License to thrill women just as much as men
DANIEL Craig, the new face of James Bond in Casino Royale, released next week, stares stonily out of the cover of the Radio Times and says, "People hate me..." How pathetic, what a nerd, was my first reaction. It is clearly shared by many 007 aficionados, who must get destabilised every time there has to be a reincarnation of the cult figure Bond. Indeed there has been an anti-Craig internet campaign and threatened boycott of the film. All good grist to the publicity mill, of course.
My second reaction to the Craig image is that he reminds me of Vladimir Putin; a sinister enough figure to emulate. Much of the objection to him has focused on the blond hair and blue eyes.
Yet such tender features in conjunction with ruthless thuggery acquire a sub-zero chill factor reminiscent of cinematic KGB or Gestapo baddies. Now that there has been a titillating taster of Casino Royale, and privileged reviewers are restraining themselves from spilling all the secrets too soon, there has been a sea change of opinion. In particular, women adore the new Bond; they seem to take milliseconds to fall for his sexy, virile charm with more than an undercurrent of animal menace.
There is a feeling that over the years, Bond has become too soft, too ready to bleed, too much in touch with his feminine side. His character has kept pace with the Brad Pitts and the David Beckhams, the metrosexual new men. But this production has restored the original Ian Fleming 1953 character, brutal Real Man before political correctness and feminism gave him a makeover. And at icons where women fall down and worship, you may be sure that men will follow, admire and imitate.
As a student in the Sixties, I had a boyfriend who was mesmerised by Fleming's version of Bond. He told me that one of his hero's stylish tricks was to light up his cigarette with a match struck with a flourish on his trouser zipper; like this, he exclaimed, demonstrating. Unfortunately the lit match got stuck in the zip... a suitable parable for the danger that 007 can handle, while lesser men fumble and stumble.
Bond can take on virtual danger as well as physical; Casino Royale centres on a high-stakes game of poker as well as the more atavistic chasing and gun-slinging. The cerebral and the corporal, two modern macho means of combat.
It's all light-hearted entertainment, isn't it? A bit of escapism and fantasising? Maybe. I hadn't planned to see the film, for unremitting edge-of-seat excitement and action-packed chase scenes, polarising of the elements into good and bad, and sex between idealised extremes of gender beauty, are not usually my scene. But now I've glanced at Craig with his impressive six-pack, clutching his pistol-phallic symbol, moving on the set with balletic grace, and heard the enthusiasm from both sides of the gender divide - well, maybe I will. I am as susceptible to the subliminal prompts of Darwinian sexual selection as any star-struck movie-goer, in spite of knowing where those prompts are coming from. I was once at a university debate opposing Peter Stringfellow on some feminist issue. In spite of my visceral disapproval of his satyric ways, I found him funny and good company. So would Germaine Greer, I'm sure. We women are all part of this particular evolutionary arms race, and it's quite clear that it isn't something we are going to grow out of any time soon.
We might deplore male behaviour in all its worst manifestations; from promiscuity through conspicuous consuming and greed and ferocious single-minded ambition, combativeness, tribal enemy fixation, murder and warmongering, indiscriminate destructiveness and threats to global stability. Feminists have taken all these on, not very successfully, because of course it is to impress us women that all this is done. We are intricately part of the problem.
This is the human equivalent of the antler-clashing in the autumn rut of red deer or the evolution of the peacock's tail as a splendid symbol of masculine fitness to catch the peahen's eye and favour.
The prompts that subliminally mesmerise us modern women are all connections with power. Men don't need to be massive any more, the signals are more subtle. That dark, restrained side, that feral confidence, that unspoken capacity to take on all-comers, that respect we see in the body language of others; alongside the more visible tokens like money, Rolex watches and Aston Martins. As a bookish person, I might admire verbal combat more than duelling, but it is the same phenomenon.
Sexual selection works like this. Women admire some macho feature, preferentially mate with it, so ensuring it flourishes in future generations. We want our offspring to be endowed with successful characteristics. As Brian Sykes, the genetics expert and author of Adam's Curse has pointed out, the ultra-rapid transformation of the modern world which has taken place since the end of the last Ice Age (13,000 years ago) has all the hallmarks of runaway sexual selection. And the really big peril is that there is no natural limit to the tendency for wealth and power to beget yet more; there is no negative feedback control for this process in ourselves. It is the winner-takes-all phenomenon we know so well from corporate business, monopolies and tyrannical regimes worldwide.
So Fleming's version of James Bond embodies everything that is hell-bent on whirling us all into oblivion. Maybe, then, we women should teach ourselves to seize power instead and favour biddable, subordinate men. Wouldn't that be a strange world? Maybe I will see that film.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east