DC at Night

DC at Night

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bond and His Bad Guys: A License to Thrill

If you were watching the Super Bowl commercials, you saw the Jaguar ad featuring a trio of British villains. And while you watching that ad, you were probably reminded of the ultimate British hero Bond ... James Bond.

(If you can't view the Jaguar ad, click here)

Of course, heroes can't be heroes unless they are battling formidable villains. And so a good question might be - would James Bond be as captivating if he had not encountered such great bad guys as Dr. No, Goldfinger, and Jaws.

Well you can find out the answer to that question by visiting the International Spy Museum, where the featured exhibit is Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains.

"The Bond movies are the hero, the villain, the women, and the gadgets," says historian and James Bond expert Jonathan Nashel.

Nashel said that since the Bond beginnings in books by creator Ian Fleming in 1953 until the most recent Bond film Skyfall released in 2012, an across-the-Atlantic and indeed an around-the-world transformation occurred.

"Bond has become an international idea, not a person," Nashel said at a lecture at the Spy Museum. "For Americans men, he became the American cowboy reborn - a hero for the modern Cold War and terrorist times. For women, they wanted to be with Bond rather than the snoring fatso next to them. He gave everyone the sense of the possibilities of being both a man's man and a ladies' man."

While the exhibition details all the aspects of the Bond story, much of the focus in on the villains he valiantly defeated in both print and on screen. The massive exhibition is divided into sections. They include:
  • Bond Begins
  • Cold War Power Plays
  • Earth Redesigned
  • Murderous Monopolists
  • Drugs and Thugs
  • Cold War Castoffs and
  • New World Disorder
The exhibit explores how the evildoers and their plots have changed to reflect their times and how the Bond character had influenced the public's perception of real espionage. Historical artifacts and documents, as well as classic film and audio clips profiling Bond and his adversaries complement the array of movie props on view.

"The Bond of books and films showed a world of consumption. His Aston Martin launched a million dreams and Hugh Hefner's Playboy mentality reflected Bond to a T," Nashel explained.

The historian said the President John Kennedy had much to do with uber-British Bond initially becoming popular in America. "In 1961, Kennedy said From Russia with Love was one of his favorite books. No one is really sure if he was serious or joking. I think it was nonsense. The Kennedys were snobs and they were cool. I think they found the idea of England being equal to America absolutely hilarious," Nashel said.

"But his comment had an electric effect on sales of the books," he added.  In 1962, Dr. No, the 1st  of what would become 23 Bond films, came to the silver screen. And the rest, as they say is history - history you can actually see at the Spy Museum for the rest of the year.

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