Bond Wannabes, Unite!
After assembling a heroic list of excellent New Year's resolutions (Eat fewer chips except in emergencies; feign interest in others more believably; figure out which child deserves to be the favorite), I came up with a singular resolution that will frame everything else in the coming year:
Be even more like Agent 007. After all, it will be the year '007, a clear clue to men everywhere to get Bondier, to become so suave that that we'll make George Clooney seem, by comparison, like Snuffy Smith.
My own effort to be like James Bond began years ago, and I dare say I have succeeded fabulously, insofar as my every action, gesture and seductive smile is accompanied by a mental soundtrack of the James Bond theme. Some people are alarmed when I suddenly whirl toward them and pretend I'm holding a gun, but that's because they can't hear the music.
My New Year's resolution is complicated by the wholesale transformation of the Bond character on screen. "James Bond" is not a fixed entity. There's no "real" fictional Bond but an array of fictional Bonds, ranging from the original Ian Fleming literary version to the various Bonds on screen. Scientists refer to the collection of Bonds as the Bondcloud. The ordinary fellow trying to forge an authentic Bondlike persona has to decide whether he wants to be like a specific Bond or like the average Bond.
This in turn leads to an internal debate -- and I think I speak for all men here -- about how much ruggedness you're talking about when you decide to be ruggedly handsome. Because let's face it: Bond got prettified over the years, culminating in the spiffy, twinkly, shiny, focus-group-approved Bond of Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan played Bond as the type of fellow who could have every hair in place even when swimming underwater.
Honesty requires us to admit that Bond, over time, became something of a dandy. The problem dates to Roger Moore, who had a knack for showing up in exotic locales wearing a perfectly tailored tuxedo -- clearly an overpacker. His idea of pure evil was a frayed cuff.
Horrible as it is to say, there were moments when James Bond seemed to be interested in saving the world merely as an excuse to sleep with starlets and play with the gadgets given him by "Q" (a helicopter that folds up into a wristwatch, a fountain pen that doubles as a flamethrower, a toenail clipper that converts into a spaceship, etc.).
Also he seemed a little too in love with his quips. You got the sense that his nemesis Blofeld could buy him off just by offering to laugh at his double-entendres.
I'll say it if no one else will: Sometimes James Bond seemed superficial.
So there you are, vowing to be Bondlike, and it's not easy. You need a looks policy, a gadgets policy, a quips policy, etc. And there's no single "right" answer as you craft this new, fake self.
But fortunately -- mercifully -- there has been added to the Bondcloud a new Bond, played by Daniel Craig. This Bond has been applauded by critics for being a rougher Bond, a coarser Bond, a smellier, dirtier, skeezier Bond. The Los Angeles Times called him a "more brutal, less suave Bond," and Rolling Stone described him as a "rugged, jug-eared Brit" with "irregular features." I would describe him as a thuggish, savage, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal.
You have probably already seen the new movie, "Casino Royale," so you know that the new Bond is a great bleeder. The man is a tomato can! In one scene he shows up with about 75 cuts, scratches and scrapes on his face, and that's just from shaving.
Technology? The man has little other than a cellphone and a laptop. Checks his messages a lot. Very ordinary stuff -- in the next Bond movie, apparently, he will start blogging.
This is, in short, a real man, someone with scabs, moles, warts, barnacles, dandruff, ear hair and various forms of crust. He doesn't perspire -- he sweats. In one scene, he vomits and then has a heart attack. In the most arresting scene, he endures extreme agony while tied naked to a chair as a bad guy whips his most personal region, thus endangering the entire movie franchise.
He hurts! He suffers! He even makes mistakes! For half a moment your disbelief fails to remain suspended, and you suspect, sitting there in the theater, that this man could pos-sibly even die.
And thus the New Year's resolution seems suddenly doable.
Read Joel Achenbach weekdays at washingtonpost.com/achenblog.