Killing the Idol: Taking on Tradition, Roger Moore, and the Cult of James Bond

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine


(Photo above: Sir Roger Moore, 1973 in London. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, author Allan Warren)

Technically, Roger Moore is correct.

“I have heard people talk about how there should be a lady Bond or a gay Bond,” Moore said, or was quoted saying, to the Daily Mail. “But they wouldn’t be Bond for the simple reason that wasn’t what Ian Fleming wrote.”

It’s accurate, I suppose. Discrimination is often camouflaged under accuracy. And calling out discrimination is often retorted by saying the accuser is too politically correct.

But Moore is sorta right. James Bond couldn’t be a woman, not as he exists. Not as he’s ever existed. Because a female 007wouldn’t be a male 007. Right? And James Bond couldn’t be gay, not as he exists. Not as he’s ever existed. Because a gay James Bond wouldn’t have Bond Girls then, would he? (Well, actually…)

“It is not about being homophobic or, for that matter, racist,” Moore continued, “it is simply about being true to the character.”

Well, it’s nice he at least recognized what he sounded like – and maybe, what he is. It’s sorta like when someone is a complete prick and then ends their insults with, “Hey, I’m just being honest.” Sure, but you’re still a prick. You don’t get to just ‘Freeze Charm’ what you’ve said with qualifiers.

But then again, we all discriminate. Some of us are just stupid enough to get worked up about things that aren’t real. James Bond is a character, and perhaps even the man who played him for 11 years doesn’t realize characters can be changed and re-written and revolutionized. So we have to remind Mister Moore – and the rest who value tradition above all else, no matter where that tradition comes from – that James Bond isn’t a real person. He and his stories are fiction, just like his Golden Gun.

So actually, when I think about it again, Moore isn’t technically correct, is he?

James Bond hasn’t been a woman. James Bond hasn’t been black. James Bond hasn’t been gay – at least, not on the page.

But, he could be any – or all – of those. All someone has to do is write him, or her, that way.

The Cult of Bond

We have always had a problem, any humans or their society, with idolizing and deism. We’re too scared to live without them. It’s why we have created Gods and Goddesses – there has to be someone or something up there or waiting for us, someone who’s just like us but who’s also much stronger than us. Us, but better. We create heroes and we create immortals and we put everything on a pedestal, on a high chair so towering we can only see the soles dangling as we stare up from below.

We constantly say that humans have to make mistakes to learn, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that nothing is ever as great as it’s supposed to be, that nothing is ever as awful as it’s said to be… but then, when we have the chance to get carried away, we forget all that patient, stable wisdom. We want to believe people are better than we know they are. And the opposite is true – just like Roger Moore will be called a racist or a homophobe or a sexist, at best a misogynist, for his comments delivered three decades after his opinion on the matter mattered – 30 years after he played Bond for the last time, which was the last time we had to care what he thinks about the character. Are his comments sexist or racist or homophobic? Is he any of those things? Not to himself, he’s not. Who knows? And, who cares?

But the reason why comments like Moore’s make people so upset – why they should make people so upset – is that they’re not really delivered as calmly or as politely or as moderately as he sells them.

Nobody heard, James Bond can’t be a woman or a homosexual.

What they heard was, A woman or a homosexual can’t be James Bond.

And those are two very different things. The first one says something about Bond; the second one says something about – and insults – who Moore was actually talking about. This isn’t about Bond. It’ll never be. It’s about everyone who James Bond isn’t.

James Bond is an ideal, not a man. That doesn’t mean he’s a good ideal, of course.

To many, he’s a hero based based on nobody, an agent who worked in a War that was Cold. To boys and some men, he’s just a cool guy with careful hair in a trim, clean, handsome suit – he pulls chicks and he speaks well.

But that, of course, is the problem with making Bond into a god, or into an infallible character. We’re idolizing an ideal with Bond, and the ideal isn’t as friendly to everyone as it is to frat boys and lads. Even Daniel Craig sees through the smoke screen – that makes sense, since he’s worn the clothes.

Here’s Craig, via Mic.com:

“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.”

There’s realism in Craig’s comment above, and perhaps a bit of controversy there.

Oh no, I’m not talking about how he called Bond a misogynist. That’s just factual. And it shouldn’t upset you – again, it’s only normal that he’s flawed.

No, the ‘controversy’ is in the part at the end, when Craig says Bond’s women are attracted to his misogyny. But controversial as it is, it’s also been proven with every hundred-million the franchise makes. Bond is flighty and violent and often cruel, and that turns people on. Not just ladies at the baccarat table, mind you, but the legions of sex-starved and booby-obsessed dudes who are terrified their idol might become something or someone they’re afraid to like – or afraid to admit they like.

Because, really guys, as much as we like to see Bond as a ladies man, we’re just as in love with him.

Tradition is one thing, but it’s not the only thing. It’s regressive, sometimes harmful, when it is.

(Not to mention, tradition is mostly bullshit. When Roger Moore said he didn’t think Idris Elba would make a good Bond, again camouflaging casual racial bias (i.e. racism) with something softer, he said Elba was not “English-English” enough for the part. But Moore either doesn’t realize or easily forgets, of course, that four of the six men who have played Bond aren’t “English” at all. Sean Connery? Scottish. George Lazenby? Australian. Timothy Dalton? Welsh. Pierce Brosnan? Irish. Only Moore and Craig are English, and few would say Moore is even in the better half of the performances among the men who have played Bond.)

But if you really want to pull the curtain back on the cult of Bond, all you have to do is research a little about the man who created the character, the iconic – there’s that word again – author Ian Fleming:

“In Fleming’s books – as in his life – sex and cruelty went hand in hand, and sex and cruelty never go out of fashion,” wrote the Daily Mail‘s Christopher Hudson in 2008. “This cruelty even infected his marriage. In public, his wife Ann was a beautiful, sharp-witted aristocrat. In private, she soaked up the pain the abusive Fleming caused her – physically and mentally – and then gave some of it back.”

So, there’s something there between Fleming and Bond, isn’t there? And respecting complexity as a reality, can’t we ask in all seriousness, When we protect Bond – and when we protect Fleming – what exactly are we protecting them for?

What you’re hearing when people cry out for Bond to never change, whether it’s his race or sex or sexual orientation that’s endangered, are the cries of people who are too insecure to accept progress. And they have problems with it everywhere, not just at the movies.

They like stuff to be new, they just don’t want it to be inconvenient.