Friday, January 13, 2012


This past summer of 2011, Carte Blanche was released to great success, the most recent in a series spanning dozens of novels reaching back to 1953.  In 2008, Quantum of Solace  sold around 80 million tickets in theaters worldwide.  Those are strong numbers for any film, but for the 22nd film in a series spanning half a century and having rotated through six different leading actors, it’s astounding.
Particularly so considering what a dark, unsympathetic protagonist drives them.  Witty but cold; a man with romantic sensibilities expressed through unapologetic womanizing; a patriot of heroic bravery and cruel killings.  This unique mix of hero and antihero has become more than simply another pulp hero into one of the most recognizable cultural creations throughout the entire world.

Why has he survived so long?  His world, the world that allowed him to thrive - seedy underbelly buried, lust repressed, and everyone gripped in a cold war that, for the first time in history, really could have ended the world - is gone, replaced by a world with entirely different terrors.

His creators, too, are gone.  Ian Fleming, author of the original novels, dead just as his character reached his greatest heights.  Sean Connery, whose unassailable charisma and presence gave the role an even greater life in cinema, vowed within a decade to never again play the role.  And yet he survives, still enthralling the world.

The answer, like the answers to most good questions, is complicated.  There are simple answers that aren't wrong - he has all the girls and gadgets, or he fights the most colorful villains - but they don't capture a story best told piece by piece.

This blog (and, eventually, book) follows the "psychochronography" invented by Philip Sandifer in his brilliant Tardis Eruditorum blog - examining a slice of popular culture from the perspective of time and its passing.  How the character himself becomes such an icon; how his stories view and treat women, for better and worse; how its colorful villains and allies form a world, and an escape, that we're still loathe to leave more than half a century later.

And why he favors a shaken drink so stiff it could knock out a tank.

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