Julien Neaves – Editor
As the release date for No Time To Die keeps getting pushed back like the deadline for that friend who was supposed to pay you back since April all Bond fans can do is complain and commiserate with each other. But earlier this month there was some non-release date-related news when current Ms Moneypenny actress Naomie Harris told The Mirror that she and her fellow No Time To Die actresses should not be referred to as “Bond girls” because they are “formidable women.” She explained calling them girls was inappropriate because they were “fully fleshed-out characters” unlike their earlier counterparts.
On one of my Bond Facebook pages I saw fans responding to her comment both positively and negatively. Well I have decided to throw my two cents into the mix and I have dusted off ye olde soapbox *blows* *cough cough cough hack hack cough cough*. Now to respond to her comment I would need to drill down into what a Bond girl was, is and has become. With a gun barrel-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s discuss if it’s time for the “Bond Girl” to die it in five shots:
Shot 1 – Bond and The Beautiful
This first one is an easy one so let’s just get it out of the way. Now beauty is relative and every cheese has its mouse but there is a traditional, generally accepted, Hollywood-determined view of attractiveness. And from Ursula Andress to Ana de Armas all the Bond Girls have fit this beauty model. And I could bet all the gold in Fort Knox that this is never going to change.
Bond girls are usually younger or about the same age as the actor playing 007. Thankfully we are yet to have a repeat of the 30-year age gap we had with Roger Moore and Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill. I’ve heard of May-December romance but that was just uncomfortable. There are exceptions to the younger actress phenomenon though, as Monica Belluci (Spectre) was four years older than Daniel Craig. But actresses who are a great dealer older than Bond are not ordinarily considered Bond girls. Sorry Rosa Klebb.
Shot 2 – Bond in Bond Girls
First off let’s talk about the man himself, Commander James Bond 007. There is a saying that “women want him and men want to be him.” I can’t speak for women but I can tell you this man has never wanted to be him. Now I am a huge Bond fan and I have seen all the films and read some of the novels, but I am under no illusion that James is somebody I should emulate when it comes to his romantic “relationships.” I put relationships in quotation marks because other than a few examples most of the time it has been slam, bam, thank you ma’am and back to the mission. While this sounds exciting this is by no means healthy behaviour neither physically nor emotionally.
And even taking sex out of the equation Bond’s treatment of women has never been that good. Sure we understand that he keeps himself emotionally unavailable so he is better able to function as a cold-blooded killer, and the two times he opened up his heart (Vesper and Tracy) it was smashed into pieces. So we understand the “why” but that does not make it right by any means. Sean Connery’s Bond was the worst offender, smacking bottoms, slapping women and frequently ignoring those who say no (consent is important dude), but his successors have all shared in his penchant for treating some women as sex objects. I agree with M in GoldenEye when she described him as a sexist misogynist dinosaur. And speaking of M she and Moneypenny have been the only two women Bond has been generally respectful towards, and it is probably no coincidence that he views neither of these women as potential sexual partners. So while the role, function and title of Bond girl may be subject to change, it is highly unlikely that this old dinosaur will ever change his prehistoric ways.
Shot 3 – Bad to the Bond
At this halfway point let’s establish who is and who is not a Bond girl. Now the casual viewer would assume any actress in a Bond film is a Bond girl but that would be an oversimplification. One thing off the bat Bond girls are not main characters. So neither Judi Dench’s M nor Moneypenny would be considered Bond girls. Notice I did not say “recurring characters” as ladies like Sylvia Trench (Dr No and From Russia with Love) and Dr Madeleine Swann (Spectre and No Time to Die) have made multiple appearances but would still fall into the category.
And secondly does a female character have to be “good” to be a Bond girl. This one is up for debate. In these 25 films Bond has had female allies, enemies, allies that were revealed as enemies (see Elektra King and Miranda Frost), and enemies that became allies (Pussy Galore is the perfect example). Now are these all Bond girls? For me I would categorise allies and enemies that became allies as Bond girls, while enemies that remained enemies or allies revealed as enemies I would categorise as female Bond villains or Bond femme fatales. For me it would feel odd calling Bambi, Thumper, or Xenia Onatopp as Bond girls. But I wouldn’t kick up a fuss if someone wanted to use the blanket phrase of Bond girl for all four categories.
Shot 4 – Bond Beds
Now it is time to slip below the covers, figuratively speaking. Over his storied career Bond has slept with more than 50 women and it is as much of a feature of him as his gun, cars, gadgets and colourful villains. In a particular movie he usually has one or two flings and also sleeps with the main Bond girl, though Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace is a notable exception. And as long as there are women in his movies Bond is going to try to sleep with them, and most likely succeed.
But what I have found is the women that take the longest to sleep with Bond are some of the better characters. Vesper fought off his advances for awhile and she is easily one of most fleshed out and most memorable Bond girls. Agent Anya Amasova, Agent Wai Lin, Melina Havelock and Pam Bouvier all kept Bond waiting until the end (or thereabouts) and these are some of the strongest and well-written Bond girls ever. Compare them to weaker characters like Jinx and Strawberry Fields who just jump into bed Bond and you will see what I am talking about. So while resistance of Bond’s charms may be futile, the longer said resistance is the higher guarantee of a more quality character.
Shot 5 – Bond Girl or Bond Woman?
The term Bond girl is as ingrained in pop culture as the super secret agent himself, and even in the unlikely event that the Powers That Be stop using it, the public and the media will continue to do so. And if we change it to “Bond woman” that sounds like a slave or a handmaiden. So no to that.
I remember in the first season is Supergirl Kara Danvers took offence with Kat Grant’s use of the term “Supergirl.” Kat contended that she was a girl and asked what was wrong with being a girl? And similarly I don’t think the use of the term girl in Bond girl is meant to diminish or devalue the many actresses in the franchise. I also think it would be reductive and simplistic to think of Bond girls as eye candy and ineffectual damsels in distress. Sure we have had Bond girls like that (Solitaire, Mary Goodnight) but even as early as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger we have had strong, assertive women who can go to toe to toe with Bond himself. So in conclusion I don’t think it is time for the term Bond girl to die, but people should realise they can be more than just empty-headed bimbos. And many have been formidable and fully-fleshed out long before No Time to Die. So moving forward let’s not kill the Bond girl; let’s just continue to have better ones.
So what’s your take on the issue? For my Top 5 Bond Caribbean Connections you can click here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.