Given the woeful numbers of those attending church services in the Time of Covid as against the hordes flocking to see the new James Bond film you have to ask yourself this: is Daniel Craig perhaps God? Or at any rate some sort of secular demigod – because he possesses so many of the desiderata of our atheistic era: perfectly toned body, rugged good looks, a beautiful and talented partner – and doubtless beautiful and talented children. As to the pelf, Craig has reportedly been paid a piffling £18m for No Time To Die, and for its predecessor – but with two sequels in the line for the popular comedy detective film, Knives Out, his earnings may top £100m in the next few years, making him the highest-paid actor in the world.
And then there’s the alter-ego he’s so reluctantly – and very publicly – reassumed. Never before has being Bond been so important: post-Brexit, the nation cries out for a true sovereign to embody its restless spirit; Sean Connery may have made the union a wee bit closer for a while, but his hypocrisy in cleaving to Scotland while actually living in the Bahamas (and presumably filing his tax returns there) proved schismatic in the longer term. As for Moore, Dalton and Brosnan, none of them ever acquired enough salience to become a sort of shaven version of the British Bulldog – which is what the man, Dan, definitely looks like when he strips down to his budgie-smugglers.
As for the titular monarch of these isles, how can a nonagenarian aristocrat, who, so far as we know, has been utterly and monogamously heterosexual her entire adult life, possibly compete with polymorphously perverse and plebeian Craig? In his secret agent disguise he still manages to be incredibly good at killing people, thereby by projecting a very hard sort of British power – while once he begins to detumesce, he melds the sensitivities of his alter-ego with his own professed ones, thereby satisfying his liberal fan base that the world is, indeed, becoming a better and kinder place, while still allowing them to enjoy his lethal and nationalistic antics.
Craig’s latest bid to become the paradoxical poster-boy of inclusiveness comes via a podcast interview in which he said he used to frequent gay bars to avoid the: “aggressive dick-swinging” of hetero spaces. Enlarging on this aspect of his metrosexuality, he went on: “[Gay bars] would just be a good place to go… Everybody was chill, everybody. You didn’t really have to sort of state your sexuality. It was OK. And it was a very safe place to be. And I could meet girls there, ‘cause there are a lot of girls there for exactly the same reason I was there. It was kind of an ulterior motive.”
Craig has received a certain amount of criticism – some from gay men who resent him muscling in on their scene, some from heterosexual women who’ve pointed out there’s something a little creepy about his moving on straight women who’ve gone to gay bars precisely in order to avoid pick-ups. But overall the consensus seems to be that yet again Craig has softly smashed it: cleverly eliding his own aggressive dick-swinging with… Well, with what, exactly? I’d argue there remains a latent homophobia in the Craig position, which is to claim that all gay spaces are necessarily irenic.
It’s not only the notorious William Burroughs who wanted to be regarded as “a straightforward, manly sort of homosexual”. I’ve known many gay men over the years who resent the blanket assumption – which I see lurking in Craig’s words – that they’re effeminate or otherwise averse to what Father Ted memorably described as “all the rough and tumble of the homosexual lifestyle”.
Moreover, as a young man I, too, frequented gay bars – a bit, but being hit on by older and far gayer men did indeed feel exactly like being subject to ‘aggressive dickswinging’, why wouldn’t it?
There was this to dissuade me from the practice, and there was also a sense – since confirmed – that while plenty of gay men appreciate heterosexual ones wanting to socialise with them and be friends, there remain such things as ‘homo-spaces’. And why wouldn’t there be? Survey after survey confirms that while a far larger proportion of people that hitherto acknowledged have some homosexual proclivities, only about 4% are resolutely oriented towards sexual relationships with the same sex.
But anyway, if Craig really wants to prove quite how zeitgeisty and touchy-feely he can be, he needs to cleave to a still more embattled minority. There’s a lot of talk of the next Bond being played by a woman, so perhaps it’s time for the current incumbent to reveal his own gender dysphoria.