Interviewed by John Haggerty
Read Hannah Lackoff’s fiction piece, The James Bonds
John: One of the great things about this story is how it plays against expectations. James Bond, one might think, is a toxic masculinity trope—the womanizing, the drinking, the violence. And yet, when faced with change, the James Bonds handle it with some measure of grace. What made you decide to write this story in this way?
Hannah: When the latest version of James Bond came out (Casino Royale) I heard something where Daniel Craig said he would have no problem with a male on male sex scene in a future film, because James bond seemed like such an opportunistic seducer. (I have since been unable to find an interview that says anything remotely close to this, so maybe I imagined the whole thing—but it sure makes sense to me). Around this time was when rumors began to surface about Idris Elba becoming the first black Bond—and I think the two things just settled and fermented in my mind and came out this way years later.
I am working more with the ideas and mannerisms we might associate with James Bond (whether or not we have even seen a Bond movie, we know he uses a lot of gadgets, dresses well, seduces women, and drinks martinis) than character traits that might be specific to a particular iteration of Bond. For me, the tropes you mentioned are what make this story funny—I got a kick out of imagining these once slick and powerful (and maybe toxic) men now retired in their slippers and robes watching old Angela Landsbury reruns. I am also playing with the idea (that we have all easily come to accept) that there are so many different versions of James Bonds for many different time periods. I’m not interested in a realistic examination of how, say Sean Connery’s James Bond would react to a woman version of himself, which is why I kept the different James’ familiar yet vague, almost homogeneous but not quite. These are gentler, simpler Bonds, who save the womanizing and violence for their on-duty hours.
What qualities do the James Bonds have that enable them to have this relatively tolerant response?
For starters, they have an absolutely exaggerated British politeness, and a sense of duty to country above all else. They trust that everything is happening for a reason, and that the people in charge of them know what they are doing. And for all their quick thinking when it comes to weapons, seductions, and gadgets, they actually have very little imagination. It has never occurred to any of them to seduce a man instead of a woman—it is so far off their radar that I think the novelty of the idea is in fact more shocking to them than homosexuality. These James Bonds are very traditional, but more because it hasn’t occurred to them not to be than because they have any problems with the introduction of something new.
Would the response be the same if the James Bonds were American? My pessimistic nature makes me fear a blood bath. Can you offer me some hope here?
An American James Bond would make a GREAT James H or I—I could see his stories involving considerably more explosions and walking away from burning buildings in slow motion. I think a blood bath would not be unwarranted, but that the other James Bonds would simply react with a raised eyebrow or a throat clearing, and eventually everyone would move on when the newest (android? Mutant? I’m not sure what the next version would be) James Bond knocks.
Do you actually watch James Bond movies? Do you have a favorite James Bond?
I have really enjoyed the newest incarnation of James Bond—particularly Casino Royale and Skyfall. I like them especially in contrast to the slick, gadget heavy Pierce Brosnan films that were being released when I was a teenager. I guess I prefer my James Bonds a little grittier—and my Bond women (including M!) with more personality and character.