In 2010 I brought up the sad truth that there are a lot of men who wish Alan Alda and George Clooney could have a baby that looked like Matt Damon, but with beta-male genes empowered by gamma radiation. They want to see The Hulk, but instead of getting really angry they want him to cross his legs and purse his lips with incredible strength. The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen’s latest piece, ‘James Bond and the new sex appeal,’ demonstrates quite nicely that he is one of those men:
This Bond ripples with muscles. Craig is 44, but neither gravity nor age has done its evil work on him. Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed — a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don’t ask). I take these terms from the Daniel Craig Workout, which you can do, too, if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book. …
“Skyfall” is a lot of fun — don’t get me wrong — but it still says something about our culture that, in the autumn of my years, I do not like. To appreciate what I mean, contrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats — his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore — and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated. Of course, he knows his martinis, but he also knows how to send out a suit for swift hotel cleaning. He is a man of the world. …
Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen or a conversation not held. That’s why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film, “Never Say Never Again.” Women loved him because he was sophisticated and he could handle a maitre d’ as well as a commie assassin. Western civilization was saved not on account of his pecs but on account of his cleverness and experience.
I know the movie market skews young and kids want action, and I take it as a good thing that Daniel Craig’s Bond is older, world weary, and, in sports lingo, has slowed a step. But he still triumphs physically, not cleverly.
Speak for yourself, Richard. Some of us make time to do our reps and read books. We discipline our bodies and our minds. Daniel Craig’s 007 is superior because he brings strength and intelligence to the table — a deadly combination that strikes fear into wannabe George Clooneys because a “marbleized man” reminds them of very real soldiers (Navy SEALs, perhaps?) who can kill you with wits, fists, or marksmanship.
Richard Cohen may read a lot of books, but apparently many of them haven’t been historical in nature or he’d realize that Western Civilization owes plenty to men with “pecs.” And he claims to watch a lot of movies, but he seems to have fallen asleep during Skyfall because Bond is, in fact, very clever.
Who has to be more clever — the Bond who depends on exploding pens, or the Bond who must ultimately save the day with a hunting rifle and a knife? Who is more clever — the Bond who depends on ejector seats in his car, or the Bond who depends on his ability to recall — in a split second — the name of a decades-old metro stop in order to decrypt a digital map of subterranean London?
The insecurity masquerading as confidence displayed by men like Cohen is summed up perfectly in a conversation that 007 has with Q:
Q: Well, I’ll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.
James Bond: Oh, so why do you need me?
Q: Every now and then a trigger has to be pulled.
James Bond: Or not pulled. It’s hard to know which in your pajamas, Q.
Mr. Cohen pines for the Bonds of yore because it allows him to pretend he, in a pair of designer Gucci frames, could play the part. Cohen would love to believe that it’s possible to regularly dine out at Komi and Minibar, drink Macallan Scotch, and still manage to save the day. “Clever” men with “first class temperaments” cling to the belief that it is their brainpower that can save Western Civilization (a “reset” with Russia here, an endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood there), because deep down they know that the men who live in the shadows, pulling triggers, must work to keep their peak physical performance if they want to stay alive in the field.
I highly suggest seeing Skyfall if you haven’t already. It’s a great movie. I just wish M quoted more of Tennyson’s Ulysses; Mr. Cohen might have understood Craig’s 007 better if she had:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life …
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.