James Bond and the signs of time
James Bond is getting old. In the new Bond film Skyfall, the secret agent is struggling with the constraints of his aging body, appears out of touch with current technological developments, and even his infamous libido seems to have shrunk somewhat; allusions to love affairs only sparingly appear.
This year, it has been 50 years since the first Bond film, Dr. No, was released, so maybe it’s not surprising that its protagonist has aged somewhat over the years. However, despite the fact that 007 has gradually become less of an invincible superhero in more recent films, his age and adherence to a different historical period were never before featured as a potential problem.
Why has James Bond started to age now, and not 10, 20 or 30 years ago?
In his book Liquid Modernity, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues that Western society has recently moved from ‘Heavy Capitalism’ toward ‘Light Capitalism’. Whereas in Heavy Capitalism society was organized through clearly structured power patterns by identifiable leaders, Light Capitalism is characterized by opaque, liquid power structures, which are facilitated by anonymous electronic transactions and where it’s no longer possible to identify who is really in control.
In Skyfall, an aging, ‘heavy’ James Bond is struggling with the ‘light’ criminality of computer hacking anno 2012. And this is exactly what makes 007’s eventual old-fashioned victory over the evil computer terrorist such a rewarding experience: It satisfies our nostalgic longing for the good old days when the bad guys could be named and captured.