How should we feel about the fact that James Bond is set to be a dad? Rumours are rife that in No Time To Die, the world’s most famous secret agent will become a doting father of a five-year-old daughter, presumably swapping his Aston Martin for some humdrum SUV with the boot capacity to squeeze in his Bugaboo pram.
A film insider told The Daily Mail: “Yes, it’s true. Bond is a dad… Daniel [Craig] is older and his Bond is maturing and looking at life through the prism of fatherhood.
“Bond has always managed to charm his way into the hearts and beds of hundreds of beautiful women, seemingly without any consequences.
“Making him a father opens up a whole new world in terms of drama and story development.”
In some ways, the revelation of Bond’s paternity isn’t surprising. It’s not just that he looks tired and grumpy in the press shots. Ever since Craig donned the trademark tuxedo, the franchise has endeavoured to add a layer of psychological realism to the character. Fatherhood can only add an extra dimension to a man notoriously dismissed as a “blunt instrument” by Judi Dench’s M in Casino Royale.
But the true reason why they’re making 007 a dad becomes clearer when you consider an earlier remark of M in GoldenEye. “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur,” she tells him. “A relic of the Cold War.”
Ouch. This is a telling rebuke. Bond, after all, has always been portrayed as the male fantasy hero writ large – a sportscar-driving, Martini-sipping, international playboy. Not only dapper and urbane, he’s also the all-action tough guy who’ll navigate car chases, explosions and gun-fights to save the day.
What’s become problematic is that Bond hasn’t aged well from a politically correct standpoint. From Russia With Love came out in 1962 in a very different social climate. As attitudes have evolved in our post #MeToo world, Bond is increasingly lambasted as an out-dated character and, let’s face it, a bit of a dick.
Tragically, many of us retain a hard-baked affection for Bond that’s largely born of nostalgia. We watched the films, ogled the girls and owned that toy car with the ejector seat and bullet-proof windscreen. Our attitude to 007 feels a bit like how you tolerate the off-colour political views of an elderly relative – you may disagree with certain aspects of their character but, you don’t want to shun them entirely.
By making Bond a dad, the producers are helping his audience to bear with him in spite of his faults. And they’re doing so by reaching for one of the oldest image-rehabilitation tricks in the book.
The “family man” ideal continues to have real currency. Most male politicians contrive to project some semblance of domestic harmony. Similarly, when Mark Zuckerberg was depicted him as a ruthless entrepreneur after the Social Network came out, he began hammering Facebook with pics of his wife, daughters and cute dog.
Bond can never be entirely clean-cut and wholesome. He’s bedded too many women and offed too many henchman with his trusty Walther PPK. Yet giving him a cute five-year-old daughter in No Time To Die cannot help but to soften him up and make him a bit more palatable.
Whether fatherhood really fits with the escapist fantasy of 007 is another question. After all, being a dad sounds very much like kryptonite to the Bond lifestyle. There’s the cataclysmic lack of sex for one thing. And if he’s prissy enough to worry about his martinis being incorrectly stirred then god knows how he’ll fare with a marauding toddler who’s woken up at 4.30am.
But if Bond remains a flawed but viable icon – and the truckload of product placement he attracts would suggest that marketers still see his appeal – then perhaps his impending fatherhood signals something else, too.
Dad life, after all, is often presented in the media as the domain of buffoons and paunchy no-hopers. If one of cinema’s most celebrated alpha males can suddenly become a pram-pusher, perhaps it shows fatherhood is also capable of being re-cast in a more aspirational light. Either way, one thing’s for sure: given Bond’s proclivity for toe-curling one-liners, he should nail the dad jokes straight away.