A&E: Panou’s Paper Panel

I grew up in Tony Blair’s Britain. Staunchly Labour, a bit mousy and friendly looking, Prime Minister Blair represented the shift from a United Kingdom indebted to the Cold War into a truly modern one. As I have come to realize, I know very little of what that old country was like.

In the Cold War, the world hit Britain hard. It was a behemoth of Western culture. Musicians such as the Beatles topped the charts. British designers championed futuristic stylings that aimed to capture Britain’s space-frontier ambitions. The entire country transformed itself with new technologies, new fashions and what we now know as “retro” stylings.

While the British peoples were living so vibrantly, the government was up to something far more sinister. In other words, my life was shaped by men whose names I will never know. In the legacy of these men, Ian Fleming created a literary empire.

In 1957, Fleming released a classic of British culture: “From Russia, With Love.” My interest does not lie in the significance of this book’s plot or themes. It lies instead in the character of James Bond, international spy and man of the world.

In this particular book, Bond must survive an assassination attempt from a Russian femme fatale. That’s it. There is nothing special about the plot, nor is there anything that sticks out about the story. It is Bond’s presence, however, that is so fascinating.

James Bond is an icon of toxic masculinity. Bond became iconic by the masterful acting of legendary actors such as Sean Connery and Roger Moore. It was something so revolutionary back then. Men were not supposed to be donned from top-to-bottom in sex appeal and swagger. Yet, these new standards for masculinity spread like wildfire.

Like many others, I have put Bond’s behavior under intense scrutiny for its glorification of toxic masculinity. He casually and regularly objectifies women. He kills others and laughs it off with gin in his hands. He’s deadly and armed to the teeth with fancy gadgets.

Bond is likely an extension of Fleming himself who saw himself as some precarious ladys’ man and wanted to portray himself as such.

Despite the many things wrong with this book, Fleming did a great job writing a thriller. The intrigue of espionage is exciting, events spark interest, and make the book an easy read.

So, for a read that will have you questioning its oddities and chauvinistic motif, yet captivate you and hold you tightly, you might want to check out Ian Fleming this winter.