I knew from a reasonably early age that I was a Bond fan.
I can’t say exactly when, but logical deducing suggests it happened when I was 8 or 9. As best I can say, I recall being at home during a weekday due to some illness. Nothing major, just the ordinary flu or fever that any child might catch in a country like Canada where the weather gets rather chilly in the wintertime. The instigator to everything that has led me to where I am today as a 007 fanboy, although they didn’t know it at the time, is not the sort of person most point to when revealing who, if anyone other than themselves, introduced them to James Bond. In most cases, people tend to thank their father. A perfectly logical answer, given the generally perceived (or critiqued) quality of ‘manliness’ attributed to the franchise.
It was my mother that opened the door for me into the world of 007.
As I was saying, homesick from school with not much to do, my dear mother thought it wise to kill some time by renting a movie from some archaic establishment known many moons ago as a video store. This would have been in the early 1990s, long before instant online streaming, legal or otherwise, or 5$ DVDs and blu-rays. I can’t explain why I remember some of the details as I do, but my memory clearly shows my mother saying she was going to the video store to bring back a thrilling movie that she just knew instinctively I would like, or at least find passable. What’s more, I can recollect commenting something silly about loving super action with lots of guns. My mother laughed the comment off and teasingly answered that while there was some of that in the movie she had in mind, it was going to be a little different from Transformers or Ninja Turtles cartoons.
She returned home shortly thereafter with a VHS copy Octopussy, a title that my 8 or 9 year old mind didn’t fully appreciate until a few years later. The truth is, while my father thought Bond was perfectly fine, my mother really, really liked it. In fact, her favourite Bond was Roger Moore. His looks, his wit, his humour, the fact that he was a lover and not a killer, the exoticism, she was a big fan of good old Sir Roger.
I’m not sure I fully comprehended what hit me during the next 2 hours, but I knew that, in some capacity, I was enraptured. This English fellow, always impeccably dressed, always with something funny to say in the face of danger, traveling to places my brain had trouble processing but looked really awesome, action scenes that absolutely destroyed what I was watching on tv because it looked real (as I would later learn, one of the franchise’s greatest calling cards: do it for real), and a plethora many woman that appeared so very differently from my friends’ mothers and the girls at school…
That was it. I was hooked. Childhood developed into the terrible teenage years and eventually into adulthood (still trying to make that last one fully operational!). Late night television viewings, VHS tapings, more rentals from the video store, courtesy of my mother, etc. I got to know Moore much Moore (ha!), the swagger of Sean Connery, and even dear George Lazenby. Imagine my reaction at the end of OHMSS given how frivolous most of the other movies are! Many, many brands and hobbies have come and gone, some linger to this day albeit to lesser degrees, new things came along and found a place in my heart, but 007 never left. If anything, the brand supersedes virtually everything else I claim to enjoy, and I’d say by a fair margin at that. There was a brief period in my very early adulthood when Bond took a small hit. Confession: I never saw Die Another Day in theatres. I was a little weird, film-wise, in the first few years of adulthood. I liked Bond a lot, but somehow put him on the backburner. Don’t ask. Aren’t we all idiots pretending to be smart at 18, 19, and 20 years old?
My mother, bless her heart, passed away from a brain tumour in the autumn of 1993. My father temporarily filled Bond fan duties for a couple years. He took me to see Goldeneye in 1995. The first big screen 00-experience. What a Bond film to see for the first time in a theatre! So it was again in 1997 for Tomorrow Never Dies. By 1999, I was the one asking friends to go see The World is Not Enough. Notwithstanding the 2002 DAD hiatus, I was back into the swing of things as a university student in 2006 for Casino Royale; a bold, different, exciting take on 007, anchored by the magnetic Daniel Craig. It’s been a long time, and finally here we are.
But what is it like to be a James Bond fan, really? It goes without saying that everybody can answer that question differently, and the diversity of opinions and interpretations makes the conversation all the better for it. One can’t really dress up as Bond or a Bond girl. Wearing a nice business suit or a divine dress doesn’t encourage people to say “Hey, you look like James Bond or so and so Bond Girl!” Why should it? Getting suited and booted should be about just that: looking the business or delicious. Other than eagle-eyed fans, most won’t be able to discern that one is wearing a replica from any of the films anyways! The franchise is notorious for being absent at the various Comic-Cons, although some 00 alumni do show up for specific conventions around the world. The movies are essentially a licence to print money, and yet the brand is not sold like others. Nay, there is an undeniably different attitude about the brand, one that just doesn’t quite resonate the same way as properties under the Marvel, DC, Disney and other umbrellas. It’s not as though there is special exclusivity either. Anybody can pick up some Fleming novels at a library or book store, just as anybody can buy some films on DVD or blu-ray in a store or online. Hell, I recently took the plunge on the Itunes versions when the entire series was $99, in HD and with the supplements. 24 films for 99$. Seriously.
Is there is a level of snobbishness associated with 007 and its fans? I believe one can probably make a decent case for that, but conversely, I know many Bond fans that take great pleasure in many other franchises and properties. I enjoy the Marvel movies and the Netflix shows (Jessica Jones blew my mind and that’s pretty far removed from Bond), my favourite comic book character is Batman, I’m an avid film noir watcher and reader, I think Indiana Jones is terrific, and I’ll rarely refuse the opportunity to sit down with a Disney classic.
But Bond isn’t any of those. It is different and I don’t think there is any use in denying that, nor do I think many fans would be bothered to argue otherwise either. Bond opens one’s world to so many things. Consider the following traits the films glamorize:
-Bond is a cunning linguist (education)
-He travels the world over (learning other cultures)
-He is unquestionably British but always curious and knowledgeable of other cultures.
-The characters are generally pretty fit (physical well being)
-The characters are incredibly knowledgeable in their respective fields with Bond being a genius about everything (school smarts, education)
-The characters are often seen dining superb dishes (learning about food and drinks)
-Bond is an expert in an ungodly number of sports and hobbies (go out and learn something knew, be it a sport, card game or whatever)
-The characters are always impeccably dressed (buy yourself some decent clothes)
That’s just off the cuff. There are plenty of qualities I’m overlooking. If I didn’t mind publishing a 3,000 word blog post, I’d go on, easily.
That is the plight, so to speak, of the James Bond fan. We love sharing our appreciation with those that bother to listen. We also don’t shun other properties. Despite that, there is a sense that we are on the outside looking in when it comes to ‘geekiness’. That said, I doubt too many fans consider that a detriment. These are contradictory yet nevertheless co-existing realities. We most definitely get geeky, but it typically pertains to facts that other fanbases might not care so much about. There’s a difference between caring about in how many films 007 ventures to Italy (and which areas of Italy) and what happens in issue 72 of The Amazing Spider-Man. Oops, I guess that’s the snobbishness creeping in again.
It’s my belief that there is a wealth of material and angles from which the topic of Bond fandom can be broached. As such, consider this an introduction to my own personal perspective. Some subjects are fairly lightweight (memorabilia), whereas others are trickier to navigate adequately (the accusations of sexism). I’d very much like to return to this topic in the future and delve into specifics, even the tougher ones that cause some to bristle.