Beyond Thunderball

Photo: MGM

When I was 9 years old I saw my first James Bond Movie, It was the mid 60’s classic “Thunderball”. The film was a thrilling cavalcade of car chases, scuba battles, and shark bites.

This might have been one of the most amazing experiences of my life had I not been a pre-pubescent innocent trying to comprehend a twenty year-old, made for the middle-aged man, fantasy movie.

While I could follow the plot about stolen nuclear bombs and international upheaval, try as I might I could just not make any sense of the interpersonal motivations.

In children’s stories, the bad guys are obviously bad, the good guys are obviously good, and the issues are fairly “black and white”- people are bad because they do bad things and they are good because they do good things.

In this movie the bad guys did bad things, the good guys did bad things, and the girls did the worst of things!

I understood “what” the Thunderball people were doing, I just couldn’t grasp “why” they were doing it.

It didn’t make sense that two men would fight to the death over a woman.

It seemed illogical that a fighter pilot with top secret clearance would be so casual with his credentials when a lady starts rubbing her hands in his hair.

In short, I couldn’t understand why men kept making bad decisions about the future of our planet whenever women were around?

Since I’d never been to Jamaica I just assumed that maybe this is the way people behaved there?

When I asked my dad about it he said, “It’s not real”. When I asked my mom about it she said, “I had a some growing up to do.”

I felt like the Thunderball people had a lot of growing up to do.

After I’d “grown up a bit”, and by grown up a bit I mean “made several bad decisions about the future when a woman was around”, I realized that the only truly honest thing about the 007 film series was its assertion that men will attempt the ridiculous to possess a woman that they shouldn’t have.

All of the Bond films are filled with women that men have historically been told to steer clear of, but they also feature men that women should instinctively fear.

While a woman’s exotic and sensual quality can cause a man to completely reject his moral instruction, a man’s power and authority can lead a woman to forsake her natural attraction to nurture and kindness.

It’s precisely this combination of forbidden attractants that the Double O franchise trades, and deals, in.

If taboo attraction is the reality at the heart of the series, then the fantasy isn’t merely the gadgets and luxury cars…

…it’s the idea that you can play with these kind of relational fire-starters and not get burned beyond recognition.

For the last 50 years James Bond has been battling the forces of evil both inside and outside of himself, and no matter how corrupt and dysfunctional his dealings get, it’s only ever taken a finely tailored suit and stiff drink for him to make a complete recovery.

That was until Daniel Craig took over the role in 2006.

Craig’s Bond differs from his predecessors in more than just hair color and physique; he’s carrying as much damage as he dishes out.

The rapidly accumulating scar tissue provides a weight that is as dramatic as it is realistic.

This new Bond lives at the same breakneck pace as the previous, while paying the steep price we all hope to avoid:

You can’t experience heartache and not suffer from the accompanying rage.

You can’t get punched in the face and not get a broken nose.

You don’t kill men with your bare hands and not lose sleep over it.

The pain of living in a reality where you are bathed in brutality and medicated by indulging your fantasies is always emotional, physical, and mental.

29 years after seeing Thunderball I’m headed out to see another Bond picture tonight. I’d like to think that I’ve “grown up” enough to acknowledge that “It’s not real” and that I’ve still “got a lot of growing up to do.”

It’s good to see that 007 is finally learned this as well. ┬áBond may never grow up, but he’s no longer living a fantasy world.

We’ve both gotten beyond Thunderball.

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