Britain's Best-Loved Psychopath?

"Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"
A scene from the film, "Goldfinger".
With the impending release of "Spectre", which is, I believe, the 24th Eon-produced Bond film, it seems that my interest in the movies and mental health collide once again. But what, I hear you say, has a Bond movie got to do with mental health? Well, I won't be the first to suggest that the character of James Bond displays many of the signs of being a successful, socially functioning psychopath.
Indeed, in a book by Oxford University psychology researcher Kevin Dutton, "The Wisdom of Psychopaths", the author lists what he calls "the seven deadly wins" of psychopathy, and they are all traits one could apply to Bond. They are: ruthlessness, charm, focus, mental toughness, fearlessness, mindfulness and action. Is it because Bond possesses such psychopathic traits that he's so good at what he does? Dutton's analysis would seem to suggest so, and he attempts to show what we can all learn from psychopathic behaviour, indicating that such traits can actually make us a success. Indeed, if you've read Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test", or indeed my own blog, "Do Psychopaths Run the World?", you'll know that being a so-called "socialised" psychopath in our own particular milieu can actually be a sort of bizarre advantage. Having psychopathic qualities can actually make you, for example, a successful businessman or politician.
So, does this account for Bond's seemingly never-ending popularity? If Bond were simply portrayed as an unbalanced criminal, would he have the same appeal? As we all know, Bond can be charming, witty, suave and sophisticated, as well as at the same time being utterly ruthless, cold-blooded, philandering and seemingly without any sort of conscience. He remains attractive to women and for men he appears to be someone to be admired. Perhaps it helps if you look like Daniel Craig, whose portrayal of Bond is probably closest to author Ian Fleming's conception of the character - a sometimes dead-eyed killer.
One might ask, then, just why do we have so much sympathy and love for such an obvious brute? It may be because Bond is also associated with old fashioned ideas of imperial patriotism, the cold war and masculinity. However, some don't find any of this at all attractive, like the actor Matt Damon, who described the character of Bond as "an imperialist, misogynist sociopath who goes around bedding women and swilling martinis and killing people. He’s repulsive.”
It would appear, though, that the public has other ideas. Over the years the Bond films have been hugely successful, and when Bond has veered into the realms of, dare we say it, genuine emotion, the audience hasn't particularly liked it. Timothy Dalton's more human Bond was perhaps the least popular with audiences, and when George Lazenby broke down at the end of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" after his new wife had been killed, well, it just wasn't Bond-like.
Despite it all, then, Bond remains Britain's best-loved psychopath. So, whatever you do, James, don't go changin'.     


Dixie@dcrelief said…
My neighbor appears to be both, a Psychopath and a Narcissist... not a happy combo. At times it seems his ultimate goal is to destroy my life... thus I stay away!
David said…
Hi Dixie,
Firstly, it's nice to have you back! I hope you're okay now.
I think that narcissism may be just one aspect of psychopathy, so I think you're probably right to try to stay away from your neighbour - he doesn't exactly sound like a barrel of laughs!
Take care, Dixie.
From your (appreciative) blogging pal,
bazza said…
Hi David. The funny thing is that those psychopathy traits are not by any means all negative! In fact only ruthlessness has mainly negative aspects. Bond doesn't have the instability or chronic mental abnormality that one associates with a psychopath. When watching an old Bond film recently he seemed to be am anachronism. A sociopath possibly?
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’
David said…
Hi bazza,
Yes, the point of Kevin Duton's book seems to be that not only are some psychopathic traits not really negative, they can also make us a success. I just find that the argument should be put into some kind of social context. Isn't it worrying, for instance, that people who have psychopathic tendencies are so valued within our society? What does this say about the sort of world we live in?
As for Bond, I belive that the term "sociopath" is just a more politically corect term for "psychopath". I think that you could also say "anti-social personality disorder" to describe the same condition. And he most definietly is an anachronism, but I think they've tried to update his character in more recent Bond movies, what with the psychodrama of "Skyfall" which semed to try to analyse why Bond is the way he is. I can still hear Javier Bardem's bad guy saying to Bond, "Mommy was very bad!" and suggestively touching his knee.
Thanks for your comment, bazza, it's always good to have your thoughts.
Best Wishes,
klahanie said…
Hey David,

Ah, my hirsute, Andy Fordham lookalike buddy. Although I heard a rumour that you were in the running as a future James Bond, it appears that a future James Bond will be portrayed by David Cameron.

Toodle pip and talk soon.

Hairy Gary....

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