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Topic: Sadism and snobbery

One of the comments regularly made by critics when reviewing the 007 books and early films regards 'sex, sadism, and snobbery' in James Bond's world. The sex speaks for itself, as it is self-evident during the course of the series, but regarding the other two, I am a little baffled. Perhaps I've been born rather late and am blase to soem elements of the Bond series which early critics found noteworthy, but when someone makes remarks about 'snobbishness' or 'sadism' I do wonder what precisely they were referring to.

Could it be Bond's preference for the best food and drink, as well as (for the 1950s/60s) graphic descriptions of violence and death?

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

The original quote reads "Sex, Snobbery And Sadism", which headed a review of the novel Doctor No in the left-leaning New Statesman back in 1958, and has been quoted and misquoted ever since. Their reviewer, Paul Johnson, didn't like the book at all referring to "the sadism of a schoolboy bully, the mechanical, two-dimensional sex-longings of a frustrated adolescent, and the crude, snob-cravings of a suburban adult" as Fleming's basic ingredients.
At the time of writing, the Bond books had a higher level of sex and violence than was expected in British writing although they may seem a lot more tame nowadays. The snobbery was perhaps more apparent to English readers of the time, but part of the series' appeal was that Bond enjoyed a conspiciously affluent and consumer-based lifestyle while Britain itself was only just coming out of wartime restrictions.

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

I remember reading the New Statesman review of the Live and Let Die movie, in which their reviewer sneeringly described the depiction of a 'typical southern lawman" as 'highly accurate.' How's that for snobbery? Not to mention reverse racism, of a kind.

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

crawfordboon wrote:

One of the comments regularly made by critics when reviewing the 007 books and early films regards 'sex, sadism, and snobbery' in James Bond's world. The sex speaks for itself, as it is self-evident during the course of the series, but regarding the other two, I am a little baffled. Perhaps I've been born rather late and am blase to soem elements of the Bond series which early critics found noteworthy, but when someone makes remarks about 'snobbishness' or 'sadism' I do wonder what precisely they were referring to.

Could it be Bond's preference for the best food and drink, as well as (for the 1950s/60s) graphic descriptions of violence and death?

Re: Sadism...

I think they're also talking about Fleming's insistence on putting his literary hero in positions of extreme pain and/or discomfort---

1)  The infamous carpet beater scene in CR
2)  Having a 'pinky' finger broken in LALD
3)  Getting beaten to within an inch of his life by Drax (and later suffering horrible steam burns!) in MR
4)  Suffering a 'Brooklyn Stomping---80 per center' by guys wearing boots in DAF
5)  Being poisoned by Rosa Klebb in FRWL
6)  The obstacle course---and fight with a giant squid---in DN
7)  Nearly losing his jewels (again!) in GF
8)  'The rack' from TB
9)  Having a grenade blow up, nearly in his face, on the bobsleigh run (and losing his wife!) in OHMSS
10) A near nervous breakdown at the beginning---and amnesia at the end---of YOLT
11) Brainwashing by the Soviets in TMWTGG...

And those are just off the top of my head  ajb007/amazed I'm not sure I actually want to be James Bond during these particular moments, though he does generally reap tasty benefits from having survived them...Still, Fleming's Bond is not nearly as unscathed as his big-screen counterparts, pre-2006...

And then there are other things, such as the jockey having scalding hot mud poured on his head in DAF, Domino's suffering the cigar and ice cube treatment in TB, etc...many critics have accused Fleming of taking a perverse pleasure in presenting such things to his readers...

To me, it's all cracking good suspense/spy thriller fare...and I'm glad I could enjoy them from the comparative safety of my armchair  ajb007/cool

Last edited by Loeffelholz (30th Oct 2006 04:39)

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"I am not an entrant in the Shakespeare Stakes." - Ian Fleming
"Screw 'em." - Daniel Craig, The Best James Bond EverTM

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

Bond looks down on "Nash," a man he believes to be a colleague dispatched to help him  (but who actually is Grant, the SMERSH assassin sent to kill him) in FRWL in distinctively snobbish terms: dismissive, patronizing, stereotyping ...

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

There are several dictionary definitions of snobbery but in broad terms a snob is:
 
One who tends to patronize, rebuff, or ignore people regarded as social inferiors and imitate, admire, or seek association with people regarded as social superiors.

A person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.


I'm sure everyone can point to their own favourite scenes from Fleming's novels or the films where Bond exhibits examples of this behaviour, even in the minutiae of his preferred preparation of scrambled eggs. I always find him to be particularly offensive towards and disdainful of Americans.
Fleming was a well documented snob, as can be evidenced in his many biographies; his attitudes to food, clothes, cars social inferiors etc were often offensively snobbish.


Our Mr Tanner (another well-known snob) wrote a piece on inverted snobbery which you might find interesting:

Fleming and inverted snobbery
Fleming's snobbish comments and attitudes on many subjects are well-documented from biographies and interviews with the man. But he wasn't just a snob; he was a public school educated Englishman, with pre-war values entrenched with a yearning for the Empire and aristocracy. And if there's one thing that's engrained in a traditional Englishman's values, it's that he'd quite possibly rather die than overtly display his wealth - "It's simply not done old chap". No matter how wealthy the British aristocrat, there will be a display of inverted snobbery in the form of shabby suits, frayed collars and cuffs, ageing cars, old brogues, crumbling homes. Now don't make the error of mistaking this lifestyle for general slovenliness; the suits may be of the finest cut, the shirts of the finest cloth, the homes may be stately and the car a treasured classic - but the care-worn look is highly cultivated. This attitude still prevails today, with many English (or is it British?) men baulking at the thought of displaying a vulgar branding on the outside of their clothes. Of course, attitudes are changing with the influence, mostly from America, on the young with their designer labels proudly on display (along with their underwear), but I'm referring to the previous generations of which Fleming wrote.

For the ultimate expression of this attitude, look at the British Royal Family: the Queen is frequently photographed with her treasured but much-abused Land Rover, wearing her very shabby Barbour waxed jacket and an old headscarf. I saw a recent photograph in one of the UK newspapers, criticising Prince Charles for his shambolic appearance in a baggy suit that appeared not to fit, yet his tailor, Anderson & Sheppard, is possibly the most expensive on Savile Row and their loose-fitting style is highly prized by those who care to know (as once noted by Bond in Thunderball).

So how does this impact on the Fleming novels? The books are littered with examples of this inverted snobbery: "Bond packed his battered but once expensive pigskin Revelation suitcase" is a line that reverberates throughout the series. He drives a car, which is one of the most expensive brands available, then removes the badging and paints it in a matt grey. It's also frequently described as 'battered' (Moonraker), as is his yellowing houndstooth suit. From Dr. No we learn that Boothroyd used a voice similar to "Bond's first expensive tailor" - I now think that the reason Fleming always omitted the name or location of the tailor, shirt maker, cobbler etc, was not purely one of secrecy (though I'll admit that's an important issue) but because it would appear vulgar. Whenever an expensive brand name is used in connection with Bond it's use is immediately justified in terms of practicality; the Rolex-as-knuckle duster incident of OHMSS stands out as a particular case in point.

Not convinced? To reinforce the argument just look at the descriptions he lavishes on those bounders, foreigners and cads we are intended to despise. These are people who are portrayed as celebrating and displaying their affluence; we know exactly what brand of gold watch Red Grant wears, where Drax buys his cufflinks, DuPont buys his shoes and where Count Lippe buys his suits. Drax's car is a shiny, rare and expensive Mercedes and Lippe drives a garish purple Bentley. Fleming writes page after enthusiastic page of minute detail on the various wealthy trappings and accessories of Bond's enemies, but the implication is always that while the bad guys can usually afford the best, their senses - in Bond's world anyway - are seldom rarefied enough for them to fully appreciate what they have. In general, there's an underlying element of coarseness and vulgarity about the villains despite their expensive trappings. Yet another character flaw; in short, these miscreants are both evil and tasteless in their vulgar display of wealth.


You can read the whole article here:
http://www.ajb007.co.uk/articles/007/ja … clothing3/

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

Loeffelholz wrote:

1)  The infamous carpet beater scene in CR
2)  Having a 'pinky' finger broken in LALD
3)  Getting beaten to within an inch of his life by Drax (and later suffering horrible steam burns!) in MR
4)  Suffering a 'Brooklyn Stomping---80 per center' by guys wearing boots in DAF
5)  Being poisoned by Rosa Klebb in FRWL
6)  The obstacle course---and fight with a giant squid---in DN
7)  Nearly losing his jewels (again!) in GF
8)  'The rack' from TB
9)  Having a grenade blow up, nearly in his face, on the bobsleigh run (and losing his wife!) in OHMSS
10) A near nervous breakdown at the beginning---and amnesia at the end---of YOLT
11) Brainwashing by the Soviets in TMWTGG...

I’m reading LALD at the moment, and now, just from reading this, I can’t wait to read on! Bring on all sadism and snobbery! Bring it all on ajb007/martini

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Re: Sadism and snobbery

In Henry Chancellor's Bond book from last year, he drew the conclusion that the sadism rooted from Fleming's school-time experience with bullies and schoolmasters, just as the Fleming villain archetype was based on these figures of authority who commanded a twisted father-figure complex onto Fleming.  Come to think of it, all three aspects, "sex, sadism and snobery," along with his sense of adventure could fittingly be traced back to his school day experiences and misadventures because even in adulthood, Fleming remained a (public) schoolboy at heart.

Last edited by superado (8th Nov 2006 22:47)

"...the purposeful slant of his striding figure looked dangerous, as if he was making quickly for something bad that was happening further down the street." -SMERSH on 007 dossier photo, Ch. 6 FRWL.....