I would like to thank Maddy for asking me to take part in her 007 blogathon. James Bond is a cinematic hero of mine so this seemed like a no brainer. The movies are one of my favourites franchises that cinema has to offer. My topic of discussion is going to be about how much the Bond girls have changed over the decades that they’ve graced our screens and the strength they have gained in popular context. A quick note, I won’t be referencing every Bond girl as the post would go on forever if I did.
The ladies of the Bond franchise have come a long way since 1962 when Dr. No, yet the beauty and style of them is still intact. I think everyone remembers Honey Ryder emerging from the sea in that white bikini, signalling sexiness from every angle and announcing something sensual for the 60’s. Yet some people forget that Honey Ryder, while a bit naive, was not just a bit of eye candy. Sure in today’s context, she seems pretty helpless at times but she wasn’t a bimbo either. Which brings onto the point that the Bond Girls aren’t always just there for looks, even in the early days. Now I know some may think I’m trying to be controversial here, but I’m really not. I will admit there is definite sexism in many of the early films, which extends to brutal treatment and demeaning attitudes from villains and even on occasion Bond. There are a good few Bond girls who are either mistreated victims or eye candy in these early films;
- Tatiana in From Russia With Love is easily manipulated by SPECTRE to lure Bond out into a conspiracy.
- Domino in Thunderball is kept as a virtual prisoner to the main villain and brutalised by him.
- And various women are brainwashed and used in a nefarious scheme in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The treatment of women makes you cringe today as things have changed quite a bit. And though I love the Bond movies, certain parts are pretty shocking and uncomfortable today’s standards.
But these are counteracted by strong and capable women, who know their worth and are not just defined by their looks. In essence, the Bond girls of the 60’s represent the contrasting changes in society. In the decade you had the pill being supplied allowing women to take control, the mini skirt freed them from the constraints of restrictive clothing and the Women’s Liberation Movement was in full swing. But the times of change still had people clinging to the values of old, particularly when it came to gender roles. Some of the stronger women of the 60’s in Bond are Pussy Galore from Goldfinger, a pilot who largely resists Bond and can kick ass when needed, as well as verbally duel. She’s in charge of herself and not a pushover in any way, a certifiable match for Bond. To be honest,you aren’t certain whose side she’s on for a lot of the time. Fiona Volpe is a seductive and villainous Bond Girl, who uses her attractive looks to lure men into a trap. Unlike other women who melt in Bond’s arms, she doesn’t and wickedly tells him that she isn’t going to become an angel for him. A trend of villainous Bond Girls who ensnared Bond would follow, with excellent results. Now I must mention one of the finest ladies in the series .Tracy is one of the more intriguing Bond ladies and all the better for it. She’s impulsive, combative yet also sensitive. She embodies a lot of things and is still one of the most commanding of the Bond women. Tracy did capture Bond’s heart quite differently from other woman and her influence on the series itself can’t be underestimated. She showed that Bond could be vulnerable when it came to women and was not always just a playboy. This trope would be employed in later movies to show that Bond had a chivalrous side.
On to the 70’s, where the amount of capable and strong ladies emerged slowly. Some of the damsel in distress parts where still there and the decade wasn’t the finest, but it still had some memorable women. You can forget about Tiffany Case and Mary Goodnight who were just eye candy, and focus on the alternative women of substance. The strongest lady of the decade is Anya from The Spy Who Loved Me. A Soviet agent and one of the top in her agency, Anya is an emotionally and physically strong woman, with an agenda of her own. She may collaborate with Bond, but at the same time even kill him. This sets up an interesting dynamic between the two as she isn’t going to be won over quite as easily as other woman have been. Add to this that she is basically at the same level as Bond, and Anya is a marvellous addition to the series of independent women. Holly Goodhead in Moonraker is a capable leading lady, who is already on a similar mission to Bond and has infiltrated first. In comparison with other decades, the 70’s girls are somewhat lacking, save for the ones praised above, but the impact of the interesting additions still could be found. It would be in the 80’s when it really got going for more promising and purposeful ladies were present.
The 80’s ups things and continues to feature a lot more ladies of depth, substance and strength. It was a clear reflection of cinema, that had started to feature more female heroines who could fight and handle themselves, just as well as a man. In For Your Eyes Only, Melina Havelock is not at all interested in romance with Bond. Her mission is vengeance and for the most, she wishes to work alone. Her intensity and rage can’t be contained, witnessed by her killing with a deadly crossbow. Her mission is her own and she only comes across Bond due to a connection with the Secret Service, but her personal vendetta is what really drives her in the story. The eponymous Octopussy is a very independent and shrewd businesswoman, who leads a diamond smuggling operation. Living in luxury through her hard work, she is surrounded by a large posse of women. Her living space is an island populated solely by women, enhancing her reputation as a tough and strong woman. Her interest in Bond is one of kinship as he helped her father years before. She even attempts to sway Bond to joining her business, a bold move and one that does sound tempting. Later on when fighting back against a fiendish plot, she leads a loyal group of athletic women, who display gymnastic and martial art skill when taking down the enemy. The villainous Bond Girl appears once more in A View to a Kill. This time it takes the intimidating form of May Day, a dangerously unstable and shockingly brutish woman. A powerhouse of physical strength and violent impulse, she tangles with Bond in almost every sense. She’s the kind of Bond Girl who will kiss you reluctantly and kill you, probably at the same time.
The 90’s and up until now are possibly the best representations of the Bond Girls evolution into equal to the man himself. They still had the good looks and sex appeal, but they had character and something else than just being love interest to 007. Starting with GoldenEye, where you had two very assertive ladies on either side of the law. In the heroic side, there was brainy Natalya, who was just an everyday woman thrown into a deadly string of events, but with gathering gumption and quick learning, became a formidable Bond Girl. On the side of bad there was the sadistic Xenia Onatopp, whose killer appetite for crushing victims between her thighs during sex really put the fatale in femme fatale. Both of these women are capable and contribute greatly to the changing face of the Bond universe. While on different sides of morality, the strength of both shines through. Natalya for her smarts and ability to adapt to danger and villainous Xenia for how she uses her sexuality to get the thrill, putting Bond out-of-place in more ways than one. Even the new incarnation of the ever loyal secretary Moneypenny experienced a makeover. Now rather than pining profusely over Bond, she easily matched wits with him and cut tie him in knots with her charm. And later on when she is reintroduced once more and we learn she was a field agent herself, this adds yet another layer to the character. One of the most kick ass of all the women appeared in Tomorrow Never Dies. Wai Lin worked for Chinese Intelligence and crossed paths with Bond, but being a lone wolf herself kept him at a distance. She was an expert karate student, showcased when she takes down a gang of goons with a graceful and supple ease. She could fend for herself and for the most part was not romantically entangled with Bond, though some sparks where there. Her main concern was the mission at hand.
Probably one of my favourites and one of the most fleshed out Bond Girls is Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Vesper is one of the most complex of the Bond girls, mainly because she represents and covers so many things. She’s confident yet terrified, loving yet forced to be deceitful and all around mysterious. Vesper makes her mark on Bond, and the viewer alike with just how different and noticeably rounded she is. Vesper is a fine example of how far the Bond Girl concept has come; while beautiful and charismatic, it’s her depth and conflicting emotions that truly make the impression.
And while not strictly a Bond Girl, the reintroduction of superior M as a woman heralded a big change in the franchise. It actually tied in with the fact that the real life head of MI6 was also a woman, supplying more social change for women in powerful positions. Now Bond was answering to a woman, who could cut him down to size with just a withering glare or put down. This allowed audiences to see that women where really changing for the better in the franchise and cut really put 007 in his place when needed. And in Skyfall, she was the main female focus in the story, even more so than the usual Bond Girls. Her arc is explored in a maternal way with Bond, who looks up to her and while not always listen, takes into account what this powerful woman says.
And so concludes my post on the changing faces of the Bond Girls. I hope you liked what I had to say about the evolution of the women and how they are a great addition to the franchise.