Table of Contents
2. The phenomenon of James Bond as an international cult figure
3. The construction of a national identity in James Bond movies
4. From Russia With Love - A case study
6. Works Cited
Writing about the construction of a national identity is a widespread theme because there are numerous national identities. Therefore, it is necessary to narrow down the topic by finding a nation which identity is outstanding enough in comparison to others.
One of the hardest nation to be defined is Great Britain (GB); thus its identity is even more difficult to determine. GB consists of England, Scotland and Wales. Together they are part of the British Isles next to Ireland, which consists of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. England is often interchanged not only with GB but also with the British Isles because of its (political) predominance. This is a crucial point that has to be kept in mind when talking about Britishness/Englishness.
Until today the construction of national identities is still a widely discussed issue. National identity has always been very meaningful as it will be in future. In fact, it will turn to the most important collective identity since other identities, like gender or religious identities, are withering away (Aughey, “The Politics of Englishness” 4). There is a shift of identities taking place particularly in England; globalization takes away characteristics that belonged to the English and British identity. With the end of the British Empire a huge identity marker has gone. Today, Great Britain, especially England has problems to create a post-imperial identity (Kumar, “The Making of English National Identity” 235).
A national identity is a particular form of collective identity; it is an identity which belongs to a group of people and that is constructed through collective symbols as well as icons. Flags and national anthems serve as collective symbols while Kings, Queens, musicians, actors or authors are regarded as national icons. When talking about England/Great Britain one has to mention their flags, the St. George´s Cross and the Union Jack, and the four national anthems, God Save the Queen, Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia as collective symbols. King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth II, Billy Bragg, James Bond or William Shakespeare are British/English icons, for instance.
As mentioned, James Bond is a national icon. The hype about the cult figure James Bond has reached international attention; thus, it is not surprising that there is a film series about Bond as a movie hero. Ian Fleming invented the role of James Bond as Agent 007. Bond was a fictional character in Fleming´s novels, after a collection of movies were made out of them. Now, the question arises whether James Bond is a British or an English icon? Where is the difference between Britishness and Englishness? What or who is behind that phenomenon of James Bond?
Showing how Britishness/Englishness is constructed in James Bond movies will be the main aim of this research paper. Therefore, it is essential to clarify the difference between a British and an English identity if there is any. Taking a closer look at the Bond movie From Russia With Love might help to detect what kind of national identity is constructed as well as to answer the question whether James Bond is a British or an English icon.
2. The phenomenon of James Bond as an international cult figure
“My name is Bond, James Bond.” This quotation is a classical line in the James Bond movies that has gone down in film history as one of the most quoted phrases (Comentale,Watt and Skip, “Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics Of 007” 64). The peculiarity of phrasing or rather the unique style of introducing oneself explains why it is copied that often. Another catchphrase of James Bond which is also copied in several other movies is “Martini, shaken not stirred!”. These catchphrases have become easy to recognize because of its repeated utterance. In 1962 the first James Bond movie, Dr No, was released and the success of the secret agent 007, who works for the British MI6, remained until the present-day. “Today, more than half the world´s population has seen at least one Bond film.” (qtd. in Macintyre 11). The character James Bond thrills the audience not only in GB but also in the rest of the world. Unlike the heroes of American action cinema like Dirty Harry, John McClane or John Rambo, Bond strikes with being a gentleman, well-suited, rational and experienced (Rutherford, “A World Made Sexy: Freud to Madonna” 170). Besides, he is serene, clever and charming; these characteristics make James Bond to an extraordinary (fictional) person.
The most important thing in a Bond movie, certainly is the role of 007. If it was not for the leading actor who plays James Bond, the whole Bond series would not be such a huge success. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, all actors of Bond were chosen carefully:
Es braucht einen ganz besonderen Typ Mann, um James Bond überzeugend zu verkörpern. Einen Smoking tragen, einen Aston Martin fahren und Wodka-Martini trinken kann jeder Schauspieler, aber es bedarf etwas mehr als der 007-Requisiten, um überzeugend sagen zu können: >>Ich heiße Bond, James Bond. << Das verlangt eine Ausstrahlung, die sich mit Worten nicht leicht beschreiben lässt. Gefragt sind nicht nur gutes Aussehen und die Fähigkeit, auch unter Extrembedingungen Coolness auszustrahlen, der Darsteller muss die Rolle auch mit seiner eigenen Persönlichkeit ausfüllen (Cork and Stutz 23)
This quotation perfectly illustrates characteristics which the actor, playing Bond, has to bring along. Coolness, charisma and being good-looking are only few traits in order to receive the role of Bond. To complete the role, the actor has to bring in his own personality. In other words, the actors have to combine their character with the one of Bond. Today there has been six Bond actors, and all are different, but nonetheless, the character of 007 has remained the same at its core (Cork and Stutz, “James Bond Enzyklopädie“ 23). Moreover, the role of Bond is highly coveted by actors; in fact, it is “one of the most coveted roles in cinema” (qtd. in Byrne, Coleman and King 125). The same can be said for the role of the villain and the role of the Bond-Girl.
The hype of the James Bond movies extended itself to a huge wave of advertisements. All movies imply a series of advertisements so that a consumer culture has emerged. Suits, shoes, cars, watches, assorted liquors and other goods that are presented in the Bond movies have increased demand (Miles, “The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era” 167). A range of internationally known labels like Marlboro or Rolex are presented in the movies, usually to introduce the new product. Numerous prestigious/luxurious objects are used which give class, elegance as well as style to the movies, and at the same time to Bond himself. Thus, it is no surprise that with the first Bond movies in the 1960s one speaks of the phenomenon of Bondmania (Lindner, “The James Bond Phenomenon: A Critical Reader” 93).
“The Bond movies remain the longest continually running film series in movie history, and 2012 marks its fiftieth anniversary” (qtd. in Moore 6). This can only be explained through the popularity of the Bond movies worldwide. Not only the characteristics of Bond but also his lifestyle as secret agent, from the way he cloths, to his exciting love life and to his adventures life, makes him the most admired and “most famous fictional character” (qtd. in Simpson 5). The following quotation introduces the term “Bondmania” as an umbrella term for the hype about Bond:
The pivotal historical period of the Bond series was the 1960s. This was the period when the distinctive formula and style of the films were forged, and when the phenomenon of “Bondmania” was at its height. The Bond films embodied certain aspects of the “cultural revolution”: the new vitality of British popular culture, the prominence of science and technology, and the increasing permissiveness in sexual attitudes and behavior (Lindner 93).
The phenomenon of Bondmania has reached international acknowledgment. A hype was triggered from the first Bond movie on: James Bond is a legend and an icon.
For these reasons GB is “proud” of having 007 as national icon. Still, there are voices which claim that James Bond is not British but English (Yeffeth, “James Bond in the 21st Century: Why We Still Need 007” 172). Since England has difficulties to create a post-imperial identity, they struggle finding national symbols and icons (cf. Darwin, BBC History, 2011 ). There is a controversial discussion about the question what is British, what is English and where the difference between these concepts- with regard to James Bond as an icon- actually is. The question arises if England tries to snatch the British icon 007, in order to call it their own and to have an addition to their identity which is internationally known and admired. Or is it possible that James Bond actually is from England and hence an English icon?
3. The construction of a national identity in James Bond movies
In order to answer the question how national identity is constructed in James Bond movies it is necessary to clarify the difference between the British and the English identity. The concept of identity, however, denotes the construction through the Other because every identity needs another in order to exist (cf. Klotz, “Creating Id entity Through Delimitation: The Discussions about Lifting the EU's Weapons Embargo Against China” 8). So when talking about national identities it can be said that all nations define themselves through other nations. England, for instance, constructs its identity through its geographical characteristics. Being an island is an important aspect for constructing one´s national identity, in a literal and metaphorical sense; as a consequence, it is crucial for their self-esteem. For that reason an English national identity is constructed which is apart from Europe (Nyman, “Under English Eyes: Constructions of Europe in Early Twentieth-Century British Fiction.” 26).
The term “nation” as it is known today did not exist until the 18th century. Today it is defined as followed: “A nation is an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.” (qtd. in Anderson 6). There are two kinds of nations – Staatsnation in which the state is structured from top to bottom and Kulturnation; here the state is structured from bottom to top (Meinecke, “Weltbürgertum und Nationalstaat: Studien zur Genesis des deutschen Nationalstaates” 2). In the case of Britain it cannot be determine clearly. Therefore, Great Britain is somewhere in-between as it has elements of both, Kultur- and Staatsnation (Kumar, “The Making of English National Identity” 26).
With the beginning of the Empire Great Britain came into being in 1707 (Duiker and Spielvogel, “The Essential World History” 386). Hence, imperialism played one of the major role in their construction of a national identity especially in England as the leading power in GB. Referring to Krishian Kumar there is an emotional attachment to England in terms of sports or national anthems for instance (Kumar, “The Making of English National Identity” 16). Each nation of GB, England, Scotland and Wales, have an emotional attachment to their own country. They differentiate in their (English, Scottish and Welsh) identity but nonetheless, all three nations are united in that British identity; all Britons have a British citizenship, for instance. The British identity is used for political purposes; hence, there is a civic attachment to Great Britain (Kumar, “The Making of English National Identity” 16). The identity of the single states (England, Scotland or Wales) seem to top the common national identity as they are united in the bound of GB (cf. Beetham, 2008). Despite the fact that GB tries to unite its members, strong independence movements of Scotland and Wales are taking place which lead to devolution in Britain (cf. GOV.UK, 2013). One reason for that is England´s dominance and superiority until now; its geographical size, its majority of population, its (international) power on politics and military, its history, its (English) language as well as the fact that important institutions such as the Buckingham Palace or the Square Mile are located in London, make England superior to the other two nations of GB. Scotland and Wales are subordinated due to England´s dominance. Therefore, it is not surprising that people all over the world interchange England with GB (Kumar, “The Making of English National Identity” 1). Still, the English national identity “forms the core of British identity”; by the end of the empire “the English stresses a common Britishness and do not insist of their distinctiveness” (qtd. in Hewitt 165ff). Therefore, it is not far to seek that England “share” their national identity with GB.
- Quote paper
- Hakima Imaankaf (Author), 2013, Englishness in Ian Fleming´s James Bond movie "From Russia With Love", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/272951