James Bond: Objectivist Assassin


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As the 3rd (and final?) James Bond: Spectre sequel comes to theaters, I am reminded of "The Romantic Manifesto" and Rand's admiration of Ian Fleming's famous, charming assassin:

The social status of thrillers reveals the profound gulf splitting today's culture- the gulf between the people and it's alleged intellectual leaders. Th people's need for a ray of Romanticism's light is enormous and tragically eager. Observe the extraordinary popularity of Mickey Spillane and Ian Fleming. There are hundreds of thriller writers who, sharing the modern sense of life, write sordid concoctions that amount to a battle of evil against evil or, at best, gray against black. None of them have the ardent, devoted, almost addicted following earned by Spillane and Fleming. This is not to say that the novels of Spillane and Fleming project a faultlessly rational sense of life; both are touched by the cynicism and despair of today's "malevolent universe"; but in strikingly different ways, both offer the cardinal element of Romantic fiction: Mike Hammer and James Bond are heroes.

- "Bootleg Romanticism" , pg 127

He shows clear Objectivist character traits and beliefs (high self-esteem, honesty, ruthlessness, objectivity, singular purpose etc), but psychologists (pejoratively) call it "selfish" and "exploitative":

the Dark Triad traits reflect a highly selfish social strategy. High level of self-esteem, extraversion, and openness, along with low levels of conscientiousness and anxiety, may be instrumental in enabling an exploiter to persist in the face of potential social rejection and retaliation.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201007/james-bonds-psyche

In psychology these traits are referred to as the "Dark Triad". In modern parlance, "selfishness" is a "dark" trait, associated with evil.

But what does James Bond do? His mission is basically to kill bad guys, rescue hostages, discover evil schemes, save the world. All the garden-variety hero stuff. But James Bond takes it further. He is devoted (strangely, psychologists call this "psychopathy"). Every action he pursues is in pursuit of his mission, and his mission is his life. He sleeps with women to discover what they know about his (evil) targets. He drives nice cars (equipped with missile launchers) to outrun his pursuers, not impress his friends. In short, he is a man of profound purpose.

James Bond is what Howard Roark would look like if he wore a suit, found his charm and had a license to kill.

Thoughts?

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James Bond is what Howard Roark would look like if he wore a suit, found his charm and had a license to kill.

 

Nope. As important and cherished as The Fountainhead was to me personally, in retrospect I wish it hadn't been written or published. It's a story about building for the sake of building, at a time when men built privately for a private purpose. Doesn't exist any more.

 

This is the 19-story Price Tower in Bartlesville, by Frank Lloyd Wright

 

wholedistant2.jpg

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James Bond is what Howard Roark would look like if he wore a suit, found his charm and had a license to kill.

Nope. As important and cherished as The Fountainhead was to me personally, in retrospect I wish it hadn't been written or published. It's a story about building for the sake of building, at a time when men built privately for a private purpose. Doesn't exist any more.

While that is a touching personal narrative you've dove off into (lol), you have yet to explain why you thought my comparison was wrong.

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Lack of integrity is "success"?

Film making requires money. Yours or someone else's.

I don't believe you didn't have integrity then found it in a book. You had to have had it in the first place enough for that novel to make any kind of significant difference in your life. You must have suddenly become aware of a toxic working environment full of toxic people exploiting the writers to the max. The bedrock of the entire film industry is the writer. All that money and all that corruption uses the writer as a trampoline to toxic indulgences--even Oscar ego trips where glamour rises to the top like blast furnace slag.

--Brant

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Lack of integrity is "success"?

Film making requires money. Yours or someone else's.

I don't believe you didn't have integrity then found it in a book.

WolfAlan needs to blame someone else for his not living up to his fantasy vision of himself. Therefore his failure becomes proof of his virtue. He didn't lack talent, but just had too damn much integrity! It's others' fault. The whole world was against his integrity, and was envious and resentful of his stunningly revolutionary artistic brilliance.

J

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I have a different take on Rand. I submit she never lost sight of her audience. She just used a different method of arriving at her typical reader persona--introspection.

Rather than using a statistical method of seeing what people wanted, then pandering to that, she looked inside herself and identified the things she imagined were universal (in moral terms, but in other terms, too), then made an inner image of an ideal reader out of that. Then she jazzed it up a bit with some "life as it should be" retouches, and she wrote for that person as her typical reader.

(And, believe me, she also did a hell of a lot of observation about what audiences like in Hollywood and made good use of it--basically, thrills and suspense about money, sex, power, and danger :smile: .)

Her bet was that there were enough people who had enough of that kind of form inside themselves that they would resonate with her work. But it started with a projection of the universal to arrive at a typical reader. She didn't use this language, but that's what she did.

Roark was the same. For all his talk of building for building's sake, I recall a passage where Roark built a house for a man (I forget the name of the owner) and the man said Roark knew him better than he knew himself. Roark essentially agreed.

Then there's the famous passage about Roark's fame happening at odd points all over the country like water springing up from the same underground source. That underground source was Roark's own "ideal customer"--the people who thought as he did, in addition to his own vision. He built for them because he knew they existed, not because he felt like it.

Then there is the young composer on a bicycle--"Don't work for my happiness, my brothers—show me yours..." Do you see it? The "my brothers" part? Those are the young composer's typical listeners, or ideal listeners if you prefer that language. The young composer knows exactly who they are.

This stuff is all over Rand's writing once you see it. I know because I didn't for so many years. And I believe this held me back as a creator. I don't mind, though. I finally did see it.

The builder for building's sake person in Rand's works always builds for somebody specific. And Rand, as a fiction writer, always tells her stories to somebody specific. Even as a nonfiction writer, she tries to persuade or explain things to somebody specific.

That specific person (persona) is an abstraction put together through introspection. Let's make it sound more heroic and say "the introspection of genius," but it's still introspection and still a persona.

Too many people in O-Land believe that producing solely for the sake of producing is Rand's message and ideal. And this is one of the creative traps in Rand's works. If you go that way, you have no other standard than what you like or what catches your fancy (or, worse, what you can imitate of Rand's attitudes and judgments), and hope to hell you are somehow right.

This is a standard that she herself did not follow. She always knew who she was writing to and it was one of her fundamental reasons to write.

(I've had some Homeric talks with Barbara about this--she, also, thought this persona stuff, when referred to as "audience," was pandering and was adamant that Rand had nothing to do with it. Sometimes REALLY adamant. :smile: But I believe this is one of the things that stifled her own fiction efforts. I wish I had known her when she was younger and I knew what I now know. I miss her...)

Michael

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needs to blame someone else for his not living up to his fantasy vision of himself. Therefore his failure becomes proof of his virtue. He didn't lack talent, but just had too damn much integrity! It's others' fault. The whole world was against his integrity, and was envious and resentful of his stunningly revolutionary artistic brilliance.

You're throwing spaghetti at the wall, expecting it to mean something. I've repeatedly said that I was not particularly talented. Integrity had nothing to do with filmmaking or what others in the world did, and ultimately was a bad idea.

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So um, can we talk about the original topic? Don't mean to come off as rude but we've digressed quite a bit here.

What are the parallels between the heroic fiction of Howard Roark vs James Bond? How are they alike? Not alike? I've already highlighted the fact that James Bond is a romantic style (i.e. Objectivist) hero. What are the "flaws" and "malevolent universe" Rand was referring to in that passage?

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You forgot to mention tedious and repetitive.

Reminds me of the crane and the snake...

The tale of "...a government official,..." who left his job "...to live the life of a wanderer and a hermit in the mountains. Travelling from place to place he learnt techniques of meditation and martial arts under various Taoists."

One day, he was witness to a snake and a crane in combat with each other. He watched as the crane swooped down from a tree with its wings fully spread, the snake hissed a challenge which the crane took up by using its sharp pointed beak to initiate an attack. The snake used its deceptive coiling movements to evade the danger and responded by lashing at the crane with its tail. The crane lifted its leg to avoid the strike and then used its claws to attack. Again the snake evaded this by twisting and turning, whilst instinctively countering with its mouth. The crane curled its neck to escape the venom and beat its huge wings to force the snake away.

"Eventually, after tiring themselves out, the two combatants called a draw, the snake slithered away and the crane returned to its tree perch.'

A...

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He sleeps with women to discover what they know about his (evil) targets.

Marcus,

James Bond is a male prostitute?

:smile:

Joking aside, I read all of Ian Fleming's books when I was a kid way before I read Rand. I never felt James Bond slept with women as part of his mission. He slept with them because he liked the great sex with beautiful women. :smile: Everything else was gravy.

The hero thing Rand talked about and your comparison do work, but they are a little too oversimplified.

As an aside, I no longer buy Rand's marketing exaggerations: ("There are hundreds of thriller writers who, sharing the modern sense of life, write sordid concoctions that amount to a battle of evil against evil or, at best, gray against black. None of them have the ardent, devoted, almost addicted following earned by Spillane and Fleming.")

In today's world, we have many dark heroes with "ardent, devoted, almost addicted followings." Walter White (Breaking Bad), Tony Soprano, vampires galore, bloody medieval kings, and so on.

I do love derring-do heroes, but I also love other literary characters. I see no need to justify any of this with exaggerations or spin.

If you are interested, I can point you to several books that delve into why certain fictional character archetypes have kept recurring since the beginning of human history on up to today.

Here's a start: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall. To stay on track, since Rand's hero focus is about sense of life and morality, below are a few quotes I particularly like (from Chapter 6--The Moral of the Story):

Fiction is, on the whole, intensely moralistic. Yes, evil occurs, and antiheroes, from Milton’s Satan to Tony Soprano, captivate us. But fiction virtually always puts us in a position to judge wrongdoing, and we do so with gusto. Sometimes we find ourselves rooting perversely for dark heroes such as Satan or Soprano, or even the child molester Humbert Humbert in Lolita, but we aren’t asked to approve of their cruel and selfish behavior, and storytellers almost never allow them to live happily ever after.

. . .

Story runs on poetic justice, or at least on our hopes for it. As the literary scholar William Flesch shows in his book Comeuppance, much of the emotion generated by a story—the fear, hope, and suspense—reflects our concern over whether the characters, good and bad, will get what they deserve. Mostly they do, but sometimes they don’t. And when they don’t, we close our books with a sigh, or trudge away from the theater, knowing that we have just experienced a tragedy.

. . .

By the time American children reach adulthood, they will have seen 200,000 violent acts, including 40,000 killings, on television alone —which is to say nothing of film or the countless enemies they have personally slaughtered in video games. ... Fiction almost never gives us morally neutral presentations of violence. When the villain kills, his or her violence is condemned. When the hero kills, he or she does so righteously. Fiction drives home the message that violence is acceptable only under clearly defined circumstances—to protect the good and the weak from the bad and the strong. Yes, some video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, glorify wickedness, but those games are the notorious exceptions that prove the general rule.

. . .

In Charles Baxter’s influential book on the craft of fiction, Burning Down the House, he bemoans the “death of the antagonist—any antagonist” in modern fiction. He’s onto something. Over the past hundred years or so, sophisticated fiction has trended toward moral ambiguity. This is strikingly illustrated by the edgy protagonists of recent cable TV dramas such as The Shield, The Wire, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Deadwood. But I’m making a general argument, not an absolute one. I think that rumors of the death of the antagonist have been exaggerated. Take those edgy antiheroes from cable drama. Do they really muddle the ethical patterns I’m describing or—by setting virtue against vice inside the soul of Walter White or Tony Soprano—do they just put a fresh twist on old morality plays? In any case, I agree with the journalist Steven Johnson, who concludes that the most popular story forms—mainstream films, network television, video games, and genre novels—are still structured on poetic justice..."

As an aside, I know you would like people to share your admiration for Rand's observations. I wish I could. I certainly know what it feels like because I used to think like that. But I love where I am at right now. Before, I only got Rand and the things she recommended for the reasons she recommended them. Now, by broadening my education and rejecting some of Rand's oversimplifications and exaggerations, I get Rand and her recommendations, which I continue to love, but also the best from what other literary geniuses have to offer.

Believe me when I say there are lots of them. I am aesthetically far richer than before.

But I'll give you this. James Bond rocks. Howard Roark rocks.

:smile:

Michael

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I have a different take on Rand. I submit she never lost sight of her audience. She just used a different method of arriving at her typical reader persona--introspection.

Rather than using a statistical method of seeing what people wanted, then pandering to that, she looked inside herself and identified the things she imagined were universal (in moral terms, but in other terms, too), then made an inner image of an ideal reader out of that. Then she jazzed it up a bit with some "life as it should be" retouches, and she wrote for that person as her typical reader.

(And, believe me, she also did a hell of a lot of observation about what audiences like in Hollywood and made good use of it--basically, thrills and suspense about money, sex, power, and danger :smile: .)

Her bet was that there were enough people who had enough of that kind of form inside themselves that they would resonate with her work. But it started with a projection of the universal to arrive at a typical reader. She didn't use this language, but that's what she did.

Roark was the same. For all his talk of building for building's sake, I recall a passage where Roark built a house for a man (I forget the name of the owner) and the man said Roark knew him better than he knew himself. Roark essentially agreed.

Then there's the famous passage about Roark's fame happening at odd points all over the country like water springing up from the same underground source. That underground source was Roark's own "ideal customer"--the people who thought as he did, in addition to his own vision. He built for them because he knew they existed, not because he felt like it.

Then there is the young composer on a bicycle--"Don't work for my happiness, my brothers—show me yours..." Do you see it? The "my brothers" part? Those are the young composer's typical listeners, or ideal listeners if you prefer that language. The young composer knows exactly who they are.

This stuff is all over Rand's writing once you see it. I know because I didn't for so many years. And I believe this held me back as a creator. I don't mind, though. I finally did see it.

The builder for building's sake person in Rand's works always builds for somebody specific. And Rand, as a fiction writer, always tells her stories to somebody specific. Even as a nonfiction writer, she tries to persuade or explain things to somebody specific.

That specific person (persona) is an abstraction put together through introspection. Let's make it sound more heroic and say "the introspection of genius," but it's still introspection and still a persona.

Too many people in O-Land believe that producing solely for the sake of producing is Rand's message and ideal. And this is one of the creative traps in Rand's works. If you go that way, you have no other standard than what you like or what catches your fancy (or, worse, what you can imitate of Rand's attitudes and judgments), and hope to hell you are somehow right.

This is a standard that she herself did not follow. She always knew who she was writing to and it was one of her fundamental reasons to write.

(I've had some Homeric talks with Barbara about this--she, also, thought this persona stuff, when referred to as "audience," was pandering and was adamant that Rand had nothing to do with it. Sometimes REALLY adamant. :smile: But I believe this is one of the things that stifled her own fiction efforts. I wish I had known her when she was younger and I knew what I now know. I miss her...)

Michael

Michael, this is interesting, and you may have actually clarified something else for me, in the process. And with your interest in Trump, you'll probably appreciate this, in return...

While thumbing through Trump's ART OF THE DEAL, yesterday, in a bookstore, I came across two passages that caught my attention, in a contradictory way. The first was Trump talking about the design of his buildings, how we would get the opinions of others, first, get to know the neighborhood, etc. It had a suggestion of a "Peter Keating" approach to it. But he then remarked about how certain heralded styles of the moment go forgotten the next. From that, I started thinking it was "not quite Keating", because what he was doing, then, was obviously not simply pandering to the opinion of the moment, but going for... I don't know if it was something "universal", but "something else", at least..

The second passage was Trump addressing his critics, and it was just a brief remark, but notable, by Objectivist standards (and notable in light of your claims that Trump puts the emphasis on creating). Basically, he just said something to the effect of "why are the trying to destroy me, instead of creating their own thing?"

That last, combined with the first, while I was thinking of it the my initial Keating-like impression, seemed to be a contradiction: why would a creator worry about the opinions of others? (Of course, that's reading the passages from an Objectivist frame, and Trump is not an Objectivist, so it wouldn't be fair to stay within that frame without at least giving him a full hearing/reading from within his own.) But with your observations about Rand's introspection to get to the universals of her audience, that would be a possible explanation of that seeming contradiction. I don't know enough about Trump to know if that's how he thinkgs, or would even be aware of something like that, philosophically, but then, it could be that "water springing up from that same underground source..."

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The bedrock of the entire film industry is the writer. All that money and all that corruption uses the writer as a trampoline

I never aspired to be a writer, and you're wrong about screenwriters being bedrock. Dime a dozen.

Doesn't matter how much they're paid or how many there are. I also said writer. Doesn't have to be a screenwriter. That's just the end task before the filming. Some are hacks and some extremely talented. A different schematic is possible of course. Put money at the center of a circle. He buys a property and hires a producer, gives him a budget. That's a possible first circle around the center. (Studio head to the producer to the casting to the director, etc., all with variations.) But the bottom line is always no story no movie. You can film an inexpensive movie, not no story.

--Brant

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Rodney (ThatGuy),

You got the idea perfectly.

No one creates or produces in a vacuum.

A good trader provides good quality service or goods to others in exchange for money. That means giving them what they want--at least on some level. If you only provide what others don't want, you have no right to expect to receive their money.

Wisdom lies in finding a way to serve the wants and needs of others and remain true to your own vision at the same time. It's only either-or for hacks or Don Quixotes. :)

Michael

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James Bond is a male prostitute?

:smile:

Joking aside, I read all of Ian Fleming's books when I was a kid way before I read Rand. I never felt James Bond slept with women as part of his mission. He slept with them because he liked the great sex with beautiful women. :smile: Everything else was gravy.

Mostly true, but From Russia with Love had him sent out to use his charms for Queen and country. M was even concerned at the beginning whether he was still in a relationship with the prior Bond girl (Tiffany Case, from Diamonds are Forever, if I recall correctly). He orders him to rise to expectations.

Yeah, I read 'em all too. Long ago.

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It seems to me that James Bond primarily served his country, and did not pursue his selfish interest. That is not Objectivism but altruism.

How could it be in his objective self-interest to constantly put his life in danger?

More generally with regard to fiction, I would argue it is almost always the hero who is ready to sacrifice himself for the "greater good", and almost always the villain who is portrayed as acting selfishly. James Bond is no exception in this regard.

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You're mixing up philosophy with art and using that to fault the art. Objectivists are prone to doing that, even Rand, though not in this case.

--Brant

your criticism can also be applied to the heroes of her last novel and it'd also be correct if not also besides the point

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Pekka (objectiveMan),

All cases of serving others is not altruism.

Serving others as a duty irrespective of what you get in return is. This leads to self-sacrifice.

In fact, serving others because you want to in exchange for money is called capitalism. Trade.

If your vision of what you want to do with your life is law enforcement (even being a spy), if you are killed by a bad guy, that is not self-sacrifice. It's a job hazard. You go down doing what you love and, while alive, you were being paid for it.

Granted, being killed is not in your rational self-interest, but you are not the one killing yourself. The bad guy does it.

Some jobs are more dangerous than others, but that does not make them less rational.

Michael

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Pekka (objectiveMan),

All cases of serving others is not altruism.

Serving others as a duty irrespective of what you get in return is. This leads to self-sacrifice.

In fact, serving others because you want to in exchange for money is called capitalism. Trade.

If your vision of what you want to do with your life is law enforcement (even being a spy), if you are killed by a bad guy, that is not self-sacrifice. It's a job hazard. You go down doing what you love and, while alive, you were being paid for it.

Granted, being killed is not in your rational self-interest, but you are not the one killing yourself. The bad guy does it.

Some jobs are more dangerous than others, but that does not make them less rational.

Michael

I understand this concept very well, but it still doesn't add up for me. An Objectivist would value their own life above almost anything else. Only something truly exceptional would be more valuable to an Objectivist than their life. I can see an Objectivist dying for his country, but only if that country was based on Objectivist philosophy and values.

Also, Ayn Rand said that "productive achievement" is man's noblest activity. I don't regard James Bond's job being a particularly productive one.

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Pekka (objectiveMan),

All cases of serving others is not altruism.

Serving others as a duty irrespective of what you get in return is. This leads to self-sacrifice.

In fact, serving others because you want to in exchange for money is called capitalism. Trade.

If your vision of what you want to do with your life is law enforcement (even being a spy), if you are killed by a bad guy, that is not self-sacrifice. It's a job hazard. You go down doing what you love and, while alive, you were being paid for it.

Granted, being killed is not in your rational self-interest, but you are not the one killing yourself. The bad guy does it.

Some jobs are more dangerous than others, but that does not make them less rational.

Michael

I understand this concept very well, but it still doesn't add up for me. An Objectivist would value their own life above almost anything else. Only something truly exceptional would be more valuable to an Objectivist than their life. I can see an Objectivist dying for his country, but only if that country was based on Objectivist philosophy and values.

Also, Ayn Rand said that "productive achievement" is man's noblest activity. I don't regard James Bond's job being a particularly productive one.

If my memory serves me correctly, did not Galt state that he would kill himself rather than see the tyrants torture what he loved - Dagny?

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