Executive Summary

5 Bonds

Dangerous missions, swooning women, impeccable suits and a witty sense of humor have made 007 one of the most beloved on-screen heroes in the past few decades. And while this never-ageing spy may be British and based on the novels of English author Ian Fleming, his adventures are nevertheless highly telling, reflective, and informative of American society and politics during the Cold War period. The importance of these movies, thus, are manifold.

For one, and perhaps most obviously, the films highlight the topic of espionage. While forming the crux of what makes them so entertaining by leading the viewer into an unknown world, much of the details of what is shown to be Bond’s job is in fact fictional. However, espionage and covert operations within the Cold War did exist, even if without the shiny underwater cars and numerous beautiful women. Espionage related cases, such as that of the Rosenbergs and the offices of CIA and the OPC, prove that the Bond movies were not as far removed from reality as it may initially seem. Similarly, shifting political relations of the Cold War period can generally be traced throughout the series, whether it be shifts in the representations of villains or a change in the ultimate crisis that Bond has to avert. These include nuclear threats as well as space stations. Surprising subtleties within plot lines are thus able to give us nuanced information about events of the decades. Likewise, the differing technological innovations or problems not only show us that technology took on an ever growing role during this decades, but also serve as evidence of what concerned the American population.

The movies not only exemplify the political events and mindsets of Western society in the 1960s to 1980s, but also serve as records of its structures. This can be seen most prominently in the area of Gender Roles within the movies and raises some questions about how far reaching the women’s movement had really come in the 1970’s. Many movies rely on a presentation of women in highly stereotyped sexualized ways, while often also empowering women. This is especially the case when women take on the role of agents themselves or turn out to be devious villains. Lastly, the movies also serve as important pieces of cultural evidence, which left a large legacy within popular culture. Comics, music and even clothes were associated with the movies, highlighting that they held a prominent position within Western society.

Overall, the importance of the James Bond movies lies in the fact that they trace and highlight major themes of Cold War politics and concerns among the American population and social structures. The fact that the movies are still as important and attractive today confirms this notion all the more.

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One thought on “Executive Summary

  1. It is important to view the James Bond phenomenon for what he was: good fun entertainment written by someone who had been a spy for the Brits in WWII. It was contradicted by John le Carre in “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, and who had worked for MI-6, to show what espionage was really like. Nonetheless, in a world paralyzed to some degree by the Cold War, where in closed societies like those of Eastern Europe and the USSR, spies and spying were deemed some of the only ways to access critical national security information, young graduates were drawn to careers in CIA as a patriotic way to serve the country. (One of my colleagues, a Harvard grad of the late 1950s said nearly 10% of his graduating class (100 students) had applied to enter CIA. ) They were not thinking about James Bond necessarily, but they had learned a foreign language and sought public service. They were influenced by tales from the OSS during WWII and some were soon infiltrating behind the borders in Eastern Europe and jumping into China. Sadly, CIA did not enjoy much success in the early Cold War years but things picked up after Stalin’s death in 1953.

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