My daughter and I were watching a James Bond flick when she said, “Why do all the girls want to kiss this guy?”
“Why do you think?” I said.
“Cause he’s handsome?”
“But then he goes and murders people.”
Shaking my head at Natalie’s accurate observation, I said, “That about sums it up.”
“And the police don’t arrest him! How can he murder all those people and not get into trouble?”
“He’s got a license to kill.”
“Is that a real thing?”
“No, honey. It’s only pretend.”
After watching Britain’s most famous psychopathic sex-addicted alcoholic dispatch a few more baddies with a humorous quip, my daughter gave up. “I’m going to go play Roblox,” she said. “Later.” So much for her becoming a Bond girl. My fault really. I should have started her on Connery, not Pierce Brosnan.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m letting my child watch such films. Probably because my dad let me watch 007 when I was a kid, and I didn’t turn out to be a psychopathic sex-addicted alcoholic killer, so what’s the harm? The first Bond film I remember watching was The Man with The Golden Gun. I can’t recall if I saw it in the movies or not, but I remember being immediately entranced with Roger Moore’s ability to effortlessly off villains with a raised eyebrow while never getting his suit wrinkled once. And though I was too young to understand why at the time, I liked Britt Ekland in that bikini – a lot. But what I remember most was my dad laughing as we watched a hapless Sheriff J.W Pepper flopping helplessly inside a car as Bond performed a corkscrew jump over a busted bridge while chasing Scaramanga and Nick-Nack. Then the bad guy’s car turned into a plane! Cool as shit.
I guess I enjoyed watching what my father enjoyed so, my little brain made a happy association with Mr. Bond and now, years later, I hoped it was something my daughter and I could share too. Nope. Natalie saw right through 007’s misogynistic bullshit right away. Then again, the late Mr. Connery was well known for saying some women needed a little slap now and then. Maybe it’s fun watching 007 save the world, but you sure wouldn’t want your daughter dating him. But if wasn’t for Ian Fleming’s creation, Natalie might not be here.
My wife and I met online but, because I was in the final frantic stretch of writing my second book, I put off meeting her until I’d sent the manuscript off to the publisher – which she told me, years later, almost made her give up in frustration and click on other profiles. But, as we exchanged missives through the ether, we discovered we were both aficionados of Britain’s superspy and, as we argued over the merits of Connery versus Moore and which films were our favorite, that commonality held us digitally together until we finally met in a coffee shop a month later. The rest, as they say, is history.
I am, of course, well aware that James Bond is an asshole. What did M call him once? A sexist misogynistic dinosaur? That’s probably because his creator was an asshole too. Have you ever read Fleming’s books? Holy un-politically correct shit! Just a casual perusal of Live and Let Die reveals the author’s Anglo-Saxon colonial sensibilities and his utter disregard for women, non-whites, gays, and anybody who annoyed him. (Fleming famously used the names of real people for his villains. Yes, there was an actual Goldfinger and Blofeld.) Yet, despite being a product of his times, Fleming was a great writer, celebrated by the master of detective prose, Raymond Chandler, no less. Fleming had a keen eye for detail and could set a scene like no other – but his Bond was very different from the spy we saw on the silver screen.
Dark, brooding, and obviously a candidate for psychiatric care, (And he was locked up in an institution for a while.) Fleming’s Bond was a self-medicating pretentious adrenaline junkie with scant regard for his own life – a burned out killer in love with death, drowning his guilt in booze and seeking forgiveness in the arms of all the women he screwed and tossed aside. I read all of Fleming’s books as a teenager and, even though I enjoyed them, I knew Bond’s life should never be emulated. Besides, the guys in the movies were much more fun. (Except Timothy Dalton who, to my mind, was the closest to Fleming’s literary version.)
Despite all that, 007 is still my guilty pleasure. I have all the books, several of the movies and, from time to time, have been known to tipple a shaken vodka martini or two. But, other than my wedding, I’ve never worn a tux. Nor have I walked into a casino to face down a megalomaniac over baccarat, (Though there was that drunk jerk in Vegas.) driven an Aston Martin, fought several bad guys singlehandedly or driven into the sunset with any one named Pussy. For me, Bond is just a little bit of cartoonish fantasy that reminds me of my childhood. And if Natalie doesn’t become a fan like her parents? That’s fine. There’s a lot about Bond not to like.
Later that night, I stole into my daughter’s room and watched her as she slept. Sitting on the edge of her bed, I stroked her hair and sang, “Good night, Goodnight, Sleep well my dear. No need to fear…” Smiling, I thought about how a fictional spy serendipitously brought my wife and I together, and how it led to this little girl breathing softly in innocent sleep. Yes, Fleming’s secret agent is problematic and, obviously, completely unrealistic. No one person could ever possibly save the entire world but, as I sighed deeply, I realized Mr. Bond had saved mine.
Thank you, 007.