As recently reported by the British press, in the next James Bond film to be released in October, Skyfall, the suave secret agent to be played by Daniel Craig will not be sipping vodka martinis — he will be drinking beer, and one may also conclude he will not be all that suave. We do not yet know how Craig will ask for it, but given the dumbing down of the James Bond persona, it is not hard to imagine the words, “ice cold bottle of beer here” spoken at the gaming tables of Monte Carlo. The admirers of Bond are said to be outraged.
For decades we have heard the words, “vodka martini, shaken not stirred,” spoken by the world’s urbane super spy, known almost everywhere as Bond, James Bond — as he is wont to introduce himself in a slightly menacing, condescending way.
At home in the paneled offices of London’s intelligence service or MI6, the dignified casinos of the Riviera, the Space Shuttle, and on board the Orient Express streaking from Istanbul across Europe, Bond has been an icon for those with discriminating taste and for those who would like to have it.
Whether it was Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, or Pierce Brosnan, the character Bond knew his fine wines and foie gras and how to conduct himself elegantly, whether in a bush suit or black tie. He could lecture the Bank of England on the deficiencies of their brandy, and advise M, the chief of MI6 on obscure flora found in the Amazon — in a patronizing manner. In the early Bond movies with Connery and Moore in particular, there was focus on the spy’s character and wry sense of humor, before the onslaught and distraction of high speed cameras and gadgetry. Later actors, especially Dalton, projected a more sensitive Bond — a Bond with listening skills — and Brosnan continued to enhance the image of all things dapper, the stiff upper lip, and good taste.
But no more. Craig is a different kind of Bond — however still with much public appeal. His surliness and sometimes glowering manner speak to those in need of anger management. His musculature is suggestive of many hours spent in the gym, bench pressing several multiples of his body weight. His slightly spiked hair is suggestive of the coolness of a new generation, a new order of things. The grime and dried blood on his face convey a hands-on 007, a hard-charging executive of espionage — one who prefers substance over form and just wants to get the job done.
The new Bond now played by Craig does not mind looking grungy and casual, and in this respect he is a certainly a man of the times. And while the earlier Bonds seemed to do their work for King and country, with pluck that was decidedly British, it is not yet clear exactly what motivates Craig in his role, other than the desire for a good dustup and a cold beer.
It is possible that the commercial sponsors of Bond are shrewdly cognizant of globalization and its potential for profit. Imagine the rising demand for beer in Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRIC countries, as hundreds of millions of young men and women aspire to become secret agents, swigging down a well-chilled beer after completing a clandestine operation.
Not surprisingly Heineken, the Dutch brewing company in collaboration with film sponsors, has weighed in, reportedly stating, “Bond is a perfect fit for us. He is the epitome of the man of the world.”
Bond traditionalists may not be happy about the dilution of their brand, perhaps conceding that Daniel Craig still epitomizes something — but it is not worldliness. After all, a super sleuth with dirt and his own dried blood on his face cannot be doing everything right.
But drinking beer need not be inconsistent with savoir-faire, as Jonathan Goldsmith, the Dos Equis man, shows us. Were Goldsmith cast as the next James Bond, we might hear him say, “Stay covert, my friends.”
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