world has had enough
wasn't feminism, terrorism or the end of the cold war that
finally did for James Bond. It was Austin Powers
James Bond was fired. His nuclear pencil gathers dust beneath
Whitehall. There is no news of 007 No 6 (Radio 4 listeners
have helpfully suggested Jeremy Paxman) and the production
of Bond film 21, due this November, has stalled. There is
trouble at MI6, minister: our martini-quaffing sexoholic is
suffering an existential crisis and it can't be cured by an
intelligent Rolex or a gondola that can drive on dry land.
who produce Bond, and MGM, who finance his capers, are bickering.
It is rumoured that MGM want an action-movie franchise - Spiderman
in a tux - that sprouts money. As Bond said to Dr No: "World
domination; same old dream; our asylums are full of men who
think they are Napoleon." Eon, however, are fighting
for their cold war relic, the "sexist, misogynist dinosaur"
and gentleman spy who flowed from the pen of Ian Fleming.
Bond in crisis? He is a corpse; the hero of a dead time and
a dead place called postwar Clubland. Fleming was an Eton-educated
journalist who worked in British naval intelligence during
the second world war, where his professional apogee was evacuating
King Zog of Albania from Nazi-occupied Europe. Bond was his
fantasy alter ego, a libidinous killer who thought women were
"for recreation". Bond slapped bottoms and peered
at his watch during sex; he killed women he had slept with
and, worse, he told one dewy-eyed poppet: "I never miss."
acceptable in 1952, when Bond was born on the pages of Casino
Royale; but feminism castrated Fleming's hero. Today, any
responsible GP would refer him to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
and any respectable woman would hit him. We know, though Fleming
didn't, that Bond won't be polished off by Soviet crocodiles,
but by Aids. He had a weird predilection for girls with silly
names. He had an Electra, a Honey, a Christmas, a Pussy and
an Octopussy. He probably had a Decapussy, or did I dream
created two villainous organisations to wound his baby Bond.
The first was Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence,
Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), a gaggle of freelance megalomaniacs
who wanted to take over the world for fun. Today they would
be politicians. Is there anyone who can't imagine Michael
Howard menacingly stroking a cat, Tessa Jowell feeding the
enemies of the gambling bill to sharks or Tony Blair planting
a bomb under Fort Knox? Spectre grins on the news every day.
You voted for it.
other nemesis Smersh (aka Death to Spies) was a mutant strain
of the KGB. Smersh is as frightening as eating toast. Bond
always has a vodka martini and a chuckle with the Reds at
the end, because, for Fleming, the cold war was just a disagreement
between western gentlemen.
end of The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond escapes into a tented pod
with a beautiful KGB agent. He boasts to M that he is "just
keeping the British end up, sir". Recent Bonds have experimented
with a psychotic heiress, a renegade British agent and a media
baron who resembles Barbara Amiel. Apart from Amiel, they
lacked menace. The authentic candidates for modern Bond villains
are, of course, Islamist fundamentalists but it's hard to
imagine even 007 peeling back a burka or keeping the British
end up with an al-Qaida operative.
for snobbery has withered. When we hear James musing to a
baddie: "Red wine with fish; that should have told me
something" and explaining that "certain things just
aren't done - like drinking Dom Perignon '53 above a temperature
of 38 degrees Fahrenheit" we don't fawn and sputter on
to satin sheets. Bond behaves like an ancient gay dress designer,
living in Surbiton and clinging to his final (crystal) marble.
Fleming's fastasies are dust. We've seen the faces of intelligence
operatives because they flog their books at literary festivals.
David Shayler is No 008; the only thing he leaves shaken but
not stirred are the people he bumps into on street corners.
We know from Spycatcher that the British secret service spend
their time watching Irish grandmothers and destabilising Labour
governments - and faking dossiers for Downing Street. The
spying game has been demystified.
final bullet didn't come from feminism, the government, Andrew
Gilligan or the poor enter- tainment possibilities of modern
terrorism. In the end Sean, Roger, George, Timothy and Pierce
were vanquished by just one man - Austin Powers. Bond's satirical
twin, who danced and shagged and bit his way through two blockbuster
Bond spoofs, finally achieved what Smersh could not. Austin's
silly ruffled shirts, his encounters with Dr Evil and the
Fembots and, most particularly, his plaintive cry, "Do
I make you horny, baby?" did for the straight man. Some
things just can't withstand satire; least of all a crumbling
imperialist spy who puns badly. MGM will find a new aspirational
hero for us, one who won't make us hurl into our popcorn:
a gay Bond, a black Bond, a paraplegic Bond, an obese Bond,
a Welsh bond. Any Bond but James Bond.
was first published in the Guardian.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004