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Adrienne Langlois '10: What we can learn from James Bond

He may not order his martinis the way he used to, but 007 still serves up the kind of action that keeps audiences coming back for more. "Quantum of Solace," the twenty-second installment in the film series based on British writer Ian Fleming's novels, opened November 14 to mixed reviews but packed theatres, almost doubling the opening weekend box office gross of its more highly regarded predecessor, "Casino Royale."

In this time of economic instability and political change, it's nice to know that some things never change: moviegoers will always be willing to shell out $10.50 for a few good chase scenes, some choice one-liners uttered in a British accent, and, of course, gorgeous women.

To some, the Bond films seem to be a hackneyed, over-marketed concept that proves that misogyny and violence still sells. But there's much more to learn from this womanizing, car-crashing brute than how to pick up the disaffected wives of international terrorists or what kinds of buildings and barriers can be used as shortcuts in a high-speed automobile chase. Based on my own extensive viewings of the series, I've compiled a few lessons for both fans and opponents of MI6's most famous fictional agent:

1. As the world changes, so must we. James Bond was originally a Cold War creation - the plots of Fleming's '50s novels and the first films in the '60s pitted 007 against Soviet agents and looming secret agencies that resembled the KGB. The Cold War ended, and James Bond lived on, facing off over-bearing media moguls, economic and ecological terrorists.

Our favorite fictional agent uses new techniques against these new villains; therefore, it makes sense that we should too. International economic crises and never-before-seen environmental problems can't be solved with the same tactics used for prior challenges - we need new ideas and new allies more than ever to bring them under control.

2. Gadgets and technology will only get you so far. One of the most exciting moments in a Bond film for any fan is the introduction of Bond's array of gadgets. Indeed, 007's customized ride and multi-purpose watch and phone usually feature as notable plot points. Inevitably, however, Bond loses his arsenal and is forced to rely on the keen insight that initially made him an agent.

Ultimately, whether you own the latest iPhone or an Aston Martin with laser sights and a smoke screen won't matter. Though gadgets can make you look and feel cool, sharp wits, a quick reaction time and social grace are the most versatile tools available to anyone looking for success. An added bonus: they won't be lost in an unexpected fiery explosion.

3. If you're in a difficult spot, keep your cool and keep your adversary talking. Inevitably, 007 falters on each of his missions and finds himself face-to-face with his nemesis du jour in a less-than-ideal situation. Whether threatened by an emasculating laser or the potential death of a friend, Bond rarely breaks down.

Instead, he turns his enemy's jabs around, maintaining a steady stream of banter, no matter the situation.

Faced with a difficult question you're not sure how to answer? Bond's strategy for reframing situations comes in handy for politicians and job interviewees alike. Keep your cool and keep being articulate, until you can make a graceful exit, whether aided by your keen intellect or the arrival of your personal equivalent of perennial Bond pal and CIA agent Felix Leiter.

4. Always keep your sense of humor. Life can get pretty grim, even when playing high-stakes poker or sunning oneself on a Caribbean beach is part of one's job description. That's why it's imperative to always retain the ability to laugh at your situation, no matter how dire.

These days, even presidential candidates have taken up Bond's ability to spit in the face of death - McCain's appearance on Saturday Night Live and Obama's joke-laden introduction of future Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel indicate that even serious situations call for a few wisecracks.

5. Follow a job through until the end - even if that includes changing your original plans. James Bond is notorious for "going rogue" to follow an instinct, much to the chagrin of his boss M. While we may not have the opportunity to fly to exotic locations on a whim or rifle through the possessions of a shady character on the sly, it usually doesn't hurt to go off the beaten path to pursue a goal. Whether searching for a madman bent on blowing up the moon or taking on a sharp-shooting skiing assassin, Bond's innovation and perseverance are always inevitably rewarded. Emulate him to similar success and you might be too.

While marketers certainly have no shame in playing up the gratuitous violence, sex and product placement, these qualities aren't ultimately what makes the Bond films so successful. The hero of the longest-running English-language film series in history provides us with more than a mindless diversion - Bond shows us how to get by in an increasingly complex world, with or without an ubiquitous theme song.

Adrienne Langlois '10 prefers her Ivy Room smoothies shaken, not stirred.


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