In music, people are often divided into one of two camps, there are Beatles fans, and there are Stones fans. Without splitting hairs, the division into these two camps makes sense based on the sensibilities of the two bands. The Beatles, after all, are more focused on melodic, romantic songs. They’re crisp, clean, and just want to hold your hand. The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, are the down and dirty side of the coin. They want to spend the night.
At the same time the UK was giving us these two musical mission statements, they were also presenting two other models of male behavior that still have a cultural impact: Doctor Who and James Bond.
Now, although one is TV and the other is film, I would consider it reasonable to think of them opposite sides of the same coin as well. After all, both have saved the world numerous times. Both also excel at embroiling themselves in seemingly inescapable situations, only to emerge victorious. Outside of their fictional worlds, both have been re-interpreted by various actors, writers and directors, with different facets displayed with each new incarnation. Now, to the Bond fans who might disagree, Bond certainly qualifies as a geek hero. Obsessed with gadgetry and possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric minutia, Bond is certainly outwardly suave. But beneath that façade, there’s definitely some nerd there.
And then, there are the differences. Clearly the Doctor is the Beatles in this equation, while Mr. Bond is the Stones. Both spend copious amounts of time with the opposite sex, but while the Doctor’s relationships are truly chaste and profound friendships, 007’s are…not. Not to mention when solving their various world threatening crises the Doctor, above all else, avoids killing and gives his foe the chance to set things right and redeem themselves before foiling their plans and saving the day. Bond, as we all know, is ruthless. He has no qualms dispatching his enemies and would never dream of offering a shot at redemption.
Obviously many people like both. But I point out the Beatles/Stones comparison because, at the end of the day, one always edges the other out. Now, personally, I’m dying to see Skyfall this weekend. The Daniel Craig version of Bond seriously contends with Sean Connery’s defining interpretation, and I’m eager to see what Sam Mendes does with the character. But even still, if I were forced to choose, I have to give the advantage to Doctor Who. A few years ago I might have chosen differently, but since the re-introduction in 2005 I’ve been more consistently impressed with what Russell Davies and Stephen Moffat have done with the series. I’ve enjoyed it so much I’ve introduced my son to them. I’m sure he’ll enjoy the Bond films (once I get over my reticence about exposing him to the very un-PC Sixties worldview), but if he didn’t, I wouldn’t really be bothered. On the other hand I would have been profoundly disappointed if he hadn’t liked Doctor Who. Part of that may have roots in the same assumption many critics make about Alfred Hitchcock’s choice of male leads. It’s often said Jimmy Stewart is who Hitch identified with most, while Cary Grant is who he wanted to be. I think I can fairly say that’s how I think of Doctor Who and James Bond.
So, taking as read that it’s possible to like both, where do you fall? In a crisis, would you prefer 007 or the Doctor at your side?