Saturday, March 16, 2013

James Bond Is NOT the Worst Spy Ever

I am often amused when noted authors, critics, literary scholars, et al, state with the kind of authority reserved only for God himself that James Bond is the worst spy ever. A simple Google search will reveal a lot of writing on that subject, and a lot of it very vitriolic, especially from authors who were contemporaries of Ian Fleming but did not then and do not now share his kind of success.

These critics procede to note with great enthusiasm all of the parts of the Bond movies and books that "just aren't realistic" and "not what a real spy would do."

For some reason, these guys and gals do not like James Bond.

Is it the success of Ian Fleming and the Bond films, which have done more to influence spy stories than Brian Freemantle ever will, and who the hell is Brian Freemantle anyway? John le Carre is a known Fleming-basher, but I'll dare say more people know Fleming's name than le Carre's, and I will bet that many more have been entertained by Fleming's work than le Carre', it certainly isn't drivel. But it's not terribly entertaining.

Perhaps it's the influecne of the Bond Lifestyle, because most guys want to be Bond. Maybe that's what makes the critics angry. Guys want to have the clothes, the cars, the women, the guns, and the adventures, that James Bond has. Other writers and filmmakers have been able to tap that area of the imagination, but Fleming/Bond are tops in the category; we note that the Bond critics have not been able to achieve the same result.

Maybe Graham Greene and Len Deighton wish they had created a hero that influential.

The value of the Bond character goes beyond the millions of dollars the books and films generate. Ian Fleming and James Bond inspire the imagination. If you remember nothing else about the adventures, you know were you somehow transported into a world where a spy could indeed behave the way Bond does, and not only get away with it, but still accomplish his missions, get the girl, and, basically, stick it to the slug heads who say that's not the way it's supposed to be.

Nobody wants to read about a paper-pushing desk-jockey. (Sorry, Len--I tried but I couldn't get through The Ipcress File.) I don't want to know that the CIA and MI6 are bloated bureaucracies where it's a miracle anything ever gets done and how the hell did we survive the Cold War with such asinine egos working in those buildings?

That's why Bond is popular. He gets the job done. Oh, and he's fun. That's something the slug heads seem to forget. They also seem to forget the fact that James Bond isn't real, and that's important.  Fleming never claimed to be writing non-fiction. Why y'all so upset? Why cut down more trees just to write books that are "more realistic."

Nobody reads fiction for realism.

We read fiction to be entertained. Ian Fleming has been enteraining me since I was 13 years old, and I'm almost 40 now. There is no other author who has remained at the top of my reading list for so many years.


  1. Agree in fictional terms Bond is the best spy ever but if such a character existed in real life then he most likely would be the worse spy ever. Fleming is escapist and brilliant.

  2. All kidding aside, of course he wouldn't last ten seconds. Fleming also said real life spies are boring (with notable exceptions--like Mata Hari and Sydney Riley--but most of those "exceptions" died on the job). Books and movies aren't supposed to be boring.

  3. I'm surprised you could get amused by that, seeing how seriously you seem to take this particular subject;)

    People say Bond is the worst spy ever, not because they are jealous of either Bond or his creator. I love the Bond persona and the movie francise surrounding him, yet I have to agree with them envious non-believers (try 'n put on your sarcastic hat for a sec if that's at all possible for ya;)

    Bond is the worst spy ever, because no matter where he goes or who he encounters, he always gives up his name in the first five seconds of the conversation. And as hard as I've tried to find proof that "James Bond" is just an alias, not in fact his real name, I just can't find it. In Skyfall the graves of his parents even give "Bond" as their last names.
    This name-spilling-itch he has is therefore also the reason almost every villian he comes across who he didn't tell his name to already, instantly regognises him anyway.
    He put himself on every badguys mostwanted-radar a long time ago.

    Now that, dear sir.. is why many agree James Bond is the worst spy ever.

  4. ADHD version.. you're mixing up 'good' and 'popular'