James Bond and the New Sex Appeal

Where “New” means “same old”. Richard Cohen of The Washington Post bemoans Daniel Craig’s sculpted physique in Skyfall, comparing him unfavorably to the likes of Cary Grant:

Contrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats—his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore—and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated.

Wishful thinking. I very much doubt that Cary Grant retained his fit appearance without effort, and even if he did he was just lucky that his natural body shape happened to be what women found sexy at the time. Cohen is 71, so he has lived through quite a few decades and should know that tastes change, which is why looking at pictures of 1980s high-school cheerleaders makes me giggle, not blush.

Cohen goes on to disparage shapely men for being ill-read:

Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen or a conversation not held. That’s why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film, “Never Say Never Again.”

This is a little beside the point, but find me someone who thinks Never Say Never Again (which only sort-of counts as a “Bond film”) reflects well on Sean Connery.

More importantly, Cohen here betrays his jealousy more clearly: he is now at the age when the opposite sex will more likely value his intellect or sophistication than his physical appearance. That was not true of Sean Connery at 53, and it is not true of Daniel Craig at 44.

Jill Filipovic writes a great response to Cohen’s petulance:

Men should not have to do anything other than be old in order to get whatever they want. Women, on the other hand, are desirable only when they are very young, and only if they are very thin and very white and very inexperienced and probably blonde. In Richard Cohen’s estimation, that is a sexual meritocracy, because “meritocracy” apparently means “I get whatever I want without having to work hard at it and also women are things.”