I was rewatching Casino Royale the other day and this scene really struck me. You know, James. I just want you to know that if all that was left of you was your smile, your little finger… you’d still be more of a man than anyone I’ve ever met. I realized that in so many ways, Vesper is speaking for the audience because James Bond represents our culture’s masculine ideal. Whatever he is is what so many young men are kind of wishing they could become so in this video, I want to investigate who exactly that aspirational man is because there is definitely something to be learned —
some positive traits that we can add to our lives. But there’s also some ideas of masculinity that we’d probably be better off discarding. The first thing you cannot miss about James Bond is that he is insanely capable, he’s an expert in hand-to-hand combat, Texas Hold’em, sailing, parkour, holding his breath, hacking a computer, driving — kind of — and he’s also in fantastic shape without ever seeming to need regular exercise. And that’s just what we see in Casino Royale. In other films, he can fly a plane, drive a tank, dance
the tango, speak eight languages… you get the point. The underlying message is that men should just know how to do stuff which may seem like an empowering message until you realize that none of Bond’s skills seem to require any practice or learning and so even though we know that it’s just the movie, part of us believes that we should just
be good at stuff; that’s not how the world works though. To master any one of Bond’s skills would take a lot of unsexy practice time. This is what learning parkour actually looks like. Ugh. See that was not a green; that was not good. My heel,s touching it. The heels should never
be touching it. If you mess it up, go again. That was nicer. This is what learning the tango looks like. So you go forward with the left, forward with the right, forward with the left, side with the right, and then you’re gonna drag left foot to right foot without closing your feet. Can you imagine James Bond doing precision jumps for hours with no gap just to get his parkour timing right or dancing the tango alone to nail his steps? Probably not but that would be an absolutely essential piece if he ever wanted to actually have those skills in the real world. So while being capable across a diverse range of skill sets is admirable and can be really fun, you could never achieve that without lots of practice. Expect to be terrible at everything the first time you do it — the first many times. Expect to put in monotonous hours if you want to achieve mastery in any skill and expect to learn to have to appreciate that journey. It’s less exciting than an instant skill set but
it’s the only way to learn anything for real. Second, we think of James as a man of action and he is but what really defines Bond is his inaction; he is unreactive whenever his life isn’t immediately in danger. Sure, when the bullets start flying, he moves like crazy but when it’s just words, he never gets flustered. Watch how he handles being tied up in a chair and simultaneously threatened and come onto by Silva in Skyfall. Oh, you’re trying to remember your training now. What’s the regulation to cover this? We all have first time for everything, yes? What makes you think this is my first time? Oh, Mister Bond. Or how he calmly handles Vesper’s insults when she says
that the poker game is a terrible idea in Casino Royale. Your boss must be well-connected; I’ve never
seen so much go out the door so quickly. Quite so stylishly. Or how he later responds after being poisoned mid-poker tournament. I’m sorry. That lost hand; it nearly killed me. All these are funny moments but the greater point is that Bond doesn’t waste energy on needless anger, frustration, threats, or worry. If he can change something to his benefit, he’ll act but otherwise, he just moves on. This makes sure that he doesn’t get stuck in his head
reliving past mistakes or worrying about the future. And we would all do well to adopt the same mentality in our own lives. If somebody cuts you off on the way to work, speaks poorly about your
work, makes a mistake that wastes your time — whatever it is — don’t allow yourself to indulge in getting upset. Instead, just ask, “What action needs to be taken to shift things?” If there’s something that you can do like speak calmly to
that person and ask them to behave differently, go for it. But if there is nothing to be done like in the case where someone cuts you off, let it go as fast as possible. Knowing what truly matters and focusing on action above your ego will make you a happier and more attractive person. The third thing that you can’t miss about James is that women love him and while James is a scripted male fantasy, there’s a
grain of truth in women’s on-screen reaction to him. Women tend to be attracted to those two things that we
previously mentioned — James is capable and unreactive. Just watch this next scene where both of those things are demonstrated. First — that he’s capable and that he won a car in a hand of Poker and second — that he is unflustered when he suggests
driving this woman home and she says, “No, thanks.” Can I give you a lift home? That would really send him over the edge. I’m afraid I’m not that cruel. Well, perhaps you just had to practice. Perhaps. What about a drink in my place? Is it close? Very. One drink. Note that James isn’t pushy nor is he cowardly;
he’s just flirtatious without fear of rejection. And because he’s not worried about her not liking him, she reconsiders. Now this isn’t a guaranteed outcome in the real
world but it does demonstrate one useful point — We are all going to be quote-unquote rejected at some point. Someone in our dating life or professional life is going to say, “No, thanks.” Reacting and getting upset only solidifies that no but remaining playful and not taking it personally
creates a chance that they’ll actually reconsider. Speaking of playfulness, the way that the rest of the scene
plays out demonstrates how all of those aspects come together. Good evening, sir, and welcome back. Welcome to my home. So if there’s a lesson here it’s that we can all expect
to be rejected in our lives if we go after what we want. But accepting that no is a possible our lives if we go after what we want happens creates an inner confidence that is both powerful and attractive. Fourth up and this is perhaps his most romanticized trait, James is willing to die for his ideals or at least to be tortured for them. Now realistically there’s nothing really to be taken from this as most of us
are not going to encounter creative types of torture from Le Chiffre but there is something metaphorical here and it’s that we
admire James because he sticks to his mission in the face of pain and that’s what we all hope to see in ourselves. The things that we’re pursuing in our lives may not come easily. It might feel like, metaphorically, we’ve been stripped naked and beaten and what keeps us going isn’t necessarily the cool
clothes or the fancy cars or the approval of others which can all be taken away but our inner conviction to stick
to our guns and that’s Vesper’s point at the beginning. James isn’t a man because of what he has acquired or even because he has man parts because at this point,
she doesn’t know if Le Chiffre has damaged him beyond repair. He’s a man because of his actions in the face of adversity. You know, James. I just want you to know that if all that was left of you was your smile, your little finger… you’d still be more of a man than anyone I’ve ever met. And of course James hasn’t lost his sense of playfulness
which snaps Vesper right out of her despondent mood. That’s because you know what I can do with my little finger. I have no idea. But you’re aching to find out. Sticking to your guns in the face of adversity clearly
isn’t something that only men are capable of so we should all ask ourselves where the hardships are in our lives and if they actually dissuade us from continuing or if you’re capable of laughing them off and staying the course. Now lastly, we have the conclusion of Casino Royale
where Bond becomes Bond after Vesper’s betrayal. He learns to trust no one and he completely shuts down his love for Vesper
as well as any sort of emotional reaction to her death. Just watch. Christina: …if you do need time.
James: Why should I need more time? The job’s done. The bitch is dead. The message here is that bond will not open himself up to being betrayed again and since Bond represents the ultimate in masculinity, it implies
that real men don’t open themselves up to being hurt. I’m not saying that that’s the director’s intent but I think that’s how most of us interpret it when we see an ice-cold bond finally
saying his iconic line at the end of Casino Royale. The name is Bond. James Bond. By learning to trust no one and wall off emotionally, Bond
finally becomes the guy that we’ve loved for twenty-plus movies and of all the messages about masculinity and Bond,
I think this one is the most destructive. Without getting too preachy here, real strength isn’t
demonstrated by walling yourself up from getting hurt. It’s shown by opening yourself up to getting hurt because caring is worth it all the while knowing that if the worst happens, you have what it takes to pick yourself up and move forward. Yes, losing what you care about sucks but adopting emotional numbness as a strategy just makes life less vibrant. Now up until now, I’ve tried to deconstruct our culture’s masculine ideal and I hope you see that some of it corresponds to pretty healthy behavior and some of it is more questionable which brings me to the big point — once you start to understand how you may have subtly been influenced by it, you don’t have to unthinkingly accept the ideal
masculine form in our culture, in Bond, or in anything. I personally find Bond’s unreactivity admirable and
I think learning from him in this area improves my life. The invulnerability that creates walls, that’s something
I’d rather not deal with and those are just my feelings. What’s most important is that you bring awareness to the ways you might
have been unthinkingly striving for someone else’s ideal image of a man or a woman or any sort of ideal then you can purposely choose your own ideal instead of having it chosen for you. If you liked this video and you want more,
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