With Love and Patriotism.

— Time magazine, Dec. 6, 2010: The publication has a story about a scandal involving a Russian-born aide to a member of Parliament. The headline? From Russia With Love: Could a British Aide Have Been a Spy? Double bonus: it carries a publicity still of Daniel Craig from Casino Royale.

1973: Time profiles the new James Bond

In January 1973, Time magazine thought the impending debut of a new James Bond, in this case Roger Moore, was important enough to merit to merit a 1,200-plus-word article and multiple photographs. (As we discussed previously, Time panned Live And Let Die after it came out.)

For most people, Sean Connery, who played 007 in all but one of the seven Bond features, is James Bond. (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starred George Lazenby.) If he had not become tired of the role—and grown rich playing it—Connery probably could have grown old, gray and feeble in the part. But the smooth, handsome Moore is, ironically, more like the original 007 in the late Ian Fleming’s novels than was Connery, a tough, rugged Scot. “Fleming saw Bond as himself,” observes Saltzman, “as a kind of disenfranchised member of the Establishment, Eton, Harrow and Cambridge. And Sean was none of those. Fleming would have been delighted with Roger, however. He is the classic Englishman.”

Moore himself seemed quite satisifed with his new gig:

“I think the Bonds are marvelous subjects —escapist entertainment expensively made. It’s all going for you as an actor. I often stop in the middle of a day’s work and say: ‘Jesus Christ, they’re really going to pay you for being a kid and living out your fantasies!’ “

Time, in the article’s opening, suggested the film probably would be successful.

A wristwatch with a magnetic field to deflect bullets. A bad guy named Tee Hee who has a metal hand that can crush a gun to talcum powder. Voodoo sacrifices and a pool of 86 hungry crocodiles, each of them waiting for just one bite of the struggling hero. It sounds like a comic strip, and in a way it is. The newest James Bond movie, Live and Let Die, is the most inventive—and the most potentially lucrative—comic strip ever made, two hours of thrilling, high-powered nonsense.

To read the entire article, JUST CLICK HERE.

1958: Time writes about Ian Fleming and Dr. No

Here’s another trip back in time courtesty of Time magazine’s Web site. It’s 1958. Dwight Eisenhower is president. A car called the Edsel isn’t doing that well at dealerships. And Time decies to write about a new thriller that is about to hit U.S. bookstores and its author.

The article begins thusly:

In literary London, where the vogue in controversy runs to turtlenecked highbrows and Angry Young Men, the latest brouhaha is whirling around an unlikely book by an unlikelier author: a mystery shocker called Dr. No, by an uppercrust Tory named Ian Fleming. The book marks the sixth appearance of James Bond, 007 by code number, a deadpan British secret-service agent with high tastes and low instincts. With the help of an estimated 1,250,000 British readers, Bond has boosted Creator Fleming high on the bestseller lists and into the gunsights of outraged critics. They blast him as a kind of Mickey Spillane in gentleman’s clothing, his books as “a cunning mixture of sex, sadism and money snobbery” and “a bad symptom of the present state of civilization in this country.”

Time noted that Fleming had his defenders:

His critics find his shockers all the more unspeakable because he is so much a member of The Establishment. Yet Fleming is no Spillane. His closest U.S. opposite number, Raymond (The Big Sleep) Chandler calls him “masterly.” And Novelist Elizabeth Bowen says: “Here’s magnificent writing.”

Not all readers will agree that Dr. No, which Macmillan will publish in the U.S. in July, is magnificent writing, but pages of it, at least, qualify for Ezra Pound’s classic comment on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that is readable.”

Time also gave Fleming the last word:

Says Fleming equably: “I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare stakes. I began writing these books because my mental hands were empty and as an antibody to my hysterical alarm at getting married at the age of 43.” As for the harsher critics, “they have so many chips on their shoulders they should go into the timber business. I do however apologize for once making Bond order asparagus with bearnaise, instead of mousseline sauce. A writer should acknowledge his shortcomings.”

To read the entire article, just CLICK HERE.

1979: Frank Rich reviews Moonraker

Frank Rich is considered one of the most important journalists in America. He writes a weekly column for The New York Times and has been a contender for the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious U.S. journalism award.

A long time ago, the 1970s to be precise, he was the movie critic for Time magazine. And one movie he liked a lot was 1979’s Moonraker. An excerpt:

Producer Albert R. Broccoli, the major-domo of the James Bond movies, is the proverbial Jewish mother of cinema: he is not about to let anyone go away hungry. In Moonraker, the eleventh 007 opus, Broccoli serves the audience a space-shuttle hijacking, a jumbo-jet explosion and a protracted wrestling match between two men who are falling from the sky without parachutes. All this happens before the opening credits. From there, it’s on to gondola chases in Venice, funicular crashes in Rio and laser-gun shootouts and lovemaking in deep space. Meanwhile, beautiful women come and go, talking (ever so discreetly) about fellatio. When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.

Want more? Here it is:

The result is a film that is irresistibly entertaining as only truly mindless spectacle can be. Those who have held out on Bond movies over 17 years may not be convinced by Moonraker, but everyone else will be. With their rigid formulas and well-worn gags, these films have transcended fashion. Styles in Pop culture, sexual politics and international espionage have changed drastically since Ian Fleming invented his superhero, but the immaculately tailored, fun-loving British agent remains a jolly spokesman for the simple virtues of Western civilization. Not even Margaret Thatcher would dare consider slowing him down.

These days, Rich tackles larger, more imporant topics. To read his latest NYT column, just CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, if you’d like to read his Moonraker review in full, just CLICK RIGHT HERE.