Sunday, November 18, 2012

An open letter to James Bond villains

To whom it may concern: 

I saw "Skyfall" over the weekend. The movie impressed and has been a wild success at the box office, becoming the franchise's highest-grossing installment in its opening weekend. The movie owes its success in no small part to the tremendous performance by Javier Bardem (aka Raoul Silva). Bardem is equally terrifying, entertaining, and enthralling. There is an argument to be made that he may be the greatest Bond villain ever. Silva is as formidable an opponent as Bond has ever faced: a former star agent in MI6 with hacking skills comparable to Anonymous, hair more glorious than Donald Trump, and a small army of highly trained mercenaries at his disposal. Silva's star peaks at an opportune time as Bond faces a personal crisis that parallels an institutional crossroads at MI6 headquarters, and as whispers abound: Is Bond over the hill? Is he, like the institution he works for, a relic of a bygone era? 

Despite the favorable circumstances, victory eludes Silva. Undoubtedly, this is foremost a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of James Bond and the democratic-capitalistic-political-democratic-model-Western-Civilization-is-still-peaking-so-hard way of life that he represents. Yet Silva, despite his daring and meticulously planned schemes, commits tactical and strategic errors so grave and appalling that I feel compelled to rebel against such level of incompetence in this letter. 

Please do not misunderstand my intentions. I root for Bond, universal suffrage, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The observations that follow constitute no endorsement of your actions. They are simply lessons that must be self-evident to anyone with half a brain who is hoping to become a memorable villain.

1. You will lose in the long-term

It is like playing blackjack in a casino. The odds are stacked against you. Sure, you hit big once in a while and take over Cyprus, but eventually you end up broke, spending your last five dollars on a meal at IHOP and hitch hiking your way back home to the East Coast.

Since the beginning of time, many a philosopher has burned the midnight oil mulling over the fundamental question of whether Man is good or evil. I do not consider this to be a difficult question. I hold it to be self-evident that Man is good even as he is locked in a perpetual struggle against his sinful nature. That is why we want the best for our children even if we have strayed from the righteous path. The perceived balance between Good and Evil lies in the impact that a few super crappy people wreak on the world.

This is why I usually just borrow pictures from the Internet.

Even though Evil is a huge pain in the neck, Good inevitably triumphs. Your objective then, if you dream of leaving a memorable legacy as a villain, is to prolong your reign as long as possible. With that in mind, an enterprising villain will incorporate these lessons into his budding career:

2. Setup surrogates

Let me guess: your current evil genius plan is to announce your presence on the world stage by capturing the last of the rare Dalmatian pandas and holding them hostage until the world gives you a pension and full medical benefits. I have news for you: a) that is so cliché - BORING!, and b) the 1960s called - they want their utopian dreams back. Nobody has a pension anymore.

Once you are captured, the world will forget you and the Dalmatian pandas. Instead, send a henchman to do the job. You will gain notoriety whether your number 2 succeeds or not. 

3. Be charismatic

Once you show your face to the world, you must have an electrifying presence. Have recognizable and unique outwardly appearance - scars, crazy hair, extra limbs. Do not be afraid to "peacock". Wear a kimono. Accessorize. Consider a new pet, perhaps an iguana. Mutations are encouraged. A set of gills would be nice: modest and inconspicuous, yet highly functional. Remember: Evil is an art, not a science. Think the laugh is overdone? Carry a baton and pretend you are directing an orchestra any time you have to make a speech.   



4. Have offspring

At first you considered your child a hinderance to your ascending career and your cosmopolitan lifestyle. You never understood just how selfish and unappreciative children are until you had your own. In retrospect, you have come to terms with your own father's absence from your childhood. It tears you apart to think of all the moments that you should have expressed, but never did, your gratitude to your mother for her unwavering affection and her early recognition and encouragement of your potential for unspeakable evil. 

You watch your children grow. It is an arduous journey, filled with frustration and headaches - like the time your daughter accidentally killed the Dalmatian panda by feeding it "5-hour energy" shots. While you figure out how to tell your number 2 that he is probably going to be behind bars for a very long time, your son decides that he finds the family tradition of villainy too conventional and stifling and that he wants to become an artist instead.

Yet through it all you learn the deepest meaning of love and pride as your children develop into functional adults, more like their father and mother with every passing day, and you know that long after you are gone, they will carry on your legacy, immortalizing your name, and taking the Bond franchise to new heights.

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