Gentlemen prefer Bonds

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A coworker recently said to me that I was a gentleman.

I have been having some difficulty with my hearing when there are ambient sounds in the room. There was a bit of white noise that day as well as phones ringing, overhead music, glasses clinking, pots panning, etc. So, I moved closer as I asked her to repeat.

She told me she thought of me as a gentleman.

I was touched. Floored, even. Present memory tells me I have not been called a gentleman. (Past memory tells me the same thing, but that could just be age and a faulty recall.) Since that day, I’ve searched my brain’s hard drive as well as my internal RAM and found no instances of the word gentleman in any descriptive phraseology referencing me.

I guess I just don’t think of myself as a gentleman in the eyes of others. Seriously, when I was growing up, I often heard the word selfish as a descriptor, and I may well have been. But those instances of selfishness being pointed out during the growing pains of childhood and adolescence — by my parents and one of my sisters — stuck with me.

I was being taught, whether I knew it or not, to have empathy. Over time, I began to reflexively think of how and what others might be feeling. To think of others first, even if instinct had me thinking of myself as well. I allow pedestrians to have the right of way. I hold doors for people, male or female. I try to listen to both friends and strangers, if they have a problem. (I may not always recall the conversation, but I do listen.) These things may not automatically make one a gentleman but they do help and take the focus off of my built-in selfish psyche.

In any case, being called a gentleman by this co-worker surprised me and I wondered why. My affections for wordplay and the double entendre as well as flirtatious conversation no doubt have kept some from thinking of me as gentlemanly. Some might think of me as witty, which is what I am going for. Trouble is, just as many probably think of me as stupid, sexist and crude. My cup of funny is not everyone else’s cup of funny. Nowhere in there does the word gentleman reside.

Thank you, co-worker, for making my day.

Starting around the time I was 12 or 13, I became a James Bond fan. This started with one of the weaker entries in the series, The Man with The Golden Gun (1974). This was Roger Moore’s 2nd go as Bond and also starred Maud Adams as his love/lust interest, Christopher Lee as the baddie, a pre-Fantasy Island Herve Villechaize, and a theme song by Lulu that went nowhere that I can recall. The film was pretty bad, looking back. And yet, I was hooked. I dug the gadgets, the cars, the exotic locales. And Bond’s seeming ease with women, which I certainly didn’t have at 12 or 13.

A few months ago I began re-watching some James Bond films I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Wow, what misogyny! Well, the early ones weren’t presented with an overt hatred of women but at best the female characters were eye candy and then easily discarded. As if women mattered but then didn’t matter. Over the years, my supposedly educated mind hated it as I woke up to that cinematic formula. And yet … I was still a fan.

A paradox, I know.

George Lazenby as 007.
George Lazenby: A singular 007.

Sean Connery started the whole James Bond on film craze in 1962 with Dr No. He was suave and had the looks and sex appeal the producers were looking for. Albert “Cubby” Broccoli later commented, “I wanted a ballsy guy …”. Following Dr No, in rapid succession, were From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967). George Lazenby was tapped to take over for Connery but lasted only one film — On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) — before Connery was lured back in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever.

Maybe the frilly shirts were his undoing?
Maybe the frilly shirts were his undoing?

My childhood recollections of James Bond are out of order in my head but that is probably because I wasn’t introduced to the film series until after 8 films had been produced, with three different actors playing the role. With each stage of my life, a Bond actor was introduced — or a Bond villain — and my fandom ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I had interest, just to see what was happening. Other times, I had very little interest, catching up with films almost as an after-thought.

(I don’t count the first Casino Royale from 1967 as that was theoretically a parody of the series.)

I suppose I should also discount most of the films with Roger Moore. He was fine, I guess, but his films were more a live-action cartoon. A critical eye looks back on the Moore films and — with every other fist fight — spots a stunt double or an obvious product placement. (With Sean Connery, one gets extra points when the camera angle catches the seam on his toupee.)

The puffy shirt worked for Seinfeld, right?
The puffy shirt worked for Seinfeld, right?

There are conflicting reports as to whether Lazenby only did one film because he was unpopular or because he just didn’t want to be involved with what he perceived as part of a dying genre. It may be a mixture of both. In my opinion, Lazenby did an acceptable job and was not so God-Awful bad as Bond as some think but he was stuck in a bit of a no-man’s land of replacing a very popular Connery. Lazenby got to kiss Diana Rigg, so instead of living vicariously through Bond for that film, some may have resented him for that. I certainly did. Unfortunately for Lazenby he also went undercover for a bit in the film and wore a variation of something akin to Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy shirt.


Timothy Dalton took over after Moore, in The Living Daylights (1987) and License To Kill (1989). After a prolonged legal fight over producing rights, Pierce Brosnan followed Dalton in Goldeneye (1995), followed by Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002). Both were okay as Bond but neither were particularly memorable for me. Dalton more like the literary Bond and Brosnan more a TV Bond in my recollection. A Bond-lite, if you will. A Diet Bond with an artificial sweetener. I enjoyed the films to a point but did not feel a pull to re-watch them.

Casino Royale in 2006, however, reinvigorated the series for me. Visionary direction brought Bond into view once again, exploring his thought process as well as his reflexive menace. I have very much enjoyed Daniel Craig as Bond, bringing new life, and some would say, new emotion to Bond. I’ve watched this Casino Royale more than a few times noticing new things each time. Craig was a breath of fresh air. His Bond unearthed a pensive, smoldering psyche and began to say more with his glares and stares than his quips.

Quantum of Solace in 2008 was not all that great, in my opinion. Much of it felt bereft of oomph, for lack of better onomatopoeia. A running time of 107 minutes, the shortest Bond film, according to my brief research. It certainly had the style, action and exotic locales, but the package felt altogether unfinished, disconnected and ultimately unsatisfying. The final result, I hear, of a prolonged writer strike going on at the time. (Hint: Finish your script before you start filming.)

Skyfall in 2012 brought us even deeper into Bond’s psyche. His troubled, orphan past. His loyalty to his duty and his duty to keeping his loyalty. He’s a moody, brooding orphan. Oliver Twist with a chip on his shoulder, ultimately beating the crap out of Bill Sikes. And his fractured, combative, and undisciplined, yet alternately loving and respectfully mourning, mother-son relationship with M, as played by Judi Dench.

The character of James Bond is far from a gentleman. He’s a drinker. A womanizer. A gambler. A rogue. He has a license to kill, after all, and it is difficult to kill someone — in my mind, at least — and still be gentlemanly about it. I’m just guessing, I haven’t tried it. And yet, Bond seems to have no issues with getting affection from women.

The heterosexual female. The gender that supplies the male with reason to exist. They are the parry and thrust of the heterosexual male existence. The gender that supplies a reason boys and young men are taught to be gentleman. Be a gentleman and you will be rewarded with the woman of your dreams, or so the thought process goes. Even that thought process is flawed as it treats the idea of women as a prize — as someone created in one’s subconscious — and not a living, breathing, thinking person. Sheesh!

I have yet to see Spectre from 2015 but including that, the James Bond 007 film series has earned $14 Billion over the years, when adjusted for inflation. Billion. There must be something to this womanizing, gambling, violent, financially frivolous, border-line sex addicted, escape artist. He’s selfless and selfish. And gets what he wants. He looks like a gentleman but there’s an untamed animal underneath. Perhaps there’s some truth to that fiction with all of us.

Bond is identified by many things but his ability to escape the life and death predicaments he is handed — or that has gotten himself into — is pretty attractive to the onlooker. It helps a bit that many villains tell him their plans or give him an out just before they leave him alone to devise an escape. If only we all had such hints. (Authors note: We often do, I think, if we’ve been paying attention.)

I believe James Bond to be far from what I would call a gentleman so I do not know why there has been an on and off attraction to the fantasy of his adventures. Perhaps because he always seems to escape. Perhaps because he always seems smarter than those he is up against. Perhaps by acting on instinct has always proven him right — or is able to correct an error when he has been wrong.

Or, perhaps there is some truth to the rumor that people like the idea of a gentleman, but want him untamed. The best of both worlds?

The worlds are not enough.

A Plague on Words archives

trahanGary Trahan of Manchester, NH, has written and performed throughout New England, Colorado, Florida and New York City. Gary has written plays, sketches, screenplays and humor columns, including for almost three years as part of a rotating team of humor columnists submitting for the Encore section of The Nashua Telegraph. “Gare” received his BA from UMass/Amherst another lifetime ago, and has been learning lessons ever since. Writing and other forms of creativity help to keep him sane, uh, sanER. You can reach him at

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