James Bond is the quintessential male action hero of the movies, and he has been for over 50 years. Since his first movie Dr. No in 1963. After all, he smokes, drinks, gambles, sleeps with lots of women, and kills people with impunity. That 's the image everyone knows from the movies, anyway. He is considered by many, mostly guys, as the ideal figure of masculine identity. Except that if you read Ian Fleming's original novels, you'll discover that Bond is actually a horrible, horrible man.
James Bond is a Scumbag
The Bond of the movies is a debonair man of action and seducer of women mostly from his depiction by Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Pierce Brosnan. Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby get honorable mentions. The Movie Bond was basically Bugs Bunny with an R rating, always ready with a bad pun or a quip after he sends a baddie to a nasty death. The Bond of the books is a racist, misogynist basket case. Oh, and he's a rapist. Deeply paranoid, a burnout with undiagnosed PTSD, the Bond of the books was angry, bitter, and terrified that one day his luck would run out, and he would finally be killed by someone faster, meaner, and luckier than him. No wonder he smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish! His attitude to women is a #MeToo nightmare – he admits to a liking for rough sex and a "hint of rape." He continually views women with deep distrust. The sentence "if the girl was lying, she was a damned good actress" is repeated in many of the novels. The books also often offer Bond's thoughts about how much he didn't like mixed-race black people in Jamaica, where Ian Fleming lived and wrote. There are many fans of the books, but there are millions of more fans of James Bond from the movies but never read the books.
Ian Fleming's Social Commentary
That said, Fleming's novels are invaluable social documents. They offer a close look at British post-war attitudes, at the mindset of white British upper-middle-class men of the 1950s, specifically the inside of Ian Fleming's head. You get the feeling that what turns Bond on in women is what turned Fleming on: the preference for rough sex "with a hint of rape" (direct quote from the books – there is a variation of that sentence in nearly all the books). In Casino Royale, Bond is depicted savoring an avocado. These days they're commonplace, easy to buy from the local supermarket, but 1950s Britain was still recovering economically from the war, and food was still being rationed. An avocado was regarded as an extremely exotic imported food not readily available on British shores.
And the Bond villains – Goldfinger, Drax et al – were actually inspired by the CEOs, tycoons, and oligarchs that Fleming met at dinner parties, social functions, and golf courses. He had an upfront look at their hubris, megalomania, arrogance, delusions of grandeur. He turned them into supervillains right out of a Boy's Own Adventure but with a more adult rating.
Ian Fleming died in 1964, two years after the first Bond movie, Dr. No, was released. He never lived to see the rise of the hippie movement, free love, Flower Power, the escalation of the Vietnam War, or the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. As a right-winger, he would almost certainly not have looked upon them with enthusiasm. His death left Bond in that eternal state of unreconstructed White British Privilege and as a "blunt instrument of England."
Some movie fans don't like Daniel Craig as much as they liked Connery, because they find him too grimdark. Craig is actually playing the Bond from Fleming's books, only with the racism and rapist tendencies shaved out. Nobody seems to miss those traits, and that's probably just as well.