I s James Bond a sociopath?

This is somewhat inspired by this thread about Daniel Craig’s casting as the new James Bond where some people were commenting on the fact that the character exhibits some traits which could arguably match the clinical characteristics of a sociopath. Here are the ten clinical characteristics of a sociopath as itemized in this link:

I think that the Bond character exhibits at least eight of these characteristics, excluding (perhaps) only 1 and 3.

His lack of remorse when he kills would be the chief among them. I know that the people he kills are all “evil” within the context of the stories but he is still extremely glib about killing them, never has a twinge of conscience and at least some of them have been women he’s had sex with.

He also has some of the other classic traits, like superficial charm, thrill seeking, vanity and perhaps narcissism.

In the real world, would a personality like Bond’s be regarded as clinically sociopathic? Even though he ostensibly does what he does in the name of his country or saving the word, is that what he really cares about or is it just about the lifestyle and the thrills. Would a normal, healthy person be able to kill as many people as Bond has without ever having any emotional baggage at all? Even combat veterans or police officers who have had to take lives for utterly justifiable and moral reasons still have problems dealing with it. Would a real world personality just about have to be a sociopath to function as a “double-o” agent?

I think this nails it. Sharing, well-rounded nurturers are not typically up to the task of stopping fiendish threats to the Western world.

Bond is a literary archetype on the order of Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes. Some gaping loss in his past (In Bond’s case, it was the death of his parents when he was young) liberated him from the expectations of polite society. The personality defects cited are what allow him to perform the acts of derring-do. His sociopathic tendancies would be even more jarring if he could garrotte a stranger before running home to the wife, kids and neighborhood association.

Let’s see -

not learning from experience - I don’t see that.

no sense of responsibility - Not true. He feels an enormous sense of responsibility to complete his mission.

inability to form meaningful relationships - With women, maybe, although he does seem to truly care for at least one woman in every film, and it’s not as if his career allows a stable family life. Beyond tat, there’s n indication he doesn’t have any male friends.

inability to control impulses - Absolutely wrong: he’s always in control. He may be violent at times, but it’s because he chooses to be violent, not because he can’t help himself.

*lack of moral sense * - I’ve never known him to purposely kill innocents. He does believe that the rules don’t apply to him, but tht’s not really a matter of morality.

chronically antisocial behavior * - No more than what his job demands. On a personal level, he’s quite amicable.
no change in behavior after punishment * - When was he ever punished?
emotional immaturity
- Again, with women, maybe. But not in other aspects of life: I mean, he doesn’t throw a hissy fit when M berates him, and he never sulks or broods.

*lack of guilt * - We don’t know that. Mybe his lifestyle - and his drinking - is a form of repression.
self-centerednes * - He has a massive ego, yes, although I’d call that a prerequisite for doing what he does (to save the world on a regular basis you need as much self-confidence as you can get). But he works OK with others, and he’s been known to be prepared to sacrifice his life for his mission.

The thing about Bond is that he’s a professional; in fact, he takes professionalism to such a level that it could almost be defined as a pathology. But despite this and a myriad of other personality problems he probably has, I wouldn’t call him a sociopath.

I vote “no” on sociopath.

For one thing, no showing remorse when he kills people—first off, most of the guys he kills are lowlife thugs, terrorists, and/or supervillains trying to take over or destroy the world. Literally. Maybe I’m just a calculating, amoral monster, but these aren’t exactly the kinds of people I’d get real choked up about. (Or at the very least, I imagine depersonalizing them wouldn’t be too hard.)

Second—most of the time we see him in action, almost by definition, he’s “on the job.” We could call most of the cast of Band of Brothers a bunch of remorseless psychopaths, from all of what we see of them. The camera might not lie, but it’s not telling the whole truth, whatever it is.

Like Alessan says, about Bond’s ego—does he do what he does because he’s driven by delusions of self-importance…or does he have a massive ego as a byproduct of being 007? It might even be considered unhealthy not to have an elevated sense of self worth if you’ve accomplished what he has.

Lastly…Bond is capable of empathy, even love. We’ve seen him weep over at least one death, and put his career on the line for the sake of avenging another. That is not a psychopath. He may be cold, but as he’s said himself…that’s what keeps him alive.

I vote No.

not learning from experience~~Wrong. If he couldn’t learn, he’d have died years ago.
no sense of responsibility–Poppycock. He’d have dumped every mission as soon as it got too risky, if this was true.
inability to form meaningful relationships–Bond mentions, in novels & films, that he likes a number of other 00 Agents. In one film/novel, Bond marries! Her name is Teresa di Vicenzo (Tracy), & she is later murdered by Blofeld’s command. Bond avenges her, & later visits her grave. He also has a friendship with May, his Scots housekeeper. He is also friends with a CIA operative named Felix Leiter.
inability to control impulses–discussed above
lack of moral sense–shakey, but present.
chronically antisocial behavior–untrue, discussed above.
no change in behavior after punishment–untrue-accepts discipline from superiors.
emotional immaturity–untrue, discussed above.
lack of guilt–He has no guilt about what he deems necessary. Otherwise, unknown.
self-centerednes–certainly. But not to the exclusion of his sense of duty, which is Bond’s hallmark.

BTW–I like Bond’s taste in books. <inside joke>

Bond was commander in the RN in WWII, and was partially based on Ian Fleming’s experiences in Navel Intelligence during that war. Flemming planned some operations, but I don’t know if he participated in their executions. I suspect that James Bond had to be ruthless during the war; spies were summarily executed. Kill, or get caught and be killed. After the war there was the Communist threat. I’m old enough to remember the last half of the Cold War, and people held real fears of Communist domination and nuclear war. It seems to me that dedicated agents, at least in fiction, would ‘just be doing their jobs’. Unlike the villains in the books and films, Bond didn’t kill people for fun or profit. He did it to protect the interests of the Free World. When Bond killed the would-be assassin in Dr. No (‘You’ve had your six.’) I don’t think it was out of malice. I think it was because A) he couldn’t take him prisoner without delaying his mission, B) he couldn’t let the guy live to have another go at him later or to alert the other Bad Guys (i.e., pre-emptive self defense), and C) it was just part of the game; spied are shot.

What about CIA agent Felix Leiter? He was best man at his weding in Licence to Kill.

Alessan nailed it. Well said.

And, as I said:

So Alessan got it wrong.

How does that contradict anything I wrote?

I just finished Ian Fleming’s “Casino Royale,” and am currently reading “To Live and Let Die,” and the most striking thing about the books is how wrong the movies are getting it. The Bond of the movies may well be a sociopath; he’s basically a cartoon figure. The Bond of the novels is not a sociopath. He is an extremely disciplined individual; he controls all his feelings, but he certainly feels them. Towards the end of “Casino Royale” he has a massive crisis of conscious; that alone proves he is not a sociopath.

In both book and movie, Bond has feelings of guilt and loss when Goldfinger kills wossername (the girl painted in gold) and her sister. In the book, he has killed a Mexican thug, and he has feelings of regret within himself, something like, “A few minutes ago, this was a living human being and now it’s just a hunk of meat.”

He doesn’t kill for pleasure. In the book FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the would-be assassin is a psychopath, who kills for sexual pleasure. That’s not Bond.

The only factor that might apply is “inability to form meaningful relationships” and that’s really a mis-statement. He has a meaningful relationship with a woman in every adventure, and he has professional relationships (with Felix Leiter, say.) He doesn’t form long-lasting relationships with females, but that’s partly his profession. He can’t take a long-term view of anything, when he could be dead tomorrow.

And he doesn’t lack moral sense. He has a very strong moral sense: it may not be the same moral code that you or I have, but it’s there. He is (within the fiction) lawfully entitled to kill on account of his 00-number. In the books, that means “outside of the UK” and that the British govt will get him out of any local trouble if he’s caught. He doesn’t kill at random or from whim, he kills when necessary for his job/mission. Analogy: If a police officer has to speed to catch someone who ran a red light, you wouldn’t say that the police officer has violated laws or has no moral sense.

Quite true. There are a couple of film portrayals (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Living Daylights) where Bond displays regret, remorse (to a limited extent), and the ability to form somewhat normal relationships.

In most of the films, however, he’s not only a ruthless executioner–complete with cute quips after dispatching a henchman–but he seems to have no compassion or empathy with anyone else. This is particularly true in the Roger Moore-era films, where Bond seemed to be almost laughing at peril. Disarm a nuclear bomb? No problem! Send a henchman off the top of a building after you’re done questioning him? Sure! Blow a villian into space after shooting him with a cyanide-tipped dart? What, me worry?

The singular exception, if barely, for Moore was For Your Eyes Only; although he’s “on mission” and eliminates opponents with efficiency, he doesn’t stop to make snappy riparte after dispatching some hapless lieutenent. He doesn’t avail himself of the readily available but way-too-young skater, and he shows remorse when both a collegue and a lover are murdered. Even his most ruthless act–kicking the car of an assassin off the side of a cliff–is done with a joyless demeanor rather than the sort of gloating victory he usually displayed.

Connery played a complete (if very charming) sociopath, and Goldfinger, the archtype for all Bond movies to come, illustrates this handily. Bond uses one woman as a human shield (admittedly, she set him up), gets Both of the Masterson sisters killed by his irresponsible actions, essentially rapes Pussy Galore into abandoning her (implied in the movie) lesbianism, and horror of horrors, cheats at golf. At no time does he show any sense of responsibility or regret (save perhaps for running over to Tully Masterson after she’s killed, but I suspect his concern was borne of regret for not having bagged her before her death.)

Dalton’s portrayal is actually more in line with the literary Bond, in that he played an efficient, emotionless executioner, but at the same time clearly had a dark, twisted view of the world and his job. “Make your report. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it,” after a collegue criticizes him for not shooting a female “assassin”. He uses Koskov’s girlfriend to get to the Koskov (parallelling Joseph Cotton in The Third Man) but feels a sense of responsiblity for her. He’s a disturbed individual, to be certain, but not quite sociopathic.

The literary Bond is a seriously messed up individual; he has no family or stable social life, he apparently spends his non-working time boozing and gambling, and seems to be pretty bent over the death of his wife. He’s often regretful and doubtful about his job. So, not really what you’d think of as a sociopath, though definitely in need of some serious help.

The Brosnan Bond is so far into characture (even more than Moore) that it’s hard to even conceive of him as having any pathology. He’s a cartoon of a spy.


There’s a big diff between the movie Bond and the book Bond. In the book, in fact, Goldfinger is the one who’s cheating… Bond just sort of plays him. There’s a similar scene with a bridge game in MOONRAKER, where Bond out-cheats the person who had been cheating.

Please to note, there’s a diff between a sociopath and a trickster. Bond doesn’t cheat just anyone, he cheats the cheaters; he doesn’t kill just anyone, he kills the killers. He has a moral code, and a fairly strict one. As I said before, it’s not your moral code nor mine, but it’s there, and it’s tied up with professionalism. That may make an unpleasant person (he’s not someone I’d want as a friend) but it doesn’t make a sociopath.

“Did you ever kill anyone?”

“Yes, but they were all bad.”

From “True Lies”. Sums it up pretty good.

Um, maybe because they don’t? He has a license to kill, after all. That pretty much puts him outside of the normal judicial process. He is judge, jury, and executioner.

But at least he’s honest:
Samir: Is there anything you’d like to tell me before we start?
Harry: Yeah: I’m going to kill you pretty soon. (beat) First I’m gonna use you as a human shield, then I gonna kill this guard over there, with the Patterson trocar on the table. Then I was thinking about breaking your neck.
Samir: And how are you going to do all that?
Harry: You know my handcuffs?
Samir: Hmm…
Harry: [hold his hands up] I picked them.
(Proceeds to use Samir as a human shield, then throws the trocar into the guard’s eye, then breaks Samir’s neck.)
True Lies was a brilliant parody of Bond, from the opening homage to Goldfinger to the whole “Bond as a happily married guy to a totally oblivious and unsatisfied Jamie Lee Curtis.” The chase through the hotel was deliciously over the top (and ending with the horse electing not to make the expected suicidal jump), and the whole “tricking the wife into thinking she’s a spy” bit showed Harry as being every bit as detached from his family as he was.

“Fear is not an option.”