We tend to forget that one of cinema’s abiding action men took his name from a birdwatcher. Yet Ian Fleming, himself an avid enthusiast of all things avian, took the name from the American writer of a field guide called Birds of the West Indies.
He came across the book while living in Jamaica and told the author’s wife that “this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”
In a 1962 interview for the New Yorker, Fleming added: “When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened... when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, [James Bond] is the dullest name I ever heard.”
It’s incredible to think that, had it not been for an obscure ornithologist, James Bond could have been your average Joe. Joe Bloggs, even. Instead, he is the subject of one of the most successful film franchises in the world, a household name and an exemplar of Britannic cool.
At least, in theory. There are, of course, his somewhat unreconstructed attitudes to consider, but (according to Charlie Higson, author of the Young Bond books) Daniel Craig has “given us woke 007, who’s tender, cries and gets into the shower in his tuxedo to comfort a woman.”
Craig was keen to ensure the inclusion of strong women in the Bond franchise. He even revealed that he chose to wear his now famous blue swimming trunks in 2006’s Casino Royale as an antidote to bikini-clad ‘Bond Girls.’
So much for the films. What about the novels themselves?
Bond the misogynist
The Bond that Ian Fleming gave to the world is wont to fantasise about rape. He views women as necessary distractions, there to be enjoyed then cast aside. When not doing that, he’s, at best, condescending, at worst downright insulting towards people of different ethnicity. The villains he meets are stereotypical outcasts: mad, disabled, disfigured even. They are the very embodiments of evil and frequently have Eastern European origins.
Of course, they never prevail, but after confronting and defeating so many villains over the years, James Bond may finally have met his match in the form of an adversary from the future: Sensitivity Reader.