Richard Cohen isn't a film reviewer — he's a columnist for The Washington Post who normally writes about politics — but he has a lot to say about the new James Bond movie Skyfall. The film is "a lot of fun," Cohen says in The Post, "but it still says something about our culture that, in the autumn of my years, I do not like." What he doesn't like is that this incarnation of Bond, played by 44-year-old Daniel Craig, "ripples with muscles." Male sex symbols on the silver screen used to win the ladies through their sophistication, "experience, and savoir-faire, not delts and pecs and other such things that any kid can have." In the past, stars in their 50s — Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart — routinely romanced women half their age.
These older men seduce; they are not seduced. They make love. They do not score.... That's why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film Never Say Never Again. Women loved him because he was sophisticated and he could handle a maitre d' as well as a commie assassin. Western civilization was saved not on account of his pecs but on account of his cleverness and experience.
The column, of course, earned Cohen plenty of ridicule — and not just because Connery was a body builder before he was Bond and Cary Grant started in show business as a circus acrobat:
Apparently, "Richard Cohen does not think James Bond's muscles are fair to Richard Cohen," says Rebecca Schoenkopf at Wonkette. "The Mayan Apocalypse cannot come too soon if this muscle-bound 'Daniel Craig' character is supposed to be our new hotness. What happened to the way things used to be, when women were wives and skinny nerds were le sexy?"
Right, "James Bond is the reason Richard Cohen can't date 23-year-olds," says Max Read at Gawker. In a "real sexual meritocracy," as Cohen sees it, "the only relationships are between older men and younger women." How convenient.
Not only has Cohen "totally lost his mind" in this rant on Bond, he "also uses the word 'zeitgeisty,' which is not a word, and alone should get him fired from The Post," says Peter Huestis at Princess Sparkle Pony. Cohen was already "the hackiest hack in hackville." After this column, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe he should stick to writing about politics."
Actually, Cohen has a point, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. I don't agree that "James Bond's amazing body" represents "the loss of real manhood," but it's indisputably true that "movie stars are now all ripped muscle comic book characters." He blames the culture, but misses the easier explanation: It's much easier to look like a superhero today:
The male body changed on screen because of steroids. Arnold started it all, essentially requiring men to be as physically ravishing in movies as women generally are. Advertising took the baton, with Marky Mark leading the charge, followed by Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber filling the airwaves and magazine ad pages (remember them?) with physically enthralling super-men. Over three decades, the increasingly sophisticated results are everywhere.... The new male is here to stay. And that is largely because it's hotter. Get used to it.