Pop Culture
Apr 30, 2024, 06:28AM

James Bond Cannot Exist Anymore

In our current culture, we know there are no men that good.

Ungentlemanly warfare alan ritchson.jpg.webp?ixlib=rails 2.1

Trevor Noah, a comic I usually find predictable (hired to replace Jon Stewart on The Daily Show mainly because he was a DEI choice), has one good set on James Bond. Noah says he loves James Bond and is saddened whenever an actor decides to leave the franchise. His bit’s on the possibility of the first black James Bond, hypothetically played by Idris Elba, and how some fans decried this. Noah said at first he thought this was just prejudice, and then realized that in any movie where a British spy is expected to be both black and to elude super villains in Scottish villages and Swiss ski lodges the movie might be only 10 minutes long, ending with Elba hyperventilating in an alley, unable to escape his pursuers. It’s funny, and in passing he mentions how Bond’s beloved by both men and women.

We don’t have James Bonds anymore.

I don’t just mean our current “intelligence community” is run by craven liars who interfere in the internal politics of western republics, rigging elections and censoring news. I mean we don’t have any depictions of heroic masculinity.

Two recent offerings show how far we have fallen. Tracker is a detective show on the Paramount+ streaming platform, featuring a tall, blond and handsome Justin Hartley as detective Colter Shaw. Hartley is 6’2”, which is notable because Tracker recalls the detective shows of a more “patriarchal” time, the 1970s. The NBC mysteries starred tall handsome hunks: MacMillan and Wife’s Rock Hudson (6’5”), McCloud’s Dennis Weaver (6’2”), Banacek’s George Peppard (6' even), and Cool Million’s James Farentino (5’11”). (Though there were eventually many detective shows in the NBC mystery lineup, a couple even starring women, the most popular all starred tall men, with the exception of Columbo’s Peter Falk at 5’6”.) NBC also had tall detective hunks outside of its “mystery theater” brand, notably The Rockford Files, starring James Garner (6’2”). CBS had among its detective shows Barnaby Jones’ Buddy Ebsen (6’4”), arguably a silver fox.

Tracker has an excellent pedigree, but it’s missing one ingredient shared by these shows of tall, good-looking men who solve murders and free kidnap victims in about 40 minutes every week. One thing they shared with James Bond. Tracker has little or no humor. Colter Shaw is the child of a Unabomber-style academic, who took his wife and sons to live off the grid in a forest. Someone killed him, probably one of the members of the family. And then none of them ever talked much about it, went their own ways, and have little to do with each other. Shaw’s a trauma victim.

Even closer to Bond territory is the new movie, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. It’s a gorgeous movie. It’s a caper movie, a kind of Ocean’s 11 reset in World War II, and re-set to a port city that’s allegedly unaligned, but falling under Nazi control, much like Martinique in To Have and Have Not (1944) or French Morocco in the better known Casablanca (1942). It’s also Suicide Squad. Ministry has lots of humor and pulchritude. Elza Gonzalez plays a half-Jewish Mata Hari; Henry Cavill, a grown-up Alex Pettyfer; and Henry Golding, Alan Ritchson, Cary Elwes play a group of sociopaths, criminal masterminds, and pyromaniacs who are freed from prisons so their “very special skills” can be used to fight the Nazis.

They aren’t just an A-Team of soldiers, they’re an A-List of male models to whip any girl or boy who likes boys into a frenzy. And the director’s definitely appealing to the audience’s erotic interest in the crew: Cavill is all long wavy hair and shirts showing tufts of chest fur; Pettyfer is rescued from Nazi interrogators who have him hanging by his wrists from the ceiling with electrified clamps attached to his nipples; Ritchson, playing a giant blond gay Dane, threatens one of the other crew members with seduction. And the lithe yet curvy Gonzalez has a variety of costume changes, each increasingly revealing.

We become interested in the crew, including erotically, because they’re fucking nuts. They happily slaughter Nazi soldiers and Spanish and Italian police and other flunkies by the dozens, perhaps enjoying it too much. (Cavill lets one, but only one, seaman who’s barely old enough to have a beard leap off a boat to swim to safety.)

James Bond wasn’t nuts. Coincidentally, the creator of Bond, Ian Fleming, appears as a military intelligence officer helping direct the plan (working under Churchill) in Mystery, which is based on real events recorded in once-classified documents.

So we do have some heroic masculinity on screen right now. But apparently you can’t be brave, strong, tall and manly and also sane and witty. That would be too much. In our current culture, we know there are no men that good.

  • Should read "We must be made to become interested in the crew, including erotically, because they are fucking nuts." Sorry for giving the impression I think we should swoon for homicidal maniacs.

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