I did my college thesis a few years ago on the topic of famous heroes in cinema and how audiences perceive them despite their fundamental flaws. One of the most interesting aspects was judging characters using the HARE Pyschopathy Exam and for better or for worse, Bond was the one who brought the most discussion to the tables at panels.
Here's what I came up with when I passed Bond through the test a few years ago - and I have updated it to include Skyfall and Spectre, respectively.
I used to get my classmates to take the test too, so if any forum members would like to find out where they're a menace to society, feel free to take the test using the criteria below!
Judging Bond's psychopathic nature using the Hare Psychopathy Test
The test calculates its results as follows:
There are twenty aspects used to judge the psychopathic nature of a subject. There are three different scores optionable to each aspect. If an aspect does not apply at all to a subject, he/she scores 0. If it partially applies, he/she scores a 1. If it fully applies, he/she scores a 2. If a subject scores 30 or over, he/she is considered to have a large number of psychopathic traits.
glib and superficial charm
There is absolutely no question that the Bond we see in both the novels and the films displays a rather disturbing level of glib and superficial charm in order to achieve certain goals and pleasures. While it is often an asset he utilises during the course of his work, he also uses it to indulge in these pleasures in his own time, making him liable to receive a full score of 2.
In Fleming's novels, Bond experiences moments of self loathing and doubt frequently, however, the Bond of the film series almost totally sees himself as superior to those around him, including his bosses. In GoldenEye, Bond values his worth over that of his new boss, M. She claims that Bond thinks that she's “an accountant” and “more interested in her numbers than his instincts”, a claim that Bond does not deny. In Casino Royale, Bond breaks into M's flat, merely to show her how clever he is. That said, considering that Bond is actually quite good at most of the things he does (that's why he does the job he does), it could be said that he's not grandiose, merely self aware. He scores a 1 in this category.
need for stimulation
The James Bond of the films is constantly engaging in stimulating acts, either through violence or sexual means. In Die Another Day, MI6 double agent Miranda Frost summarises Bond as “A double-O, and a wild one at that. Kill first, ask questions later. He'll light the fuse on any explosive situation and be a danger to himself and others – his primary method is to provoke and confront. A womaniser.” As such, in this area Bond earns himself a 2.
There are multiple examples of James Bond lying to achieve certain career goals. In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond kills, steals the identity of and then poses as diamond smuggler Peter Franks for a good portion of the movie in order to find his way to the top of a smuggling ring, fooling a number of people along the way. While it can be said that Bond is only a pathological liar only due to his career choice, it is the fact that he is so good at it that simultaneously proves it is part of his personality, as he would have had to have been good at it in the first place in order to make effective usage of it in his work, and thus earns him a score of 2.
cunning and manipulating
Bond is extremely effective at using those around him to get what he wants. In Skyfall, Bond emotionally and then sexually manipulates sex slave Severinè with the hope that she will lead him to the lair of her employer and villain, Silva. In return for this, Bond promises to kill Silva, thus setting Severinè free. However, Bond is captured. He eventually escapes and manages to apprehend Silva, but not before Severinè is executed by the villain in a sadistic game of target practice. It is examples like this that make Bond score a 2 in this category.
lack of remorse
This is arguably the toughest category to rank, as Bond's level of remorse varies slightly throughout the series depending on the actor who plays him. The Bond's of the Dalton and Brosnan eras displayed flickers of regret at the death of those around them - in GoldenEye, Brosnan's Bond expresses remorse over allowing his friend 006 to be killed by Russian troops in the films' teaser. However the Bond of the Daniel Craig era is by far the most emotionally conflicted Bond put to screen. Using the Severinè example above, Craig's Bond utters a sneaky one liner just after her death to distract Silva's guards in order to capture him. When he does so successfully (to the blaring brassy notes of the Bond theme, no less) Severinè's name isn't even mentioned again, despite her tragic end. In Casino Royale, Craig's Bond also shows almost zero remorse when its revealed that Solange, the woman he seduced the previous night for little reason other than she was the villain's wife, was tortured and murdered. hen taken into account with the amount of people Bond kills during an average 2 hour adventure with little or no remorse, it's fairly easy to say that Bond comfortably qualifies with a strong score of 2.
callousness or lack of empathy
Bond's tough attitude towards the plight and sometimes the death of others can be summarised or at least partially explained in GoldenEye. Following on from the revelations that his friend Alec Trevelyan, aka 006, is actually the villain of the picture, Bond resorts to finding him and stopping his scheme, and killing him in the process. Whilst in Cuba, Bond is verbally attacked by the 'Bond girl', Natalya Simonova, who berates him over his cold attitude towards killing in order to “be a hero”. Bond responds by saying that “it's what keeps him alive.” In his world, where everyone is a mudering lunatic bent on world domination, Bond maintains that he must remain cold in order to stay alive and get the job done. However, there are other angles in play here too. In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond tells assassin Francisco Scaramanga that when he kills, “it's on specific orders of his government”, adding that those he kills “are themselves killers.” Supporting this notion, there is the example in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, where Bond cried on the side of the road cradling the dead body of his wife, shot dead by his nemesis Blofeld – highlighting that he is definitely moved by death, just not very often. This, while taking into consideration Bond's score for lack of remorse, makes him liable to score a 1 here.
poor behavioral controls
I feel this definitely applies to Bond on the whole. While his job naturally requires him to do outrageous and also unsavoury things, there is a sense occasionally that Bond uses it as an excuse to act in a poor manner just because he's able to. Bedding the bad guy's wife because he can and then shooting an unarmed man in Casino Royale spring to mind when we think of Bond being bad for the sake of it, so he definitely scores a 2, here.
Again, the case could be made that it's his job that requires him to act in such an impulsive manner, but it also seems to be in his nature. In Quantum of Solace, Bond kills asset Slate and then assumes his identity against the wishes of M, following gut instinct as opposed to carrying out his orders – his emotional state following the death of Vesper in Casino Royale may have had an impact on Bond's decision, but nevertheless he was undeniably impulsive. 2
There is definitely an irresponsible aspect to Bond's personality, given the amount of carnage he causes and the amount of gadgets he destroys carelessly (a fact that causes him to be constantly berated by his armourer, Q), but even with this in mind, would someone so irresponsible be willingly let loose by the government to deal with matters of government security? I'm not so sure they would, so while Bond definitely has a certain childishness that he exhibits, he's on the whole mainly professional, so I'd give him a 1 for his irresponsiblity.
There are definitely elements of denial in Bond's persona, even if they are as basic as ones regular people exhibit themselves. In Skyfall, for example, Bond returns to his childhood home in Scotland (a place which visibly moves him emotionally) where he eventually faces the villain and ends up blowing his house up in the process. Instead of allowing his emotions to get to him, Bond quips that he “always hated this place.” However, his denial never seems to become too obvious throughout the series, but more so in the books. 1
Bond enjoys his lifestyle of cars, exotic locations and clothes thanks to the money from the British government. I doubt his wages would cover the excesses he lives his life to, so it would be fairly sure to say that he lives a parasitic lifestyle. 2
This is fairly obvious – in fact if he could score a three, I'd probably give him that. Bond beds numerous women on each mission, with the highest number being four women during Roger Moore's A View To A Kill in 1985. Over the course of 24 films, Bond has had confirmed sexual encounters with 57 women (with 75 implied sexual encounters on top of that). 2
early behavior problems
The Bond films, with the exception of Skyfall, make little effort to delve into Bond's childhood or even his time before becoming a government agent. However, Fleming's books and then Charlie Higson's Young Bond novels (counted as canon because of their official commission by the Fleming estate) explain that Bond was prone to rebelliousness and was expelled from Eton for numerous altercations and a certain mishap involving a school maid – events that happened in the aftermath of the death of his parents. 2
lack of realistic long-term goals
Bond has very few long-term goals based on the evidence provided in the films and books. His career choice doesn't allow him to make many plans as he essentially faces death at every turn. After M questions her decision to promote Bond to double-O status in Casino Royale, he responds by stating that he “understands that double-O's have a very short life expectancy”, so that “her mistake will be short lived.” 2
failure to accept responsibility for own actions
As mentioned previously, despite occasionally drifting in and out of spurts of juvenile behavior, Bond is ultimately professional. This also applies to him accepting responsibility for when he fails at certain things. Bond offers his resignation in the You Only Live Twice novel following his descent into alcohol and his failure to show up to work, while his screen counterpart has stepped up and taken the brunt of his superiors on a couple of occasions, most often during Timothy Dalton's reign as Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence To Kill. So while Bond definitely does have the capacity to treat his work lightly, when push comes to shove, he also takes his actions very seriously. 0.
many short-term marital relationships
While Bond engages in many short lived casual relationships, he was only married once. Even then, Bond wasn't the reason the marriage was so brief. However, Bond's unwillingness to commit to any form of long term relationship shows him to be worthy of a 2 here, especially considering the number of sexual partners he's had.
While not partaking in anything criminal, Bond was certainly rebellious in his young age, causing him to be expelled from school and forced to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Scotland. 1
revocation of conditional release
This doesn't apply to Bond very much, despite the few examples where he's gone rogue. In Licence To Kill, Bond is sacked from MI6 and goes on a vendetta in pursuit of the villain who maimed his friend, Felix Leiter. In Die Another Day, Bond defies his orders from M to undergo treatment for as long as she deems necessary after his spell as a prisoner in North Korea, opting instead to escape custody and track the villain. In Quantum of Solace, Bond goes rogue again in order to track members of the Quantum organisation, also against M's orders and causing her to revoke his licence to kill. So while on the whole Bond doesn't really fit the mold for this category, he has on a couple of occasions taken steps towards it. 1
While some could certainly make the case that Bond uses his job to express a criminal lust, resulting in actions that are contra law, it remains a fact that the actions he takes are legal and often necessary. For instance, there's nothing about Bond that would make you think he wouldn't return a lost wallet as opposed to keeping it for himself. 0
James Bond, government agent and cultural icon to the UK as well as millions of fans the world over, scores a very interesting 30 out of 40 on the HARE psychopathy checklist revised, making him a figure with definite tendencies towards what we would consider to be a psychopath (or one could view him as a very interesting dinner guest).
How do you think you would do?