I will be out of town for awhile, so I am releasing the Best of MY LIFE WITH KANT.
Everyone knows that Daniel Craig is probably the sexiest man of all time. I’m the next sexiest.
But what people fail to realize is that the character of James Bond is far more complex than what we give him credit for. In fact, I find him to be the ultimate existential hero.
And I’m too lazy to go back and edit what I have written. So please forgive any spelling or grammatical errors. Enjoy!
My Life With Kant: James Bond
You’ve seen it all. You’ve been stretched from one end of the globe to the next. You’re body is torn and scarred from one beaten assignment to another. Yet you live a thankless existence.
From martini to martini, from woman to woman, the world becomes a dull place. Because for you, the World is Not Enough. And to find meaning and you’re proper place in this universe, you dwell in the extremes. But luckily, “you only live twice…once when you are born, and once when you stair death in the face.” And that last quote was from Ian Fleming..so don’t attribute it to me. And if you think that there’s nothing philosophical about 007, then you have never been more wrong than anything in your life.
You see, to me…I’ve always felt that James Bond was my ubermensch. You might not like that, and as we’ll discuss later it might be a little misguided, and I don’t care. But this character reflects both the good and the evil that is represented in all of us. Everyman, and if you deny this then you’re a fucking liar, wishes that they can live this existence. Women, I don’t know, unfortunately I can’t attest to that, and perhaps more on that later. But his life can be summed up through alcohol, sex, and kicking ass. But his purpose…is more than that. As M explained in Casino Royale, he’s a blunt instrument. A hitman for Her Majesty’s Government…doing all of the dirty work, and saving millions of lives…all behind the scenes. And usually his superiors bitch at him while he’s doing it. In order to save the good, he has to go deep into evil (in more ways than one), sacrificing his health and mental well-being. Bond usually looks good while doing it, but it’s because he’s become so numb to this world, that he has keep taking the punches and dry martini’s just to feel anything.
Is that the ultimate sacrifice?
Now usually, I hate a lot of these “Philosophy of Game of Thrones” or “Philosophy of Star Wars”, but I got caught up in reading “Questions are Forever: The Philosophy of James Bond”, so I said fuck it, and I can talk about anything I want…so I went with this.
In the first section of the book, the question is asked, what the role of hedonism plays in James Bond’s life. Is he naturally this sadist that found himself in the right job, so the movies and books become celebrations of this lifestyle. OR…does he use hedonism as a crutch to get him through life. Death surrounds James Bond, that’s an aspect of his life that he can’t hide from. Yet while others die, including his loved ones, he manages to live…every…single…time. What would that do to a person? Not only do you survive while others around you die…you’re also responsible for a great deal of those deaths! Can you just go home and live a normal life after those missions?
Now Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and probably George Lazenby…those guys were definitely sadists. Roger Moore was a bit more nicer about it, but have you ever seen Octopussy? That mother fucker kills a lot of people towards the end, and at the beginning when he blew up an airplane hanger! and I doubt he went home and cried about it over his espresso machine. But these guys are the classic Bonds…the Bonds that enjoyed the work that they did. These are the guys that understood that they live in a sick and twisted world, but damn it, they were having fun. So they were embracing the madness. Because if you thought too much about it…you were probably going to get thouroughly depressed.
The latter Bonds, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Bronsnan, and Daniel Craig…the modern era Bonds as I like to think of them. These are the guys that, might have had a bit too much to drink from time to time (especially Daniel Craig), but they knew in their hearts that they were essentially roughians that couldn’t find solace in any other profession. Especially now that we are more aware of PTSD, our Bonds had to adapt to these revelations. So perhaps Connery, Lazenby, and Moore were experiencing symptoms of PTSD in their off-time, but they never talked about it because they were of a certain generation. Now that we are more aware of the effects of violence on the human brain, and are more open to discussing mental health awareness, the role of hedonism changes for the latter three Bonds; Instead of it being something that they willfully engage in, it was now something that they HAVE to engage in. Liquor and gratuitous sex and violence became the only thing that silenced the screams of all the dead that they left behind.
In both cases, the role of James Bond as entertainment remains the same. They all serve as a distraction from our own inevitable deaths. So the need to celebrate life becomes all the more important. The first three Bonds understood this very well, which is why such depths weren’t explored as thouroughly. But the last three became all to aware of their ultimate demise, a demise that they granted to so many others over the years, that instead of being able to enjoy life…they are forced to wallow in it.
James Bond is the existentialist of Heidegger. He refuses to live the constraining life that the rest of us are forced to endure. We live the life where we sometimes forget our own freedoms. James Bond isn’t aware of such constraints. He doesn’t settle down with a lover. He hops from one hotel room to another. Because of the nature of his work, a sense of danger is never far, so the awareness of his own survival is never turned off. The rest of us live in fear that if we stray from the paths that society has constructed for us, we won’t survive. Bond has none of those fears. He’s unrestricted from inflicting whatever sort of violence he wishes to inflict, provided he’s still serving Her Majesty’s Government.
Which brings me to another point….and that is the state of modern man. Not the state of modern MANKIND, but modern MAN. Ian Fleming wrote James Bond as his alter ego…a person that was able to go through life, inflicting his sadism without consequences. When we think of the male ego, there are things that we typically associate with it. And all of those associations are attributes of 007. With few exceptions, he gets what he wants…when he wants it. That would be enough to satisfy any male ego. However, one attribute of the typical ego is physical prowess. And that prowess is associate the need to dominate your opponents, usually through violence. When we think of the ideal male, with few exceptions, usually physical prowess and the ability to survive violence becomes a part of that ideal.
This is a primal ideal….one that was successful for thousands of years. But if there’s a common theme with this podcast, it’s that humans are scrambling to adapt to their new, un-primal, surroundings. The idea of a male that needs to physically dominate opponents is an out-of-date conception. In a first-world society, being smart is far more key for survival than being physically strong. Yet there are still lingering conceptions of the ideal man needing to inflict violence. It’s a hard habit to shake. Yet, it’s causing a great deal of harm…for both men and women. The idea that men must be the dominant sex is out of fashion. Women have been trending upwards for quite awhile now…it’s not completely equal, but it’s getting there from a historical perspective. And because of this, the role of men have been changing. It’s no longer necessary for men to fight off predators or be the bread winners. So the idea of maleness is no longer what it once was, or at least our ideas of the two sexes are becoming more equal. Again, I am only speaking from a historical perspective.
So where does this leave the womanizing, ass-kicking James Bond? Sure, he’s a gentleman with certain tastes, but we all know that that’s all for show, or at least a further distraction from the horridness that he’s usually surrounded with…it’s his façade to hide the true animal within. In Goldeneye, Judi Dench’s M calls Bond a misogynistic dinosaur, and a Cold War Relic. And he is. He’s a relic of an ancient past…no, a PRIMAL past. He is what men used to think of themselves, and what women (more or less) wanted out of men. And to some degree, there’s a lingering part of our animal brain that still wants this. The Daniel Craig movies have grossed nearly $3 Billion dollars. They’re more popular than ever, despite our progressive times.
Action movies are escapism. And James Bond has lasted longer, and has influenced the genre perhaps more than any other franchise. He embodies our pop culture escapism. So what are WE trying to escape from? Why do we continue to find this character so alluring? We can escape to many other things…yet we keep coming back to Bond. Our values, culture, technology, and the WHOLE world around us can change….but one thing is for certain….James Bond will return.
And you know what…I didn’t even make it through 10 pages while discussing this book. As much as I would LOVE to end it on the “James Bond will return” comment (and perhaps he might return for this podcast), there was an interesting section about Albert Camus and suicide. No matter the situation that James Bond finds himself in, even when he has the opportunity to commit suicide with cyanide tablets, he chooses not to. Apparently this was even discussed in the movie “Die Another Die”, which surprises me considering how gloriously shitty that one was. But Camus argues that suicide is a form of surrender and that you should always fight to conquer the situation. But I like to look at suicide, and perhaps Bonds reluctance to do it, through something like Pascals Wager. You can commit suicide NOW, and sum up your life at this very moment, OR you can wager to keep living on and hopefully achieve more enjoyment. Because either way, you’re going to die, it’s just all about maximizing your life. And the more advantageous (and SAFEST) bet, is to not commit suicide. And Pascal’s Wager does have some betting implications, and since James Bond is a gambler, that would probably better suit his mindset. Plus it gives greater meaning to that whole “Die Another Day” title….but it’s still a shitty movie.