Everyone who attended UWAA Member Night at “Skyfall” last weekend received a special bonus. We handed out a program featuring an essay that examined how each James Bond actor reflects our times and hopes about the future. The piece was penned by Andrew Tsao, head of the School of Drama’s BA program and host of UWTV’s Backstory: A Filmmakers Vision. Here is Andrew’s essay:
As the Bond franchise continues to update itself, it is worth doing our own bit of detective work as we go along for the ride. What does the latest installment say about our times, and how does the man who plays Bond embody our own hopes and fears about the future?
Connery was a Scottish Bond, lending a roguish edge to the otherwise loyal servant to Her Majesty. To the English, the Scots have always been feared and loathed as barbarians from the north. Having Connery don the Savile Row suits was in itself a bit of social irony.
George Lazenby was Australian. An outlier from the frontiers of England’s cast offs. He was the Bond who lived through the loss of his wife and forever made Bond’s quest for justice personal.
Roger Moore was quintessentially proper, and embodied something shallow and self-absorbed about England, which of course mirrored the England of his Bond’s time (1973-1985) as it went from the anarchic Punk era to the Iron Lady’s cold hand of social Darwinism.
Timothy Dalton brought a brooding darkness to Bond in the late 80’s, perhaps presaging the crisis of purpose the character and England was going through then. Although the Falklands conflict was in 1982, it took the end of the Thatcher era to bring home the permanent decline of Great Britain as a world power.
Pierce Brosnan was Bond from 1995 to 2002. The Blair / Clinton world of micro wars and regional conflict where the enemy and the mission were both confused. He was a bothered Bond, often questioning his superiors and his own motivations.
There were of course other less well-known Bonds, including David Niven and Barry Nelson, on television.
Now we have Daniel Craig. The son of working class parents, he was raised in decidedly un-posh Liverpool. He brings a Stanley Kowalski-like roughness to Bond, yet seems to relish the finer things that are so much a part of Bond’s lifestyle. He is the post 9/11 Bond, and the films he has starred in are defined by an almost celebratory mayhem that continues to surpass itself with each film. Entire city blocks are leveled in chase scenes and massive destruction accompanies the dogged pursuit of villainy. It is as if the cataclysmic destruction we have now experienced in the west due to mass terror attacks has seeped into the Bond films as a kind of pop-catharsis. Craig is not ruffled by the chaos, however. He remains stoic amid the ruins, as if to say: “This is the world we live in. No use fretting about it, let’s just do what we have to do.”
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