Monday, 22 October 2012

Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes re-Selling Bond for our times

Shaken not stirred and now into lager -Austerity Bond?
 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the release of the very first James Bond film, Dr No, the 23rd Bond outing,  we now have the film Skyfall.

Bond is such a pervasive part of our culture that it’s easy to underestimate just how challenging it is keeping something alive and popular for so long.

He’s managed to keep being regenerated.

Each new incarnation of Bond (very approximately) covers a decade and relates to each new generation.  Similalry Selling has regenerated its methods and style over the decades.

The  Bond  of the 1950s was the Bond of Ian Fleming’s original books.
Close up photo of a roadside Poster

This uncharacteristic period is often seen as being a bit buttoned-up and traditional when compared to  the more tawdry Sixties, but it saw more radical change than many  modern historians give it credit for.

 There was a dissatisfied generation emerging from the horrors and destruction of the Second World War who were impatient to create a radical new world.  Britain was no longer the power it once was.  What would make it feel 'Great' again ?

 It saw after all the birth of James Bond.

Fleming was a maveric in his own way.

He had worked with spies in action, the commandos and special agents of the SOE, who may have been for the most part upper-middle class and well educated, but were also tough , ruthless, cold-blooded killers.

 They were the inspiration for Bond, bored by the staid old conventions of courtship and deference to women. You couldn’t do things the old way any more. Values were changing.

According to a 1958 New Statesman review of the novel ‘ Dr. No’,  -the James Bond novels consisted of "three basic ingredients, all thoroughly English": "the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult."

Bond was certainly no gentleman in the old-fashioned sense, but he was still a hero of sorts.

He globe trots, defeats exotic villains, eats exotic food, drinks fine wines and sleeps with beatiful women. This was the era of Playboy magazine, a manual for how to be a modern, sophisticated man about town, and the Fleming books service the same masculine drivers.

The movies' Bond became the leading icon of the times, the poster image for the Swinging Sixties – a sharp-suited,smart rascal, sexy, amoral man and  a touch 'glib' .

With film star Sean Connery you could imagine him being a real menace to both the enemy and  predator of women, and ‘Dr No’ kick-started a new genre of film:

the glamorous, globe-trotting, action blockbuster.

close up of a roadside poster
Then came the Seventies and Roger Moore.

The Seventies were cold, bleak, politically unsettled and split by strikes.

Would audiences still flock to see films about one of the  establishment like Bond?

A government servant in a suit safeguarding all that was great about Britain and our glorious global dominions. Wasn’t the idea of James Bond more than slightly ridiculous?

The filmmakers at that time certainly thought so, as they offered us “Disco Bond”, in his  safari suits, double brested dinner jackets as well as trade mark double entendres.

  “To me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous." said Roger Moore in an interview" I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy and yet everybody knows he’s a spy. Every bartender in the world offers him martinis that are shaken, not stirred. What kind of serious spy is recognised everywhere he goes? It’s outrageous."

“So you have to treat the humour outrageously as well. My personality is entirely different than previous Bonds. I’m not that cold-blooded killer type. Which is why I play it mostly for laughs.”

The eighties saw Timothy Dalton, who had to fit in with the cultural mores of the time and become “Politically Correct Bond” .

No smoking, no heavy drinking, no frivolous humour and only one woman per film. It looked like this could be the finish of Bond. How could he survive political correctness? Was he too much of an anachronism?

Absolutely not. A new decade came to the rescue,  "...the selfish, designer-obsessed, money-worshipping, politically shallow, PC-backlash, lads’ mag, me generation, Nineties." as Charlie Higson wrote on Bond recently for the Daily Telegraph. 

Bond was back with a vengeance. Pierce Brosnan was “Designer Bond” and this was his 'signature' world. It was all about the cars, the gadgets, the cocktails, the beautiful girls, the expensive watches, the expensive suits, the designer hotels. Excess all areas.

The legacy of the out-of-control Nineties is our current recession, which Daniel Craig’s    VUCA Bond. The World may not be enough but it certainly volatile uncertain complex and ambiguous

Bond is now morally ambiguous, bruised and battered, damaged-goods version of Bond so wonderfully depicted by Daniel Craig. These muddied modern times are edgy, uncertain and apocalyptic, obsessed with terrorism, eco-calamity and the rise of global gangsterism.

 Basking  in our post  London 2012 Olympics kudos, James Bond is just the hero  the UK needs to pull us out of our global chaos. But 007 is a fiction.

 let's look to the heros of Selling to pull us ot of our current economic mess where growth is reqired for recovery.

Good luck to all the Selling James and Jane Bonds out there !

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