James Bond and the Alpha Male by Brandon

Daniel Craig James Bond

Like many of us who visit this site for opinions that are a bit more open than those on typical fanboy sites, I don't like Daniel Craig playing James Bond.  In my case, however, it is not just because of his joyless performance in Casino Royale.  Nor is it even because of his completely unremarkable looks, blond hair, and short height.  No, I come at the equation from a different angle because of my own past experience as an US Army Ranger, West Point graduate, and leader of men under fire.  All of my life I've had to asses the strength and character of other men under extremes of pressure and this has now influenced my view of Bond.  I simply will never be able to accept Craig as James Bond because I know that he is a beta male fatally miscast in an alpha male role.
What is a beta male?  Various definitions can be looked up on Google but essentially the Urban Dictionary defines it is "An unremarkable, careful man who avoids risk and confrontation.  Beta males lack the physical presence, charisma and confidence of the alpha male.  In modern society an alpha male not only requires physical prowess, but also confidence and attitude.  The beta male of modern society usually, only has one of these traits, if any.  The beta male tends to be smart, quiet and un-confrontational. 
I personally knew Craig was a beta male when I saw the video of the now infamous London press corps introduction for him as Bond in Casino Royale.  I first picked up on it in his slack gait as he walked onto the pier, then noticed his uncertainty and discomfort in front of the reporters, and finally saw him constantly defer to Barbra Broccoli and Martin Campbell in answering the questions - all of these actions were subtle but unmistakable signs of beta male behavior. 

In my opinion the first priority of casting for any alpha role is choosing an alpha male actor, a man that male moviegoers can respect and find believable.  This casting principle has also been synonymously summed for 007 up in the pop culture description of James Bond as "someone every man wants to be like and that every woman wants to be with."  But when you think about it, this description broadly works for all other alpha male roles as well.  For example, I would argue that only an alpha male actor like Russell Crowe as Maximus could have driven Gladiator as successfully as he did.  This is also how Arnold Schwarzenegger more than competently carried off True Lies, a movie which might arguably have ended up as the best "Bond" film of the 1990's if Schwarzenegger could have played Harry Tasker with a full suite of 007 movie motifs and not just the tux.  Daniel Craig, however, is clearly no alpha male actor and as such he will never become a classic James Bond to me.  Instead I believe he will progressively lose more and more of the male movie market over time.  This has already started happening here in the US where Casino Royale failed to draw as many males into the theatre as Brosnan's last film.  I suspect that now with the curiosity factor gone, even fewer men will return for a second helping of Craig in Quantum of Solace.
Russell Crowe, James Bond

But how did we end up with Craig even being selected in 2005?  Blame it squarely on the feminist movement of the past 40 years because before modern political correctness appeared Bond was simply a cool fantasy character created by men for men.  In his novels Ian Fleming had colorfully and unapologetically cast James Bond with all the rough edges you'd expect of a man caught up in the early Cold War.  Admittedly producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman refined the edges a bit to bring 007 to the big screen, but these visionary men still knew better than to grind away too much of Bond's raw nature.  As a result James Bond began life on the big screen as a purely misogynistic scoundrel, but despite this (and perhaps even because of it) he appealed equally to both male and female audiences.

However, the more popular the Bond movie franchise became the more pressure the feminist movement put on the producers to tone down the gratuitous misogyny.  We certainly saw the effects of this in the films as 007 became increasingly better behaved and softer over time... less sex, less smoking, less drinking, and, frankly, a bit less interesting too.  There also began a false notion that in order to boost the general appeal of the movie among female audiences, strong women needed to be cast alongside Bond.  I still chuckle every time I watch a 007 documentary and hear each actress claim in turn how their particular Bond girl character was not just a pretty face but rather James Bond's equal.  Oh, really?  The height of the absurdity came after Die Another Day when the suggestion was floated by the producers that Halle Barry was so strong in her role that she could even carry a Jinx spin off movie.  How laughable!  It is counter to James Bond's very nature to need any woman, much less an equal, and it is exactly this kind of raw independence that fundamentally makes him and other alpha males so irresistibly attractive to women.

Unfortunately the Bond franchise was eventually doomed to cave-in completely to this trend because the sole remaining producer, Cubby Broccoli, lacked any real alpha male heirs to hand over the business too.  The franchise was instead given to his daughter, Barbara, and his beta male son-in-law, Michael Wilson.  Neither of these two producers understands to this day what Bond's appeal to audiences is fundamentally about.  Yet they infuse their opinion and preferences into casting, scripting, and filming at every stage.  And if there never was a better example of nepotism leading to mediocrity, Casino Royale finally gave Babs and Michael the chance to recast James Bond completely in their own flawed, feminized vision of what a modern spy should be - a 007 that actually needs and seeks refinement by female accountants and bosses, a Bond with finger-sucking sensitivity to others, and a spy with a relationship naivety that is utterly unbelievable for anyone over 25.  And it wasn't enough to figuratively turn Bond into the cinematic equivalent of a love-struck "girl" with the reboot plot of Casino Royale.  They had to do it literally as well by having Craig pop out of the ocean in the swim trunks just like Honey Ryder in Dr. No. Never before has Bond been so shamelessly objectified and emasculated.

But then again we've come a long way with Bond since Connery set the standard for actors in Dr. No.  Although Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had the right facial look for Bond, they played Bond with a bit less raw machismo and gravitas than their predecessors.  Essentially they became the charming British MacGyvers of the Bond world who largely used technology and intelligence to outsmart their adversaries instead of raw muscle and brute force.  Timothy Dalton is a bit more difficult to characterize broadly because he attempted to play a tougher and more realistic Bond. But despite the grittier plots he was given, I always had the gut feeling that in real life Timothy was just a sensitive, sweet teddy bear actor turning in a performance as a hard-edged Bond on screen.  In other words, there was still a beta male - alpha male disjunct.
GeorgeLazenby, James Bond

So aside from Connery which other Bond's had sufficient personal gravitas?  For alpha males the only other actor to have indisputable credibility in the role was George Lazenby.  Even today it is still quite obvious from watching OHMSS that Lazenby moved, fought, and held himself with commanding authority as James Bond.  Moreover, as an actor he was also notoriously headstrong on the set which led to a few clashes with both the director and other cast members.  Realize, however, that creating confrontation is an alpha male quality.  And although this may have made Lazenby difficult to work with, at least we know from it that he was his own man both in life and on screen, period.  It made him believable.  Craig has none of these personal qualities; he's an actor just trying desperately to fake them for us on screen.

Even so, after seeing Casino Royale I suspect that Daniel Craig's version of Bond is not a man that most of us would ever want to be.  In fact I have to wonder how many of us might even feel that we now do it better personally than this Bond.  Certainly ever since Casino Royale came out I can honestly say for the first time my life that I now easily look better than James Bond.  And I'm 44 years old today against Craig who was 38 in the movie. It's all a sign of something being seriously wrong with the world of Bond to be able to contemplate these things.   Bond should always be clearly better than all of us but yet these days he is not.  Alas, I've resigned myself to the conclusion that as long as 007 remains as ordinary and mundane as Daniel Craig, I'll simply stick to the classic Bond films. 
Indiana Jones, James Bond
Captain Kirk James Bond

Still, despite the fact that I've personally lost interest in seeing new Bond movies I regret that Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson have fundamentally ruined both the character as well as the last franchise alpha role left to play in Britain.  Now all of the remaining franchise alpha roles are likely to be American - Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones, Batman, James T. Kirk.  Not coincidentally I notice many of you also mentioning these characters on the forums as alternatives to Bond now.  Hollywood will always happily fill the breach, but the greater problem here is that losing a character role with the quintessential British style of James Bond will only make for a more vanilla, more generic, and ultimately more boring world.  Style does matter and it is entirely worthy of a separate discussion as it relates to Bond.  If I can get to it sometime soon that will be the subject for my next topic.  In the meantime I hope this different angle on James Bond has at least made for an entertaining read.  Cheers, everyone!

- Brandon



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