I’m the kind of person who dresses up before watching midnight premieres.
Example: I disproved the theory that women are not funny by dressing up as the Sith Lord to a Harry Potter film premiere (joke is on you society, I had the first – and only – laugh). This past Thursday, while waiting for my traditional movie fare of buttery popcorn and Milk Duds, I looked around to see whether anyone had dressed for the premiere of “Skyfall.”
What I saw was an onslaught of crisp suits that would send Barney Stinson straight to heaven. What I didn’t see was a single girl dressed up as any recognizable female Bond character. There was no Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen, “GoldenEye”) sporting skin-tight lycra uniforms or Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress, “Dr. No”) wearing her iconic white bikinis. Perhaps the women of the theatre simply didn’t know who to emulate. And I shared in their frustrations, because there is no Bond girl to identify as without looking like you’re a week late for college-girl-styled-Halloween (i.e. no clothing and an identifying hat of some kind).
If you take a look at the cinematic Bond girls, they begin to blend together. All of them cut enviably svelte figures on the screen, swap sexual innuendos with Bond and sometimes share ridiculously offensive names like Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead or Plenty O’Toole. But that’s the screen. What many no longer care to examine are the female characters as they were originally conceived by Ian Fleming shortly after World War II.
Like the films, novel Bond girls are ubiquitous icons of glamour and sophistication. They can be anything: an ally to Bond, his enemy or simply eye candy. But unlike the films, the novels portray a darker interior to the outwardly bright Bond girl. With character development taking a backseat to special effects, the shadowy pasts of Bond’s beaus are reduced to cinematic accessories. Many of the Fleming’s bond girls were victims of a sexual assault or rape which led to their hatred against men or provided a catalyst to their independent and self-sufficient natures. Tiffany Case, from the novel Diamonds Are Forever, hated men because she was gang raped in her 20s. Honey Ryder, known now for her slinky swimsuit, took the law into her own hands and avenged her rape by killing her attacker.
The newer Bond film installations have begun to take a hint from its novel predecessors by introducing female characters who transcend sex symbols and become … human. Along with Halle Berry’s performance as Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson (“Die Another Day”) – coincidentally the first black Bond girl to play the heroine – Eva Green’s portrayal of Vesper Lynd (“Casino Royale”) also represented the next stage of Bond women: sexy and smart, but also accessible and flawed.
Behind the movie scenes, credit for promoting a stronger female character goes to producer Barbara Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli who turned the James Bond film into a franchise. In a recent interview with Slash Film, Broccoli says, “I think it just makes the stories richer when you have interesting female characters. I tend to find movies without women in them quite dull, personally.”
Although I’m inherently biased to Broccoli’s comment, I do think the more recent Bond films have created a space for expansion in both the presence for stronger female characters and the departure from the Bond girl as only an ornament of beauty.
Maybe in the future we’ll see a Bond film that not only promotes gender equality, but also portrays relationships beyond a heteronormative world.
My last contention with the Bond films is the car. Like the iconic but outdated Bond girls of yore, the 1963 Aston Martin DB5 is an impractical beaut.
If the new Bond girls have killer aim with a gun and an equally impressive IQ, then surely Bond can drive a 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish. Otherwise, the world better not be in dire need of rescuing.
– By Roshani Chokshi