Is James Bond’s social status diminished by product placement?

Product placement is rampant in Hollywood films and here is a look at what products James Bond is now selling:

Never mind the other products basking in the superspy’s aura, such as Sony mobile phones and Vaio laptop computers, Macallan single-malt Scotch, Honda cycles, Bollinger Champagne, Globe-Trotter suitcases, Crockett & Jones footwear, Walther guns, Aston Martin cars, Swarovski jewelry, Omega watches, OPI nail polish, Land Rovers and Range Rovers and all the rest.Some pay for the privilege, some make other arrangements. Some, like the new James Bond fragrance hawked by Procter & Gamble, aren’t in the film. But all told, sponsorship and other ancillary deals for “Skyfall” are said to have brought in $45 million, about a third of what it cost to produce the film, one of the best in the Bond series…

Today’s sophisticated media consumer expects to see brands in TV shows, movies and even video games, according to Tom Weeks, senior vice president at LiquidThread (formerly known as Starcom Entertainment), the branded entertainment and content development operation within Chicago’s Starcom MediaVest Group. But proper context — proper casting — is a must…

Caterpillar, which first tied up with 007 in 1999’s “The World is Not Enough,” hopes the “Skyfall” connection boosts brand awareness, particularly in emerging markets like China, which seems a manageable goal.

Perhaps this kind of brand integration is inevitable: brands are always looking for subtle and not-so-subtle ways to associate their products with being “cool.” And what could be better than Bond, an international spy who doesn’t have stuff at home but instead uses all sorts of gadgets all around the world?

But, I’m reminded of Naomi Klein’s arguments in No Logo about the increasing branding of our world. If Bond is so cool, why does he need to be so connected to brands? Isn’t Bond, like the rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1960s who built their initial popularity on rebelling and not selling out, just selling out? If Bond has to shill for products, what hope is there for the rest of society? Something doesn’t connect here: Bond’s status is tied to the idea that he isn’t beholden to the trappings of life that hold back average people yet the newer movies are now suggesting he too is just another part of the capitalistic world. Thus, Bond is just another commodity who needs other commodities to be successful. His status is now less dependent on his character or his unique actions, but, like other commodities, is tied to the fate of other commodities.

The houses of the James Bond actors differ from what the character Bond would own

I argued earlier this week James Bond is an international figure who doesn’t fit the sentimental idea of home. But here is a look at the homes of the actors who have played James Bond – and they seem to be more of the conventional movie star type of home. In other words, big Hollywood mansions. So it appears the actors who play Bond tend to have the kinds of homes that Bond himself would not want to be tied down to as he worked missions around the globe.

Can you imagine James Bond living in a McMansion?

Here is an interesting thought: could James Bond live in a McMansion?

When I first heard that “American Beauty” director Sam Mendes had been tapped to make the newest James Bond film, I wondered how the choice might transform the series. Would we find Bond sitting in a McMansion wearing a cardigan and brooding over a failed marriage? Would his spy gadgetry be disguised as high-end kitchen appliances that symbolize the emptiness of American life? Would we discover in the end that the true enemy was, in fact, the inescapable horror of suburban ennui? Would he switch his drink order to white wine?

Fortunately the answer on all counts is a firm no. With “Skyfall,” the 23rd entry in the Bond franchise, Mr. Mendes has not altered Bond so much as found the character’s core and polished it up for a modern age. He has made a Bond film that is different from its predecessors, but almost entirely in ways that are improvements. It is the most beautiful Bond film. It is the darkest Bond film. It is the most psychologically revealing Bond film. And for these reasons, it may also be the best.

The easy answer is that James Bond is too suave to ever live in a mass-produced, garish McMansion. Plus, McMansions are a little too much new-American for Bond.

But, then I started thinking about the homes in which James Bond might live. I haven’t seen many of the movies but I have read some of the books and I don’t remember too many instances of James Bond even being at home. Bond is not the sort of character who is tied down to a sentimental, comfortable home. The concept of home is related to being tied down and having roots. While the quirky Sherlock Holmes is commonly found in his home and office, Bond doesn’t fit into a domestic scene. Rather, Bond is a world-traveler who can look cool in all situations. He doesn’t need a home much.

In the end, how much of Bond’s appeal is tied to being anti-domestic?