Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Always Inevitable and Untimely Demise of the Bond Girl

For the first ten years of my life, I was convinced that my father was Sean Connery, though that was not the name by which I knew him. My real father (depending on what unit you use to measure authenticity) was present, affectionate even--offered encouraging words in times of emotional distress, watched basketball games with me, cheering when I cheered and shouting angrily when I shouted angrily, was concerned about my grades, about my future, about my general well-being--but he was tangible, thereby lacking the mystique of my real real father. I had his nose, his tendency to stand with arms hidden behind the back and to sit leaning backward, crossing legs, his gut, protruding but not too much so, his passive-aggressive manners, but that, to me, meant as much as it might mean to you if I were to tell you that that man, any man, strange in just how normal they seemed, was your father too. As a child who watched his VCR copy of The Lion King into oblivion, I expected a father to be the wise sage in the clouds, James Earl Jones, someone suave who could in one breath offer wisdom and in the next disappear. I grew up watching my mother swoon over Mr. Bond as well and so the two entities blurred in my mind. There was a brief period where her affections switched to Roger Moore’s incarnation of the character that confused me, but she found her way back to the true father and all was made well.

My father, 007 as you know him, was a man who could win the affection of any woman with a look and a one-liner. This was a characteristic that became more potent as I enrolled in Junior High School, subsequently turning too old to harbor a fantasy that I was the brood of Britain’s greatest secret agent. It was a characteristic that I hoped had found its way into the gene pool, and it was not one I could learn from my real father. He had only ever dated one woman, kissed one woman, did-things-sons-tend-not-to-consider-when-it-involves-their-parents with one woman, and I called her mom. The stars must have aligned so that my father, a man who stammered and got nervous ordering his meal at McDonald’s, could win the affection of a woman so enamored with Bond, but I did not wish for an act of fate to act in my favor. I wanted the gift, the look, the wit, the wry smile and all that entailed.
Is this not how you imagined yourself as a child?

Of course, I knew the girls Bond wooed never fared well. Tatiana Romanova is tossed into the ocean in From Russia with Love. Goldfinger suffocates the lovely Jill Masterson with gold paint, her naked body draped over the bed, serene. Jill’s sister, Tilly, meets her demise at the hand of Oddjob, joining her sister in eternity. There is Aki who is poisoned while in bed with our hero, and my father, in You Only Live Twice, though, as far as I could tell, she only lived once. One woman is fed to piranhas and another is chased down by a pack of vicious dogs. Sure, there are those Bond Girls with which he rides off into the sunset, having once again saved the world, but they vanish by the time the next film is released, no eulogies given on their behalf, simply gone and never coming back.

Only Bond gets the desirable conclusion, the happy-ending; Bond and the world he has saved yet again. The rest of us, even his children, drift about in awe, waiting for death, though for a brief moment we are Bond, aren’t we? That is why we watch the movies. Describing why one enjoys a Bond movie is a bit like playing a game of “Cops and Robbers” with oneself. There is no analysis of its metaphors, no search for what it says of the human condition, no discourse to be had at all. Instead, you form your hands into the shape of a pistol, point it straight ahead, creep around hallways as you hum that insatiable theme, acting out scenes with vague descriptions and ill-advised sound effects, pretending every “Q Branch” gadget is something you could purchase at a Toys-R-Us if you could remember just what the fuck happened to Toys-R-Us, strutting around with a pseudo-confidence you wouldn’t ordinarily display; for one brief moment, you are who you think you are, not who others say you are.

And as someone who earnestly believed he was James Bond's son, I was a Junior High Student with few inhibitions when it came to approaching other Junior High girls. Although, that confidence came only after viewing an old Bond film (Connery mostly, sometimes Moore, rarely Dalton, and never Brosnan). I had just watched Diamonds Are Forever when I approached Plenty O’Toole, as she will be known in the context of this essay. She was standing at her locker in between third period and lunch as she did often. She didn’t browse through her locker. She just stood there, leaning against it, staring down the hall, perhaps eyeing those who passed by. There’s no doubt that she spotted me. I had my darkest sunglasses on, the ones that made people curious. Where are his eyes? Why is he wearing sunglasses inside? Who is this enigmatic fellow? She would have approached me if not for the call of the locker, the magnetism of it that drew her near and kept her locked to its form for the entirety of the passing period. I strutted over to her instead, walking with a sort-of-limp-sort-of-hobble-sort-of-awkward-series-of-consecutive-tripping-over-my-own-feet, trying to decide whether I should or should not address her with a British accent. I hadn’t decided by the time I slapped my right hand against the locker beside hers, stretched my arm out, leaning over her in an endearing but daunting manner, so I spoke first with a British accent, then turned Irish as I navigated my way back to my normal mode of speech, then concluded with something that half resembled my actual voice and half resembled the voice of Bobcat Goldthwait.

“Hey Plenty, how are you doing? You want to sit together for lunch.”

I was smooth still, the curious blending of accents aside. I tipped my sunglasses down to the end of my nose so she could catch a glimpse of my eyes, hazel, rather average, but still rather intriguing and mysterious if only because the sunglasses they hid behind.

She made no mention of my eyes though, despite my attempt to introduce them as a conversational topic. She made no inclination that she was intrigued by me at all. Instead, she clinched her nose, turned her head in the opposite direction, and shouted, “Eww! Why do you smell so bad?” and sprinted away into the distance, the draw of the locker no longer keeping her captive. It never occurred to me, the stench of James Bond, though I suspect it would be a mix of liquor and cologne. My own stench never crossed my mind either, though I suspected it too was a mix of liquor and cologne. It also never occurred to me that I was neither Bond nor his son in this particular scenario. I never considered that I would carry deodorant with me everywhere for the rest of my life. (Although, I would do just that partly because I reasoned that I was “a sweaty person” and partly because this instance had carved itself onto my psyche, though, for the sake of sanity, I pretend it meant and means nothing.)

No, I was not Bond then and she was not Plenty O’Toole. She was Bond. Jennifer Bond. I guess that makes me Octopussy.   

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