Sunday, 24 May 2015

How James Bond is a gift to newspaper headline writers

Last week, a story about weight loss appeared in the local and national press. A man from Bicester in Oxfordshire had lost 24 stones (336 lb, 152kg) in just over a year following weight loss surgery and a strict diet. A remarkable achievement for the individual concerned and of public interest, certainly, but one might wonder why the story hit the national headlines. The reason was the man's name – James Bond. And naturally the newspapers made much of it.

Headline from the Daily Star
The Bicester Advertiser, which is where the story originated, ran with the headline “It’s 00-Heaven for Mr Bond as he sheds 24 stone in 12 months.” The feature also appeared in the Oxford Mail and other papers in the same newspaper group, and was picked up by national tabloids, which raided Bond film titles for punning headlines.

The Daily Mail looked to The Spy Who Loved Me for its headline: “The pie who loved me! Man called James Bond loses 24 stone after getting so fat on junk food he was told he had just days to live.” Within the article itself there was an allusion to the fictional Bond's role as a life-saver: “A man has very lived up to his name – James Bond – after saving his own life by shedding nearly half his body weight.

The Daily Mirror had a more recent film in mind when it settled on “Piefall: Man called James Bond in 00-heaven after shedding 24 stone in less than a year.” The article similarly included a reference to the qualities of the fictional James Bond. “When your name's James Bond, people expect you to be a hero. And one man who shares 007's moniker is doing it justice after he saved his own life by shedding a staggering 24 stone - almost half his bodyweight.”

The Daily Star made use of another film title. “Live and Let Diet. James Bond loses 24 stone in a year.” The article continued, “Super-slimmer James Bond is in 00-heaven after shedding 24 stone to save his life.”

The story of dramatic weight loss is undoubtedly of public interest and this story may well have reached the pages of the national newspapers whatever the man's name. However, that newspapers turned to Bond-related memes – film titles, Bond-derived phrases ('00-heaven', 'Mr Bond') and the qualities of the fictional character – to generate interest and keep people reading suggests that the story would not have had so much prominence had the man concerned not been called James Bond.

This is, of course, an indication of the enormous cultural significance that Ian Fleming's creation continues to have. The headlines, too, demonstrate the adaptability of Bond novel and film titles, which are a gift to headline writers and help keep James Bond – both old and new in terms of the films – in the public eye.

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