Commander James Bond is not your usual fictional character. He's a secret agent. More than that, he's part of an MI6 elite force whose agents have a very unique thing: A license to kill. Within the parameters of their specific assignment, they can thus use any means necessary to eliminate a danger for Britain, or the world, without worrying about laws or attorneys. Agent 007 is an assassin, a killer, who will do everything in his power to get the job done.
007 is more than that. He is a fossil in a changing world, he is a British gentleman, he has a family tradition whose motto is orbis non sufficit - the world is not enough. His interests lie in capture, possession, influencing others to serve his plans. His plans, however, are - mostly - those of his government. After all, he's a spy. But he's not the clandestine type, his menace to his enemies is mostly known, he is not an owl waiting in the dark for prey, he likes to get near to the person he's about to fight. His victory, thus, is always not just a matter of putting the bullet where it's supposed to go, instead, he is aiming for a contest of morality. He doesn't have any, apart from his sense of duty, but his enemies have even less. Bond is a gentleman who's a killer. Yet there is nothing gentle with a killer, is there?
In this paper, the figure of James Bond will be introduced and discussed throughout the times, the agent fighting for an Empire which was still of some importance in the years Fleming wrote his novels, yet which has come to disintegrate in the following, being replaced by the Commonwealth, Britain's supreme role in the world passed over to the United States. The Empire's gentleman assassin and ladykiller will also be contrasted against a genre the Bond movies don't really belong to, the action movie. In the end, I hope to have given an overview of the history of the cinematic Bond, as well as some key elements to be found within the movies and the entire discourse surrounding 007.
May 11th, 2001 / June 7th, 2001
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(This paper has been presented on May 11th, 2001, at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for the Students Conference Licence to Thrill. Reading James Bond as a Cultural Phenomenon.)