An article that I wrote for Castle Co-Op, a online publication about Film, T.V, Music and Pop Culture, published on May 5th, 2012.
“The name is Bond, James Bond.” The contemporary “To be or not to be”
It was a few years back when Casino Royale was due to be released; I was reading a magazine article featuring the then-new James Bond, Daniel Craig. One of the questions asked by the interviewer was whether or not the actor had said the line – “The name is Bond, James Bond”. The magazine beautifully described it as “a sort of contemporary version of to be or not to be.” Upon reading that sentence, I couldn’t help but instantly agree to this statement; it couldn’t be any truer. There are only a handful of lines in literature and cinema that have engraved itself into the grains of pop-culture. Among those handfuls, there are an elite few that have achieved such an iconic status of glory that the lines have now become unutterable by mere mortals.
“To be or not to be, that is the question” is undeniably the most famous line in the English language; yet it also is the most clichéd and well-worn line in English literature. The 400 year old Shakespearean line and the 50 year old Bond line are at complete polar-ends in terms of theme and meaning, yet they do share similar qualities. Both of these two memorable lines both have been eroded and overused by familiarity; and both are painfully difficult to verbally execute perfectly. As an experiment, just go to the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror and look deep into the eyes of your own reflection, and say the following line:
“The name is Bond, James Bond.”
Now, when you said that iconic introduction did you:
a) Put on a Sean Connery acshent, and shaid the line with that shavvy Schottish scharm; or
b) Performed the line with your ‘sophisticated’ voice, trying to ooze the male sexiness and charm out of your lips, and then fantasying about all the stunningly beautiful ladies that will eventually fall onto your lap.
The complexity of the Shakespeare line lies within its incredibly vague yet deeply thoughtful meaning. There have been countless books and essays trying to analyse and argue the exact meaning of the words uttered by Hamlet, many of which are still perplexed to this day. To be or not to be hints to the audience about suicide yet it doesn’t confirm it either. Is Hamlet contemplating suicide himself or is he merely talking about death in general? This is a BIG question to ask in a pretty standard revenge play – it is for this exact reason that Shakespeare is considered the greatest writer of all time.
While the Shakespeare line boasts complexity in theme and thought, the Bond line is comparatively simple and straightforward. I mean, here is a man who is simply stating his first name and surname. However, the thing about the Bond line is that the complexity lies within its simplicity. Yes, the character is stating his name, but it’s what the name represents that the actor must successfully convey. James Bond is making an incredibly bold and defiant statement here; a statement that needs a careful balance of emotion and self-restraint. It is a line that is to be said with confidence but not arrogance, elegantly yet not pretentiously, and full of masculinity but without the macho-bravado’s. When Bond utters his name, he is truly exposing himself completely but simultaneously revealing so little; as if to state “you know my name, but you don’t know who I am” In Casino Royale, when Bond checks-in at the hotel front desk, he says “James Bond, you’ll find it under Mr Beach.” Outright refusing to believe in aliases, he reasons to a disgusted Vesper Lynd with “If LeChiffre is that well connected, that means he already knows who I am” – to which she views as arrogant and reckless. He reveals himself to the enemy, making the same bold and fearless statement. Bond knows that the enemy knows who he is; and responds by stylishly grinning in the face of danger!
These wonderful quotes of literature and cinema are the exotic spices to our English language. They enhance the world of pop-culture and allow us to at least pretend to be the heroes in our fantasy. To mater the Bond line is incomparable to the supreme acting skill required to mastering the Shakespeare line, but one cannot deny that the two do share similarities in varying complexities. As I wrote this Wan’ings to you, I can’t help but think to myself; what will be the next great line that will be imbedded to our generation’s pop-culture minds? Surely it can’t be the Schwarzenegger line, “Get to the Chopper!”
For a related article, The Manliness of 80′s Action Movies and the Loss of Witty Puns