America could really use someone like James Bond right now.
Perhaps. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
In an era completely devoid of true, transparent leadership at every level of our social, political and cultural landscape, where machines have replaced what we were once capable of doing for ourselves, I certainly believe it’s worth taking a closer look.
Let’s start by asking, “what and who does James Bond truly represent?”
And before you dismissively quip, “some over-sexed, playboy from a bygone era” let’s investigate a little further into how James Bond has continued evolving from those early years into something far more substantial today, an icon who represents the best in all of us.
Bond’s evolution mirrors in much the same as our own through the years. Long gone are the sexist cliche’s and witty “play on words” female character names of the 60’s and 70’s, replaced with a far more complex and lethal mixture of deadly force, “shaken, not stirred” with a double splash of both compassion and empathy.
Through this evolution, we have realized, as Bond has learned himself, he is indeed only human. Just like all of us, in our own separate ways, he is broken, fallible and credibly flawed (courtesy of “M” in “Skyfall” we learn far more of his childhood and parents ultimate demise).
Dare I say James Bond is at times…quite vulnerable?
Perhaps, this better explains his profound proclivity for female companionship with no real commitment in previous iterations?
That combined with what we also learn transpires with his wife in, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Yes, Bond was at one time married, albeit briefly. Watch the film to glean more.
So how does James Bond play a significant role in what’s clearly lacking in most precincts of American leadership today? Let’s further examine a few brief personality and leadership traits I feel Bond clearly embodies.
First, Bond’s appeal is universal in nature. Why? Because his hopes and dreams are our hopes and dreams, regardless of race, creed, nationality or gender?
Bond represents a universal form of justice in an unjust world and our society loves an equalizer. “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord. The Queen has James Bond.
He is someone who can be trusted implicitly to never let us or his country down.
How many cultural influencers in various positions of leadership (business, politics, media) do you feel are similarly trustworthy?
He is a natural born leader, whose covert activities can effect millions and millions all across the globe, yet he is only “one person” exuding an extreme loyalty and sense of duty to “God, Queen and Country,” in that particular order.
Do politicians and government servants in the American political system today (both sides of the aisle) have an extreme sense of duty to anything?
With the exception of lining the pockets and padding the personal interests of those who matter to them most. Friends, family and themselves. Not necessarily in that order.
Bond signifies public service at it’s finest, willing to sacrifice his own life for the greater good, for those whom he will most likely never see or know.
Any leaders really willing to sacrifice their own lives for something larger than themselves? For a greater good that benefits many instead of the few?
As our society continually grows increasingly narcissistic and myopic, I fear we are losing the forest for the trees. Or in this case a singular tree…who cares about the forest….metaphorically speaking of course.
Jaded and cynical, you think? I am clearly not.
I prefer highly idealistic instead, because I, like Bond believe things can be vastly different. An individual’s actions do matter in the grand scheme of things and that we can effect profound change in the world.
It’s never easy and will require both leadership and most importantly action.
As his more recent films indicate, Bond is also a man of few words, but lots of action and an extremely strong sense of purpose. His dialogue is short, clipped and to the point. And when he is engaged in the task at hand, his “never say die” attitude takes over immediately…no time for questions, or equivocation. It simply must get done, with no exceptions.
Otherwise someone might die and it could very well be Bond himself.
Bond also holds the extremely prestigious 00 designation. Meaning, he has a highly coveted “license to kill” status and can do so with relative impunity to whomever he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants.
What a tremendous opportunity for abuse of power, right? Wrong.
Why? Remember, God, Queen and Country?
Bond has a profound sense of loyalty to this holy trinity, unlike any other government servant. Bond does not kill indiscriminately and takes no joy in killing, in “The Man With The Golden Gun” he offers further clarification, telling Scaramanga, “he kills upon the specific orders of his government and those he kills are indeed killers themselves!” He represents a beacon of light, a force for good that somehow levels the playing field in an otherwise very dark and unseemly world (the nefarious SPECTRE always plotting chaos) in much the same way terrorists, hackers, sketchy world dictators and the like continue to this very day.
Most importantly, Bond represents someone we all can rally behind. The ultimate human hero, who would never let us down. Not at any cost.
Sure Q helped provide him with some pretty unique and very cool gadgets along the way, but in the end Bond is at the very least, one of us.
And at some point in our life struggle, we all want to be just like him.
I absolutely love the depth and emotion left somewhat unexplored in previous Bond incarnations, but brought vividly to life by the most recent actor to portray Bond, Daniel Craig.
There is a brutal scene in “Casino Royale”, Bond violently dispatching of two men in the Casino’s stairwell, while eventual love interest and HM Treasury employee, Vesper Lynd, (Eva Green) looks on in horror and disgust.Bond joins her symbolic efforts, helping to try and wash away the dirt, the blood and the grime of her recent experience, in a somewhat veiled attempt at forgetting everything she just witnessed, while allowing us an even greater glimpse at a genuine level of compassion and empathy in Bond that has been carefully hidden away for years.
Leadership often requires doing that which is unpleasant, yet necessary and doing it with compassion, empathy and most importantly humility.
Bond understands this all too well. What makes him such an effective crusader for justice is his clear understanding that in the end, we are all in fact expendable.
His extreme sense of urgency and complexity about his missions are unlike any other, yet without ever taking himself too seriously.
Ultimately, he knows, the day will come when a bullet marked “007” will reach it’s intended target.
And Bond will be no more. As it always is for every one of us. Disappearing like a vapor.
Nothing else will matter beyond this point.
No ego. No memorials. No monuments. No money.
One life lived. Now a spent cartridge.
What does matter most, is what we do with the brief amount of time God grants us on this earth. Not just for Bond, but for all us. We all matter. Except in different ways.
Maybe that’s the larger lesson here. My father always used to tell me, “Institutions live longer than individuals.”
I know he was right, but wouldn’t it be nice to have an individual we could trust, look up to, believe in and rally behind that represents the best in all of us and speaks for the collective in one unified voice?
Is it really asking too much of ourselves to demand these same qualities of our leaders?
Above reproach, incorruptible and not motivated by power, influence and money?
Someone capable of understanding the importance of humility, compassion and empathy?
I don’t think so, do you?
One thing is certain. James Bond will return.
What is much less certain? Is anyone willing to be America’s James Bond?
If all else fails, I guess we can always play “17 Black” on the Roulette wheel?
Fortunately James Bond’s return has been announced.
You can see him ply his deftly talented trade this Friday, November 6th, 2015 at a theatre near you!
Footnote: I would be remiss if I did not also concede that Bond clearly understands the meaning of a healthy work – life balance. When he is working, he is working and when he is playing, he is playing.
Most likely with an attractive member of the opposite sex. And in all honesty, when compared with today’s hyper-sexualized society, Bond’s antics are actually rather tame and quite mundane.
You can find a complete list of all the “Bond Girls” by clicking HERE.
Photos courtesy of: MGM, Columbia Pictures, Ian Fleming, Doc Hollywood & others unknown but yet still greatly appreciated.