WaPo’s Richard Cohen: James Bond Is Killing My Mojo With Younger Ladies

The Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen went to see Skyfall this weekend, and seemed to have a strange epiphany: Daniel Craig is so sexy that young women don’t want to sleep with older “sophisticated” men anymore.

It sounds ridiculous, but Cohen’s op-ed does bleed that implication, and we’re far from being the only bright-eyed, bushy-tailed site to pick up on it. Feministe, Jezebel, and Gawker have all excoriated Cohen for his column. The only people sort of standing by Cohen (or at least trying to understand where he’s coming from) are found over at ThinkProgress. Birds of a feather, I guess.

Cohen, a 71-year-old syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, plays cultural analyst in his op-ed, suggesting that there’s a sort of “sexual meritocracy” in place these days whereby young women are attracted to older men only when they look like Daniel Craig’s James Bond, i.e., they look distinguished on top and Jersey Shore everywhere else.

“This Bond ripples with muscles. Craig is 44, but neither gravity nor age has done its evil work on him. Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed – a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth [… C]ontrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in North by Northwest. […] In North by Northwest and other movies, Grant – for all his good looks – represented the triumph of the sexual meritocracy – a sex appeal won by experience and savoir-faire, not delts and pecs and other such things that any kid can have.”

Cohen yearns for the film heroes of old, like the above mentioned Cary Grant, and defends his own preferred James Bond:

“That’s why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film, Never Say Never Again. Women loved him because he was sophisticated and he could handle a maitre d’ as well as a commie assassin.”

Sean Connery’s Bond, who has been criticized as a misogynistic hedonist. Not my perspective, but kind of fits with where Cohen is going.

He wishes our culture valued older men for their sophistication, intelligence, and strength of character instead of their muscles. It’s a good point, but he’s taking about romantically (sexually) valuing men, not simply valuing men on the merits he himself admires.

“Maybe the best example of the unmuscled hero is Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Bogart was 15 years older than Ingrid Bergman and it did not matter at all. He had the experience, the confidence, the internal strength that can only come with age.”

And …

“Cooper in High Noon wins Grace Kelly by strength of character, not muscles. He was about 50, and Kelly was a mere 23.”

You can kind of see the pattern here. Whether he intended it or not, this kind of reads “I wish younger women wanted to sleep with older men who would rather read a book than hit the gym,” and Cohen’s well-documented harassment of female co-workers doesn’t help his cause.

We’re not ThinkProgress, or we’d try to manufacture a high-brow rhetorical defense bereft of nothing and milk it for all the pseudo-sociology we could to prove we’re super smart and liberal and awesome. We’re also not Gawker, Jezebel, or Feministe. We’re not going to make fun of Mr. Cohen for his simple attempt to honestly discuss how he feels about Daniel Craig’s James Bond. Instead, we just have one simple question for Mr. Cohen:

Why couldn’t you just enjoy the damn movie?