Academic journal article DQR Studies in Literature

From Angry Young Scholarship Boy to Male Role Model: The Rise of the Working-Class Hero

Academic journal article DQR Studies in Literature

From Angry Young Scholarship Boy to Male Role Model: The Rise of the Working-Class Hero

Article excerpt

When John Osborne's Look Back in Anger was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London on May 8th, 1956, and Kenneth Haigh hit the stage as a "working class Hamlet"1 Jimmy Porter, a new era for English literature began: fostered not so much by a consistent literary movement but mainly by considerable media attention and an extraordinary publicity campaign, "angry young men" conquered theatre stages, cinema screens and bestseller lists.2 In this essay, I will argue that Jimmy Porter and the "post-Osborne revolution"3 not only set the stage for upcoming vital theatre productions and became a role-model for a series of angry texts, but that they also provided an effective mode of male identity formation, that is the "working-class hero", as a model of male identity that is still effective in our time. I intend to show that Jimmy Porter as well as Joe Lampton - the protagonist of John Braine's Room at the Top and one of the many other original angry young men - fall back on this mythologically charged mode of subcultural subject formation when they are trapped between the brave new world of the aspiring middle class and their ambiguous working-class origins.

A closer look will reveal that both are not only in class trouble, but also in a gender conflict. With their pride and masculinity at stake, Joe and Jimmy strive for compensations for their frustration: Jimmy by attacking and intimidating upper-class prigs, Joe by materially extending his working-class physicality through financial potency and status symbols. Yet both of them produce themselves as typical workingclass heroes, since this subcultural male subject form serves as a very simple but effectively reaffirming mode of male identity formation. Moreover, it develops into a male role model that, as we shall finally see, even gains global influence today through one outstanding and very specific product of mass media representation: James Bond.

The post-war years and the 1950s: from euphoria to the "angry decade"

Revolutionary though he might have been, Jimmy Porter was still a product of his time, the "angry decade", as the 1950s were called by Kenneth Allsop.4 A short summary of the socio-cultural changes of the time might be helpful to understand the character of Jimmy Porter and his tremendous success among contemporary theatre-goers.

The 1940 Blitz, the German attempt to invade Britain via aircraft attacks, ended in a triumphant victory for the British military services and the whole British nation: though hopelessly outnumbered, Britain's Royal Air Force fought back the German attacks in less than half a year. The result of this heroic "Battle of Britain" was a never known feeling of coherence and community within British society. Even today veterans and older people look back on the war not in anger, but remember it as "the brief period when the English people felt that they were a truly democratic community".5 As a result of this feeling of coherence and community, the 1945 general election provided the Labour Party under Prime Minister Clement Attlee with its biggest ever majority in parliament.6 Even if the respective "postwar hope for socialism in Britain now seems to have been amazingly hubristic",7 the Labour ideal of a classless society seemed realistic in the euphoria of both the war and the election victory. And indeed, with the establishment of the welfare state (with National Insurance, National Assistance and the National Health Service) the government seemed to be able to overcome traditional British class divisions, and the new form of "welfare-capitalism implied that now all the people were to share in those good things that the upper classes had generally secured to themselves".8 Moreover, the 1944 Butler Education Act with its "free secondary education for all" had been hailed as "a great advance towards a unified modern society" even before the Labour government was elected.9

However, even if the economic boom of the post-war years and the early 1950s turned Britain into an affluent society10 in which even the tabloid Daily Express rejoiced in 1955 that the "British people never had it so good. Shops are fuller than ever ... higher pay packets, lower taxes, full shops and nice new homes",11 and Charles Curran stated in June 1956 that, thanks to the Butler Education Act, "Britain, in fact, is now very close to the point where it will be true to say that there is a general correlation between social status and mental ability",12 traditional British class divisions were again in effect, albeit in a new form: Sinfield argues that "the retention of fee-paying schools and division of the rest into grammar and secondary modern, with an extension of 'intelligence' testing, continued prewar trends"13 and a class division in education that perpetuated traditional upper- and middle-class privileges for better career chances.14 If one follows Norbert Elias, this effort of the upper classes to maintain the dividing line was to be expected: according to Elias, such a phase of repulsion always occurs in the course of the "civilizing process" when a lower class has the chance to strive for affluence and social influence; with the help of social institutions, the upper class changes norms, values and mannerisms according to a new behavioral and institutional code that the aspirant lower class can no longer access nor copy.15

In fact, Sinfield states that most upward movement from the working classes ended in the new jobs created by the technological advance of the new consumer society located in a rather narrow buffer zone between the middle and traditional working class: "The preoccupation with upward mobility through education was a story that society, or parts of it, wanted to tell itself, not a record of experience."16 The result of this limited form of upward mobility is a new social group consisting of "people of indeterminate social class",17 as George Orwell put it, and it remained disputable whether the new class signified the "embourgeoisement ... of the proletariat"18 or rather the "'proletarianization' of large sections of the petty bourgeoisie".19 As this matter utterly and insolvably seems to depend on one's subjective class perspective, Charles Curran solves the issue by establishing a new category - and thus makes the new social group understandable: "the New Estate is a classless zone, neither proletarian nor bourgeois. It has turned its back on the first but does not wish to assimilate to the second."20 Even if the assumption that the new group refuses to assimilate to the bourgeois way of life remains doubtful, the "New Estate" signifies the paradox of Britain's post-war society: new social mobility combined with traditional class boundaries.

On the gender level, new affluence and opportunities also seemed to have led to a state of overall contentment. Sinfield argues that in the 1950s feminism "was believed to have been successful and hence no longer necessary (like trade unions). A central assumption of welfare capitalism was that the good state had in principle arrived, and only details needed attention."21 Yet underneath the "good-state" surface with the overall tendency to domesticity, the renegotiation of gender roles within society had already begun. New employment patterns and expectations within the home softened up traditional gender role allocations: the economic boom of the post-war years encouraged married women to gradually seize their opportunities on the labor market;22 while men were expected to contribute to household work and particu- larly to childcare. Both tendencies, however, were challenged by the still prevailing traditional gender role expectations. The male contribution within the household was considered as being "effeminate",23 and an increasing number of women in paid work seemed to threaten the natural notion of women as supporting wives and caring mothers so that conservative institutions and individuals tried to urge women back into the home.24 The result of these contradictory expectations was that the "boundaries of male and female roles became uncertain and disputable, problematizing marriage and the heterosexual relation in all aspects".25 This also affected the self-understanding of the formerly unquestionably dominant masculine gender, which now, subtly but effectively, found itself exposed to a new demand for change. It is therefore not surprising that Lynne Segal argues that "male anxiety was running deep at the time".26 It was during this time of class and gender renegotiations that Jimmy Porter hit British stages.

Jimmy Porter: from angry young scholarship boy to workingclass hero

Being one of the many "original angry young men", Jimmy Porter is of alleged working-class background27 and a typical scholarship boy arguing that his university education was "not even red brick, but white tile",28 as his upper-middle-class wife Alison quotes him. He holds the mythological suffering and enthusiasm of the working class as his principal purposes in life but is not able to turn his ambitious spirit into a social position that corresponds to his university education. Remaining a social underachiever he runs a sweet-stall and he is now stuck between the classes: educated beyond working-class limits, he is still denied access into the inner circles of the middle classes as is signified by the hostile welcome he receives from his wife's family. Thus his anger can be traced back to the class hatred of the failing social climber who (like so many others) has to learn that certain promises of the welfare state remain unfulfilled and who now utters "the cry of the scholarship boy angrily knocking at the bolted door of the bourgeoisie".29 This class hatred accounts for the savage war that Jimmy, together with his friend Hugh, wages on his wife's family and their relatives and acquaintances.

However, it does not necessarily explain why Jimmy not only hates the establishment but is also such a fierce misogynist, who fears that "these women bleed us to death",30 and why the "play continually associates women with superficiality and inauthenticity ... [and] identifies the enemy as femininity".31 Sinfield and Segal have in fact discerned a correlation between the feminine, or rather the "effeminate", and the establishment that functions as a welcome target for anger resulting from frustration.32 Furthermore, the effeminate establishment functions as a "constitutive other"33 for the identity formation of the male working-class protagonist. Jimmy Porter's specific family background helps us to understand how this equation of establishment and the effeminate and of the working class and masculinity comes into effect.

It is not only Alison Porter's family that personifies the establishment; the specific history of Jimmy's parents, too, already suggests a class conflict that has been transferred into the character and psyche of Jimmy Porter: his father must have signified an idealized male working-class role model for Jimmy, as he fought for the Communist Brigades in the Spanish civil war during which deadly wounds were inflicted upon him. This idealization of the father hero is even strengthened by the fact that Jimmy was (according to his own reports) the only representative of his family who, at the age of ten, remained at his father's deathbed. It is crucial to note the massive impact that this experience must have had on young Jimmy's psychological disposition: according to Freud, the attributes of a loved person lost in childhood are persistently internalized and become a part of one's own identity in order to overcome grief of loss.34 This is exactly what young Jimmy Porter experiences: he incorporates the idealized working-class hero characteristics into his own ego-structure and sustains them through acts of imitation. However, Jimmy thus is not only a representative of a time in which "English fathers seemed to be archetypally absent",35 he is at that stage already prejudiced and set against his bodily mother and thus, against "the female" per se: mother Porter not only deserted (again according to Jimmy's reflections36) the dying hero father alone on his deathbed, for Jimmy she also personifies a profound anxiety of the female, as we can see in the following central passage of the play, in which Jimmy describes his wife Alison (in her presence):

Oh, it's not that she hasn't her own kind of passion. She has the passion of a python. She just devours me whole every time, as if I were some over-large rabbit. That's me. That bulge around her navel - if you're wondering what it is - it's me. Me buried alive down there, and going mad, smothered in that peaceful looking coil.37

Even if these sentences have no direct reference to Jimmy's mother, the archetypal fear of being buried alive expresses a profound anxiety of the small male (rabbit) in front of, or rather inside the powerful female (python).38 The fact that Jimmy feels buried alive in a woman's womb is quite telling in many respects: first of all, Jimmy's anxiety reflects an unsolved mother conflict, in his fear he literally never really cut the cord to his mother.39 By thus never really growing be- yond the basic dependency of the child to its parents, Jimmy becomes a typical case of Freud's pathological (secondary) narcissism:

From the time of puberty onward the human being must devote himself to the great task of freeing himself from his parents; and only after this detachment is accomplished can he cease to be a child and so become a member of the social community .... In neurotics, however, this detachment from the parents is not accomplished at all; the son remains all his life in subjection to his father, and incapable of transferring his libido to a new sexual object.40

In his childlike egocentric narcissism Jimmy is not only unable to truly love another person, but he is also unable to see that this certain "bulge around her navel" is not he himself but his very own offspring: Alison's child, which Jimmy wants dead in order to bring his wife to an allegedly higher level of understanding for his own tragic fate. And it is a case of tragic irony that the unborn child will soon literally be buried (not alive but dead) in the womb of its mother, due to the circumstances of this domestic tragedy triggered by Jimmy's own childlike egocentrism that renders him unable to cope with parental responsibilities.

The reasons for Jimmy's pathological narcissism are quite obvious: he is a typical Freudian case of secondary narcissism caused by parental negligence. Due to the unsolved mother conflict and the archetypal absence of the father, Jimmy not only condemns his mother but also internalizes the idealized working-class hero attributes of his lost father, thus compensating for the lack of a male role model. This becomes obvious when the fragile self-esteem of the university graduate is later set to the test by the "bolted door of the bourgeoisie" that Jimmy expected to be wide open for him. The frustration triggered by the fierce rejection on the side of the Redfern clan41 is compensated by a reaction of defiance. Jimmy immediately retreats to a mode of identity formation that is constructed in opposition to the expectations of the middle classes and already prefigured in his personal disposition: the simple but effective mode of the working-class hero. Mutually reaffirming themselves in their alleged role of the class victim, best friends Jimmy and Hugh now carry out attack after attack on Alison's upper-middle-class background.

My argument therefore is that Jimmy Porter does not "transcend class culture" as Susan Brook suggests42 but rather reinforces the given class boundaries by re-enacting a non-hegemonic mode of identity formation43 in strict counter-definition to its constitutive other, the allegedly effeminate upper middle classes. This subcultural44 mode of identity formation, the working-class hero, serves two major purposes for the former scholarship boy: first, it reaffirms Jimmy's troubled class identity, caused by his being trapped in between classes and his rejection by the social circles he tried to gain access to. Yet this reaffirmation has to be evaluated as a step back into a stereotypical (and thus non-realistic) mode of working-class identity formation - a class that Jimmy no longer belongs to and most probably was never really rooted in. Second, as modes of identity formation are always already gendered and the concept of the working-class hero is connected to a subcultural - and in Jimmy's case paternal - male ideal, it serves to reaffirm his troubled masculinity, a very individual "masculinity in crisis" that is rooted in the still troubled relation to his parents as analyzed above.

The characteristics of the working-class hero mode of identity formation are thus easily summed up: it is the stereotypical "bluff, vigorous working-class male [whose] ruggedly heterosexual and rebellious masculinity ... [and] emotional honesty contrasts with the dominant culture, and whose masculinity dominates over inauthentic femininity".45 Furthermore, being a typical "underdog" phenomenon, the working-class hero always has to cope with a life that means suffering from and fighting against suppression from above. Therefore it is crucial for the hero to maintain a tough outward appearance through different forms of impression management, be it uncouth talk about having "no public school scruples about hitting girls" or the open display of the blokish or "savage" physicality of the "barbarian invader" at upper-middle-class dinner parties, "plundering them, wolfing their food and drinks, and smoking their cigars like ruffians".46 Against women and the weak-kneed prigs of the upper middle classes, this rough physicality seems to function as an effective means of intimidation. However, Jimmy's display of blokish masculinity proves to be only a thin veneer of mere impression management: even if he made it doubly clear that he would "lay out" Helena and "lash back" at her when he found some woman "trying to cash in on what she thinks is my defenseless chivalry by lashing out with her frail little fists",47 in the later moment of escalation, when Helena actually slaps him savagely for his indignities, Jimmy's defense collapses like a house of cards. His only reaction is an "expression of horror and disbelief",48 and the alleged working-class hero is here unmasked as the little frightened boy he never ceased to be.

Thus Jimmy, through impression management mainly based on the exaggerated use of verbal violence (a capacity that he most probably acquired through his university education), only produces himself as a working-class hero in order to compensate for his class and gender frustration as well as the lack of his only pretended physicality. Maybe the weak basis for this kind of production accounts for the failure of Jimmy's futile striving for self-reaffirmation on both the class and the gender level: his masculine identity remains far from being affirmed, his fighting attitude towards women and the establishment is revealed as a frustrated boy's cry for attention, without higher aims or "good brave causes left"49 to strive and even die for. Yet even if Jimmy fails in his own case, he establishes an ideal to be followed by others.

Joe Lampton: the physical extension of man

Whereas the outrageous Jimmy Porter certainly is the logical product of an obvious misogynist like John Osborne,50 John Braine's "original angry young man" Joe Lampton in Room at the Top follows a more rational, self-controlled strategy while trying to escape the class trap: coming from a true working-class background in the industrial parts of England - called "Dead Dufton" by the autodiegetic narrator Joe Lampton51 - he now enjoys the new social mobility as an accountant for the local government in Warley, his new hometown with its promising prospects of affluence and a new consumerist lifestyle. His career outlook and financial opportunities being still rather limited due to his safe but dull work for the state, Joe develops aspirations to climb even higher and to step into the promising and exciting world of the free market system. His ambitions for even more are also reflected in Joe's relation to two contrasted women: with middle-aged and married Alice Aisgill, he finds both fulfilling sexuality and motherly care, adding up to something that Joe experiences as being real love.52 For Joe, however, twenty-year-old Susan Brown, daughter of Warley's most affluent business man, represents a ticket to prosperity and access to the circles of the posh society in which he eventually manages to settle due to his marriage with her.

With this remarkable achievement Joe Lampton is a typical representative of the post-war career model, a mode of subject formation that according to sociologists Niklas Luhmann and Andreas Reckwitz signifies the new hegemonic mode of identity formation in the middle of the twentieth century - replacing the self-controlled bourgeois subject and preceding the postmodern creative subject.53 The career model, originally stemming from the United States, the land of unlimited opportunities, enabled the individual to fulfill the myth of the "American Dream", the prototype career from rags to riches.54 The belief in this philosophy of life was no longer limited to the US but was then - among many other "American way[s] of doing things, of seeing things"55 - adapted to the market systems of old class ridden Europe. Room at the Top is an excellent example that shows that this new way of life could not be transferred across cultures without major problems, because for Joe Lampton, the challenging step out of his working-class origin into the free market system requires various new faculties: Joe has to learn how to play different social roles, a capacity that he acquires quite quickly as a member of the local theatre group, the "Warley Thespians". At the same time, in Joe's view, the new world of Warley and its free market system seem to resemble Hobbes' state of nature rather than a civilized, social sphere: it is determined by a struggle to survive in the field of economic competition. Joe's feeling of being bound by a contract56 can thus not only be read as the traditional topos of a contract with the devil - Joe "loses his soul" when he ends up as a "successful zombie"57 - but also as an inversion of Hobbes' social contract: the new contract - which I would like to call the "market contract" - signifies the loss of social securities (represented by the stereotypical working-class solidarity of Joe's Dufton background) in exchange for the freedom and opportunity to climb to the highest step of the social ladder and thus to fulfill Joe's personal career dream.

It is clear that this market sphere is anything but a violence free zone; and even if the market system is still an inner social sphere that prohibits the use of physical violence, physicality is, at least in Joe's mind, a crucial factor in this field of competition. However, physicality is now understood in new, market contract compatible terms, as the following crucial passage suggests, in which Joe drives by Jack Wales' house, the home of his competitor for the hand of Susan Brown:

"Who lives there?" I asked; "Jack Wales," George said .... "Colossal, isn't it?" .... My spirits sank. For the first time I realized Jack's colossal advantages: I thought that I was big and strong; but there was a lot more to that house than there was of me. It was a physical extension of Jack, at least fifty thousand pounds' worth of brick and mortar stating his superiority over me as a suitor.58

This passage shows that the primitive modes of hierarchical battles for position based on physical potency are still at work yet carried out by different means: bodily power is now substituted by financial potency.59 Joe has to realize that his strong working-class physicality (that is so much admired by Alice and other women and thus associated with the sexual sphere) is far from being equivalent to the extension of Jack Wales' material and financial powers.

At a later stage of the novel, however, Joe discerns this physical extension through status symbols not only in his opponents but also in himself, when the narrating Joe, looking back on his past, sums up:

I am like a brand-new Cadillac in a poor industrial area, insulated by steel and glass and air-conditioning from the people outside .... What has happened to me is exactly what I willed to happen. I am my own draughtsman. Destiny, force of events, fate, good or bad fortune - all that battered repertory company can be thrown right out of my story .... But somewhere along the line - somewhere along the assembly line, which is what the phrase means - I could have been a different person.60

This passage not only shows that Joe has lived up to his ideal of the American Dream (represented by the symbol of the American Dream, the Cadillac, as well as by the idea of having one's luck in one's own hands); it also signifies that Joe has now also extended his own physicality by material means such as steel and glass and a shiny, polished surface. This extension of the body is actually an application of Marshall McLuhan's understanding of the media as the extensions of man: McLuhan defines clothes, housing and money as nothing more than "media of communication, first of all, in the sense that they shape and rearrange the patterns of human association and community".61 Joe thus uses consumerist status symbols - from clothes over cars to women62 - as a means of defining the hierarchical positions of himself and the people around him. The idea that these status symbols are thereby merely substitutes for or rather extensions of physical violence is also reflected in Elias' "civilizing process" theory, in which physical violence turns into "economic violence" in societies where state institutions are influential enough to secure and maintain the state's overall monopoly on physical force.63

However, Joe drives this extension of the self so far that - after his true love Alice is killed in a car accident - he finally cracks and turns into a split personality. At this point the former accountant has to sum himself up as follows: "I hated Joe Lampton, but he looked and sounded very sure of himself sitting at my desk in my skin; he'd come to stay, this was no flying visit."64 After this disastrous experience Joe is pursued by doubts about the sense of his new life, and ten years after the incidents represented in his narration, Joe Lampton, the firstperson narrator, now regards himself as a "zombie" who started his new career as a living corpse the moment Alice died. Significantly, after this enormous shock to his self-understanding, the young Joe Lampton falls back on stereotypical working-class behavior and seeks consolation in boozing, fighting and women.65

Yet in order to mend the split personality of the living dead, Joe Lampton requires more: he tries to overcome the split with the help of his autobiographical narration. The older Joe Lampton uses this mode of narration to reorganize the crucial incidents of his life into a chain of causes and effects and thus renders his destiny, his way of life, coherent and understandable again.66 It is crucial to note, however, that in this reconstructive identity narration, Joe Lampton idealizes his working-class origins - the formerly condemned "Dead Dufton" - as a real and authentic social network in contrast to the war-world of Warley that is ruled by disguise, deceit and ruthless competition. The working-class identity of Joe Lampton is thus again produced as a true kernel of the self beyond the split and shifting identities of the social actor. By thus relating the "zombie" back to his origins, the autobiographical narration helps to mend the split personality of Joe Lampton, even if the original state of the uncorrupted self remains irretrievably lost.

One can thus discern a twofold application of the working-class hero concept in Room at the Top: stereotypical working-class physicality is a formative feature of the new identity-formation concept of the financial and material extension of the self. This new concept of physicality is required by the inner-cultural natural sphere of the market system that is seen as a battleground for affluence and a social position marked by status symbols. In contrast, the working-class hero concept, seen as an authentic and real representation of the "original self", helps to mend Joe Lampton's split personality after the overextension of the self by material means. The idealization of the working-class hero concept thus functions, as in the case of Jimmy Porter, as a mode of reaffirmation for a troubled male identity.

Still fighting: new representations of the working-class hero concept

Alice Ferrebe convincingly points out how repetitive narrations of simple modes of male identity formation not only helped to reaffirm troubled character identities but also to "emasculate" readers and recipients.67 And in fact, Jimmy Porter and Joe Lampton are only two of the many angry young men of the 1950s who establish the workingclass hero concept as a particular male style of being. Alan Sillitoe's Arthur Seaton is perhaps the most impressive and influential example of the time as both the novel and the film version of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning were highly successful vehicles that transported the working-class hero concept as a possible way of life to a huge crowd of male recipients. This perhaps exaggerated celebration of the concept leads Nigel Gray to suggest that "Sillitoe is too much taken with the working-class hero cult".68 However, different modifications of the working-class hero can also be found in Arnold Wesker's Trilogy as well as in the works of David Storey and later in the 1960s in the plays of Harold Pinter. Martin Amis' Money (1984) not only takes the physical extension of a male hero through status symbols to the extreme but also re-enacts the misogyny and fighting spirit of its an- gry predecessors of the 1950s.69 Furthermore, the working-class hero's battle calls strongly echo in the Ladlit of the 1990s, and it is crucial to note that the connection of correspondent stereotypical class and gender virtues can thus still serve as an important means of subject formation in a British service sector society that has now undergone profound social change and witnessed - at least compared to the 1950s - the success of feminism.

However, the concept of the working-class hero is nowadays by no means limited to Great Britain; in a postmodern world of shifting identities, the working-class hero provides a very simple but effectively reaffirming mode of male identity formation. It has become a subject model that nowadays gains even global influence through one outstanding and very successful product of mass media representation, namely James Bond. The sleek British secret agent is not only a matter of interest for cultural studies since, with his shifting identities, he represents the prototypical superhero for the postmodern age; his film episodes also always represent cultural anxieties and issues of the respective historio-cultural background, be it the 1960s race to the moon fostered by Cold War ideology in You Only Live Twice and Moonraker, the discussion of mass media power in Tomorrow Never Dies or the increasing influence of the world's dwindling freshwater supplies as represented in the recent Bond movie Quantum of Solace. The series has - beginning with Sean Connery and Ursula Andress - always represented specific but influential ideals of masculinity and femininity; and with the advance of product placement, Bond movies have become the world's most expensive and influential advertisements. It would thus be a matter of unpardonable negligence to assume that James Bond was not one of the most important male media role models in at least Western societies.

A closer analysis of the 2006 film adaptation of Ian Fleming's first Bond novel Casino Royale (written in 1953, Bond was invented in the "angry decade") reveals that James Bond is not only a hero, but that he now also represents important characteristics of the working-class hero. Like Jimmy Porter, Bond is a misogynist; he, like Joe Lampton, commoditizes women and uses them for his own purposes. Like Braine's protagonist he uses gadgets, fancy clothes and cars as material extensions of his physicality. But does he reflect the most important characteristic of the working-class hero, namely a working- or lower- class background as a means of self-reaffirmation? The 2006 film version of Casino Royale is significant here due to the fact that its story is chronologically located at the very beginning of the Bond series. In this first episode, James Bond only becomes a double 0 agent and is still younger and less experienced than the slick agent that audiences used to know. This representation of a younger Bond is not only reflected by the change of the Bond actor from Pierce Brosnan to the younger and rougher Daniel Craig; it is also signified by a much stronger emphasis on Bond's physical brutality. Unlike former (or chronologically later) Bonds, the younger agent does not kill by pushing the buttons of Q's gadgets but by using his bare hands. Thus rejecting the technological artifacts of a modern material culture, Bond goes back to a very physical mode of fighting and killing, the man-toman fight.

Even more important than these changes in the style of being Bond is the glimpse into Bond's past that is exclusively provided during the movie's train dinner scene,70 in which Bond and his lover-to-be Vesper Lynd ruthlessly analyze the flaws and idiosyncrasies of each other's character. Here it is revealed to the audience that Bond does not come from an affluent background; he is an orphan and, according to Vesper Lynd's analysis:

... by the cut of your suit you went to Oxford or wherever and actually think human beings dress like that. But you wear it with such disdain, my guess is you didn't come from money, and your school friends never let you forget it, which means that you were at that school by the grace of someone else's charity.71

The "cold-hearted bastard" Bond feels "skewered" by this analysis of his past. Thus the film version of Casino Royale tells the story of how Bond becomes the sleek super agent we know: it is the narration of "angry young Bond", an orphaned scholarship boy who develops, like Jimmy Porter and Joe Lampton, a disdainful class hatred for the establishment. Moreover, Bond is also a case of parental absence and - as Casino Royale depicts in the later course of the movie as well as the novel - he suffers from an unsolved love frustration, as his trust in women is fundamentally destroyed by what he perceives as Vesper Lynd's betrayal and unfaithfulness.

The Casino Royale movie of 2006 thus breaks with a long tradition of depicting Bond as a man without a past by emphasizing the innate fissures of the character stemming from his orphanage. Just like the working-class heroes of the angry decade this angry young Bond has to cope with the psychological challenges that come along with the frustrations of a social climber being unable to integrate in the circles of the upper classes. The methods of coping for both subject models follow the patterns of a "protesting masculinity" as Raewyn Connell described it.72 This mode of masculinity is essentially based on a traditional form of working-class manliness: Within the production processes, the hardened but worn-out body of the worker becomes proof of the worker's masculinity. Combined with the constant experience of limited access to power in early phases of the subject's development, the individual later shows a pronounced urge for power as well as an exaggerated display of bodily impression management. This aggressive form of masculinity serves as a mode of differentiation in two directions: first towards the upper middle classes and second against women.73 This form of a protesting masculinity explains Bond's misogyny as well as the class disdain he displays in the 2006 Casino Royale movie.

Even if it seems a bit overdone and constructed to ascribe a thorough working-class background to the character of the orphaned James Bond, my analysis shows that the authors of the 2006 version of Bond's story of origin chose to give the character some more edge and new psychological depth. They did this by shedding a new light on the character's origin and by ascribing Bond an aggressive mode of masculinity that stems from the time of his invention - the angry decade of the 1950s.74

While the male role model James Bond thus aligns himself with social underdogs, the subcultural working-class hero concept steps up into the light of global media attention and becomes a simple but successful mode of subject formation for another generation of (angry?) young men in need of clear concepts of a stable male identity. Through repeated narration and production, the working-class hero thus develops into a typical case of gender identity formation through repetitive but potentially modifiable performative acts and practices. In the words of Judith Butler, it is a "repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being",75 and thus of a powerful ideal of how a "real man" should be and behave.

As this performative act is constituted by and directed against a stereotypical other, the effeminate establishment, it has to be defined as a former underdog phenomenon that seems to be gaining a growing mass appeal. My thesis is that this growing appeal to male recipients stems from the socio-cultural tendency that masculine identity is individually experienced as being in crisis, even if there is indeed no objective evidence for the much quoted "crisis of masculinity". However, I think that it is in fact a necessity that masculinity, or perhaps rather patriarchy, is experienced as being in crisis; otherwise one could easily argue that feminist thoughts and movements striving for a destabilization of a patriarchy maintaining the power structure of a compulsory heterosexual matrix would have to be dismissed as having had no effect at all. This is certainly not the case: a destabilization and thus a renegotiation of formerly sedimented gender roles has in fact taken place, and experiences of insecurity about gendered identities that are perceived as a crisis are a necessary result of such negotiations that erode the very essence of what generations believed to be unquestionable truths. However, signs of such a crisis and the means of its compensation should be alarming, as the success of the working-class hero concept signifies a propensity for a deeply rooted frustration - which might easily turn into hostile aggression against the effeminate other - on the side of a still undoubtedly dominant male gender that clearly experiences itself as being under attack. Instead of denying the symptoms of such a crisis, a thorough analysis of its reasons should lead to a deeper understanding of anxieties on both sides; and thus hopefully to progress in the settlement of a still ongoing battle of the sexes that is arguably more than ever aggravated by media representations.


1 This phrase is used on the back cover of the current Penguin paperback edition. Analogously, a 1962 Centre 42 National Youth Theatre performance of Hamlet in Nottingham was billed as "Shakespeare's Jimmy Porter" (see Alan Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, Oxford: Blackwell, 1989, 265).

2 See Stuart Laing, Representations of Working-Class Life, 1957-1964 , London: Macmillan, 1986, 62.

3 Ibid., 87.

4 Kenneth Allsop, The Angry Decade: A Survey of the Cultural Revolt of the NineteenFifties, Wendover: Goodchild, 1985.

5 Angus Calder, The People's War: Britain, 1939-45, St Albans: Granada, 1969, 400.

6 See Laing, Representations of Working-Class Life, 5.

7 Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 307.

8 Ibid., 44-45.

9 Harry Hopkins, The New Look, London: Secker and Warburg, 1963, 143.

10 However, Britain still remained a debtor nation, especially to the United States. British economy, though booming, was still lagging behind other European and global competitors like France, West Germany, Italy and especially Japan (see The Age of Affluence, 1951-1964, eds Vernon Bogdanor and Robert Skidelsky, London: Macmillan, 1970, 57; see also Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 95, 105).

11 Quoted in Laing, Representations of Working-Class Life, 11.

12 Charles Curran, "The Passing of the Tribunes", Encounter, XXXIII (June 1956), 21.

13 Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 55-56.

14 See Calder, The People's War, 627. According to Sinfield, "The Robins Committee found in the early 1960s that there were more lower-class students only because the number of students had doubled: the proportion was the same as in 1939" (Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 235).

15 Elias distinguishes two phases of assimilation and repulsion between competing classes: "a phase of colonization or assimilation in which the lower and larger outsider class is still clearly inferior and governed by the example of the established upper group which, intentionally or unintentionally, permeates it with its own pattern of conduct, and a second phase of repulsion, differentiation or emancipation, in which the rising group gains perceptibly in social power and self-confidence, and in which the upper group is forced into increased restraint and isolation, and the contrasts and tensions in society are increased ... in the first phase, which is usually that in which people rise individually from the lower to the upper class, the tendency for the upper class to colonize the lower and for the lower to copy the upper is more pronounced. In the second phase, when the social power of the lower group is increasing while that of the upper group declines, the self-consciousness of both groups increases with their rivalry, with a tendency to emphasize differences and - as far as the upper class is concerned - to consolidate them. Contrasts between the classes increase, the walls grow higher" (Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Oxford: Blackwell, 1994, 507-508).

16 Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 234-35.

17 The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, eds Sonia Brownell Orwell and Ian Angus, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970, II, 97.

18 Evan Durbin, The Politics of Democratic Socialism, London: Routledge, 1940, 119. 19 John Westergaard and Henrietta Resler, Class in a Capitalist Society, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976, 76.

20 Curran, "The Passing of the Tribunes", 21.

21 Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 203; see also Lynne Segal, Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1990, 2.

22 See Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 206.

23 Segal, Slow Motion, 3-5.

24 See Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 205-206.

25 Ibid., 207.

26 Segal, Slow Motion, 21.

27 The play itself is ambiguous about Jimmy's class background, his father being a political activist and his mother having "pretty posh" relatives (see John Osborne, Look Back in Anger [1957], Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982, 30).

28 Ibid., 42.

29 Paul Foot, The Politics of Harold Wilson, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968, 327-29.

30 Osborne, Look Back in Anger, 84.

31 Susan Brook, "Engendering Rebellion: The Angry Young Man, Class and Masculinity", in Posting the Male: Masculinities in Post-war and Contemporary British Literature, eds Daniel Lea and Berthold Schoene, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003, 25.

32 See Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 66; Segal, Slow Motion, 13.

33 For a detailed elaboration of the necessity of a "constitutive other" for the formation of an individual or a social group identity, see Andreas Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt: Eine Theorie der Subjektkulturen von der bürgerlichen Moderne zur Postmoderne, Göttingen: Velbrück, 2006, 45-47; Dan Zahavi, Self-Awareness and Alterity: A Phenomenological Investigation, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999, 160-62.

34 See Sigmund Freud, "Mourning and Melancholia", in General Psychological Theory, ed. Philip Rieff, New York: Macmillan, 1976, 170-72.

35 Olivia Harris, quoted in Segal, Slow Motion, 9.

36 It is almost obvious that Jimmy's idealization of his father and the condemnation of his mother would not hold true when tested by additional perspectives, since the father's heroic deed could also be interpreted as a simple escape from domestic responsibilities.

37 Osborne, Look Back in Anger, 37-38.

38 Here the Freudian archetypal female fear of the snake as a representation of aggressive male sexuality undergoes an inversion.

39 However, Jimmy's yearning for motherly love (as expressed in the play by his utter dependency on women and his relationships with characters like lover-mother Madeline or foster-mother Tanner) shows that his hatred of his mother is counterbalanced by an oedipal love for his mother, strengthened by the identification with his father and suppressed by the Freudian incest taboo.

40 Sigmund Freud, "General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis: Twenty-First Lecture. Development of the Libido and Sexual Organisation", in The Major Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. William Benton, Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952, 584.

41 If we may believe Colonel Redfern's statement on the case, this rejection of Jimmy's is pursued particularly by the female head of the Redfern clan, the Colonel's wife; a fact that probably helped little to ease Jimmy's profound misogyny (cf. Osborne, Look Back in Anger, 65-67).

42 Brook, "Engendering Rebellion", 25.

43 For a detailed distinction between "hegemonic", "sub-hegemonic", "non-hegemonic" and "anti-hegemonic" modes of subject and identity formation, see Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt, 69-71.

44 The concept of a "subculture" is here understood as Alan Sinfield defines it: "A subculture is a group collaboration to build a common story and establish it against rivals. This process is always in the making, and its strategy is characteristically appropriate" (Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 153).

45 Brook, "Engendering Rebellion", 23-24.

46 Osborne, Look Back in Anger, 57; see also 43, 44.

47 Ibid., 57.

48 Ibid., 73-74.

49 Ibid., 84.

50 See Segal, Slow Motion, 14; Alice Ferrebe, Masculinity in Male-Authored Fiction 1950-2000: Keeping It up, Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, 17-18.

51 John Braine, Room at the Top (1957), London: Arrow Books, 2000, 16.

52 See ibid., 80-81, 105, 180.

53 See Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt, 282-84; see also Niklas Luhmann, Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik: Studien zur Wissenssoziologie der modernen Gesellschaft (1980), Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993, III, 232-33.

54 Or, to put it in Anthony Crosland's terms: "Americans believe in the 'office-boy to president' mythology" (Anthony Crosland, The Future of Socialism, London: Cape, 1956, 251-52 [emphasis in the original]; see also Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 253-54).

55 Sinfield, Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain, 191.

56 Braine, Room at the Top, 13.

57 Ibid., 123.

58 Ibid., 66-67.

59 In the course of the novel, this battle for positions is also reflected in the little social status game of who is allowed to pay a drink for whom (see ibid., 110, 113).

60 Ibid., 124.

61 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964, 127.

62 See Ferrebe, Masculinity in Male-Authored Fiction, 49-51.

63 See Elias, The Civilizing Process, 447-48.

64 Braine, Room at the Top, 219. According to Luhmann, the diagnosis of the split personality is in fact a common result of the career model and the compulsion to fulfill different roles in different social contexts, as Joe Lampton has to do (see Gesellschaftsstruktur und Semantik, 227).

65 See Braine, Room at the Top, 221-23.

66 See Ferrebe, Masculinity in Male-Authored Fiction, 14-15.

67 Ibid., 14-15.

68 Nigel Gray, The Silent Majority, London: Vision, 1973, 131.

69 See Ferrebe, Masculinity in Male-Authored Fiction, 166.

70 Casino Royale, dir. Martin Campbell, prod. Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, perf. Daniel Craig and Eva Green, DVD, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures, 2006 (0:55:31 - 0:59:40).

71 Ibid. (00:58:07 - 00:58:22).

72 See R.W. Connell, Der gemachte Mann: Konstruktion und Krise von Männlichkeit, 2nd edn, Opladen: Leske und Budrich, 2000, 55-57.

73 Ibid., 96, 216.

74 With Daniel Craig's angry young Bond the series thus also returns to its cinematic roots in the early 1960s, after a long intermediate period of Bond posing as gentleman-spy - embodied by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan in particular. Andrew Spicer's quote of producer Albert Brocoli's statement regarding the choice of Sean Connery as leading actor shows that the actor's working-class background and his raw physicality was deliberately chosen to attract not only a young audience in general, but also working-class viewers in particular: "Sean [Connery] had the balls for the part ... The whole point about having Sean in the role, with his strong physical mag- netism and the overtones of a truck driver, was that it thrilled the women, but, more important, young men in the audience could feel there was a guy up there like them." (Quoted in Andrew Spicer, Typical Men: The Representation of Masculinity in Popular British Cinema, London: I.B. Tauris, 2003, 75).

75 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 2nd edn, New York: Routledge, 1990, 45.

[Author Affiliation]

Sebastian Müller studied English Philology, German Philology and Philosophy at the University of Mannheim and the National University of Ireland in Galway. From February 2007 to August 2010, he was employed as an assistant lecturer at the chair for English Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Mannheim. In his current dissertation project, he analyzes the influence of the intellectual and socio-cultural developments of the post-war period on masculine selfrepresentations in post-war and contemporary British literature. He currently works as an Inside Sales Executive for an international software company near Heidelberg.

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