Is James Bond Basically A Psychopath?

It's a question worth raising

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He’s Britain’s most famous film character. A man known and celebrated for a skillset that includes superficial charm, one night stands and smirking as he kills people who get in his way.

So it's probably time we brought up the elephant in the 007 room. Is James Bond a clinical psychopath?

We’ve all read those reports suggesting one percent of the population are officially psychopathic (around 600,000 people in the UK), many of them in high-functioning and high-powered positions. And a quick glance down the 20 point Hare Psychopathy industry-standard checklist of symptoms reveal that 007 is pretty close to hitting the personality disorder motherload.

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Superficial charm; a given. An absence of anxiety; Bond is certainly no neurotic. Promiscuous sexual behaviour; next. Lack of realistic long-term goals; he hasn’t changed a thing in his life for 53 years. A need for stimulation; Bond’s boredom is regularly brought up in the books, and he can barely focus during five minute meetings with his boss. Lack of remorse, guilt or empathy. You get the idea.

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Oh, and then there’s the killing. Yes, he’s a secret agent, it’s his job to kill. But this video compilation of every one of Bond’s 362 kills (up to Skyfall) is certainly proof he isn't exactly troubled by the violence required in his daily duties.

The warning signs come early. In Dr. No, Bond sends a car full of people off a cliff to their doom, jovially quipping to a shocked onlooker, "I think they were on the way to a funeral”. Pretty dark and sick by any standards. Later he torments henchman Professor Dent whilst casually chatting away with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He can barely be arsed to look up before he kills him.

In Goldfinger, his callousness is confirmed when he uses the actual head of the girl he’s actually kissing to block an attack, tossing her body away before electrocuting the attacker in the bath. "Shocking" is his frankly, well, shocking response. As the concussed girl starts to rouse, Connery just puts on his gun belt and walks out of the room with barely a glance. Presumably to kill someone else. Connery’s Bond was less quintessential gentleman, and more highly dangerous sociopath. 

Yet the psycho stakes were somehow upped again with Roger Moore who brought a chillingly shallow quality to the role. If glib charm is a warning sign, the sirens were blaring when he took the part. Here's a guy that could well have been a serial killer if he hadn’t gone in to the civil service.

In For Your Eyes Only, he arguably reaches a psychopathic peak, opening up by sending Blofeld to his death down a chimney from a helicopter with the terrifyingly sarcey mock question, “Oh I’m sorry you want to get off?” And later he kicks a potential witness down a mountain in full view of secret service colleagues who would surely have been pretty keen to question him for information. Instead of looking sheepish at being caught red-handed, he simply savours the line: “He had no head for heights”. Moore's Bond was having too good a time to worry about procedure.

Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby at least showed flashes of remorse and human compassion, possibly explaining why neither lasted long in the role.

Pierce Brosnan, however, made up for lost time and can make a pretty strong claim to the title of most psychopathic Bond of all. His kill count of 135 alone makes him the deadliest Bond, averaging 33.8 kills a film to Moore’s relatively puny 13. In Goldeneye he combines a record kill count of 47 with a sadistic obsession for bad taste one-liners that would make Schwarzenegger blush.

This is a guy who actually gets off on taking human life. And that’s surely as psychopathic as it gets. "For England, James?" asks Sean Bean, as Brosnan prepares to let go of his leg. "No," he replies. "For me." Jesus. Can someone please call HR?

But where does current incumbent Daniel Craig rank in proceedings? He’s brutal yes, but this Bond at least doesn't take as much obvious pleasure in disposing of targets. Sure he leaves a guy to die in the desert, and describes the killing of a woman as a waste of good whisky but in his defence, this is an agent on the edge, for whom duty comes first, and who's prepared to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

This current Bond, at least, is not a textbook psycho like three of his predecessors. Sure, he’s disturbed, damaged and desensitised. But wouldn't you be after killing nearly 400 people in your career?


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