As a new Bond film, No Time to Die, hits cinemas, it’s important to question and assess the franchise’s cultural legacy, not only in the UK, but around the world. It’s certainly true that the character of Bond – originally conceived by the intelligence officer and author Ian Fleming – has gone through some changes during his on-screen appearances, but has the essence of the character remained? And more importantly, is this a good representation of what it means to be ‘quintessentially British’?
As much as we know it’s unrealistic, we love to believe the Bond fantasy is true
National identities are hard to accurately establish domestically, let alone internationally, yet James Bond has been firmly established as a hallmark of British culture. From a British perspective, however, it can be challenging to see how Bond represents many – if any – people in Britain. With his suave womanising, incredible ability to get out of sticky situations, and impressive gadgetry, Bond would be a rare sight on the streets of Britain today.
Bond is escapism at its best
Bond is a fantasy at heart, which is what’s so ingenious about it, it’s exciting. This is also why it catches on globally, because as much as we know it’s unrealistic, we love to believe the Bond fantasy is true. Likewise, people around the world love to believe that he is an accurate representation of British people. Bond is escapism at its best.
A similar effect was observed when Downton Abbey hit American television screens, and suddenly this small snippet of British history was seen as the defining cultural experience in the UK. It’s also not just an American pastime either, in the UK we devour period dramas centred around a wealthy family dealing with menial change as much as anyone else. We’re happy to engage in our own cultural stereotypes, with Bond being high on the list – which is partly why the franchise is so recognisable, because we’ve kept it alive.
The franchise is still very much relevant today and, aside from being a money-generator, it promotes Britain around the world. Despite all its flaws, this is something that we should celebrate.
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