The Bonds That Try Us

3 Jun

Bond.  James Bond.

Just three syllables.  Simple.  Cool.  They get a lot of information across.  Something big is about to go down.  Something international that involves espionage.  When James Bond introduces himself, he keeps the small talk to a minimum.  Within minutes, he’s laying down innuendoes with femme fatales or laying out his enemies with karate and lasers.
James Bond has it all.  Martial arts skills.  Gadgets.  An accent.  He even literally carries a license that allows him to murder people.  It’s all pretty awesome.  But, maybe he’s too awesome.
I’m sure there was a time where he embodied the “Women want him. Men want to be him,” cliche.  But in 2011, he just doesn’t resonate the same way anymore.  When I watch the old Sean Connery Bond flicks, and even the new Daniel Craig iterations, Agent 007 seems less like a spy and more like a different species.  He always has the right thing to say.  He acts sophisticated and worldly.  But also he beats the living hell out of his enemies.  I don’t really understand how to do any of that, nevermind all of it at once.
Maybe it’s just the generation I grew up in.  It seems like film and television protagonists have become increasingly flawed.  Batman has become less “BAM!  POW!” and more vengeance.  Vin Diesel, whose vocal utterances are often sub-monosyllabic is a legitimate action star.  Our comedies are populated by man-children who are more thick-headed than good-hearted.
We’re conditioned to distrust perfection.  Nowadays anyone who has a set of Bond-like attributes (handsome, wealthy, badass) is either a villain or otherwise massively flawed.  Ahem, Don Draper.
Not to mention, in the wake of a mortgage crisis and enormous unemployment rates, it’s hard to relate to anyone who has his shit together.  I live with four roommates.  When I travel, I sleep on friends’ couches.  I’m supposed to feel empathy for a guy who does karate in a tuxedo?
And, with growing political dissent between the Tea Party and the regular, reasonable people, it’s harder to place complete trust in the government.  The idea of someone who carries a state-mandated murder license seems a little scary in the post-Patriot Act USA.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that the ideas of coolness and stability are so fractured that it seems like lunacy that someone would possess them all.  I prefer my heroes a little less heroic.  Maybe it’s human nature.  Maybe it’s jealousy.  Give me a big lumbering oaf with a 2×4 or a weaselly nerd with computer skills and gadgets.
But for the love of my self-esteem, don’t make them the same guy.
-Gondelman, Josh Gondelman

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