By Greg Glassner
“Bond, James Bond.”
Those three words say it all, don’t they? You immediately know what I’m talking about.
A couple of things got me thinking recently about 007, the British agent featured in Ian Fleming’s novels.
One was a BBC America Top Gear episode on the automobiles that were featured in the James Bond movies that span the past 50 years.
Another was a books-on-DVD I got out of the library. It was a collection of early James Bond short stories.
The first Bond movie came out when I was in college and I immediately started reading as many of the novels I could get my hands on. In short, I was a big fan of the debonair Brit. In some respects I tried to model myself after the character played by Sean Connery, who is now, like me, an old geezer.
The Top Gear episode reminded me that Connery drove around Jamaica in a Sunbeam Alpine convertible in the first Bond movie, “Dr. No.”
I bought a very used Sunbeam Alpine convertible before my senior year in college and painted it British racing green after a wintertime argument with a telephone pole necessitated a visit to a body shop.
In retrospect, my decision to buy that car had less to do with 007 and more to do with the shortage of cheap sports cars back then and the willingness of the dealer to take a rare but somewhat suspect Parilla motorcycle in trade.
However, I was quite willing to try to exploit the situation. Even though I was a non-smoker, I purchased expensive British cigarettes in little tins and could be seen tooling around the Penn State campus in my British sports car with a British cigarette dangling from my lips. It was a somewhat pathetic attempt to impress the girls. These antics went largely unnoticed.
It’s probably just as well. The DVD reminded me that Ian Fleming’s writing seems quite dated today. A journalist and former WWII naval intelligence officer, he wrote the books between 1952 and his death in 1964 and injected 007 and his associates with many of his own mannerisms and attitudes.
Great Britain still had many colonies around the globe back then and was a very class-conscious society. In short, the world was a different place.
When I listened to these stories I was a little shocked to discover that the dashing hero I once emulated was, by today’s standards, at least, a racist, a chauvinist pig, an insufferable Anglophile and a cold-blooded assassin.
When confronted with a crossbow-carrying young woman who was bent on avenging the murder of her parents, Bond makes condescending statements like, “This is man’s work, you silly girl.”
Bond’s superior, M, says things like, “This Fidel Castro chap seems to be quite helpful.”
Attitudes and everyday technology are changing so rapidly these days that when I read about someone searching for a pay phone I remark to myself, “Why doesn’t he just use his cell phone?”
I have a similar reaction when characters in novels stick pistols and knives in their carry-on luggage before casually boarding a plane. What, no TSA? I immediately flip to the front, check the copyright date of the novel, and say, “Aha!”
A character in a novel I recently finished muses over service-oriented companies adopting names like Aardvark Towing, AAAA Plumbing and Acme Heating and Air Conditioning so they will come up first in the telephone yellow pages.
Most people these days “Google” these services or go to Angie’s List, which don’t present services in alphabetical order.
I haven’t seen the new Superman movie yet.
Does the “Man of Steel” still look for a phone booth in which to change out of his mild-mannered reporter outfit?
In today’s world the villains would be long-gone before Clark Kent locates one.