The current James Bond hype — owing to the latest installment, Skyfall, and to the character’s 50th anniversary in the movies — has me thinking back to the first time I saw a Bond film. I was 13, and The Man with the Golden Gun had just come out. (I’ll save you the trouble of looking up the date: 1974.)
Like most 13-year-old boys, I thought a lot of it was cool: the action, the gadgets, the over-the-top super villains. Unlike most 13-year-old boys, though, I didn’t think Bond’s womanizing was cool. It made him seem too much like, well, a 13-year-old boy’s idea of what a man should be. The idea of the eighth-grade boys locker room, which happened to be my least favorite place in the world. Their idea didn’t match up with mine, to put it mildly. While I hadn’t been raised in church, I hadn’t been raised in a moral vacuum either. I believed in respect, honor, chivalry — not fleeting trysts with serial partners.
What bugged me most was that Bond was supposed to be the hero. I had a serious problem with seeing promiscuity portrayed as a natural part of a hero’s character: He braves danger, he fights bad guys, he beds women. There was no hint that one of these things was in conflict with the others. It was all supposed to be cool. In fact, it was supposed to be suave and sophisticated.
I saw some more Bond films — some parts were cool, and part of me thought that seeing them was something a guy should do — but even at best, I could never enjoy them unreservedly. I could never really like Bond as a man. I certainly couldn’t respect him.
That was the start of one of my longstanding issues with Hollywood: I just can’t get into rooting for “good guys” who aren’t, you know, good. I can root for flawed characters, up to a point — depending on the nature of the flaw, how it’s portrayed, how the character progresses. But not for characters whose vices aren’t even presented as vices, at least not serious ones. I’ve never found the charming rogue to be very charming.
Just ignore this stuff, I’ve been told. Just enjoy the rest of the movie. I’ve tried at times, but I can’t. More than that, I don’t want to become someone who can — someone who can go from caring deeply about principles to not minding all that much when they’re flouted. That’s at least three-quarters of the way to surrendering those principles. And that’s anything but heroic.
I want my heroes to uplift me, to exhibit the qualities I aspire to have. Among those qualities, physical courage and daring don’t rank nearly so high as basic decency in the day-to-day relationships that God places before me. If a man doesn’t know how to treat a woman, how to behave uprightly toward her, it fundamentally undermines his character.
Give me heroes who deserve the name. Heroes who make me want to be more like the man my Maker made me to be.