Is the Bond girl a sexist relic? As actress Gemma Arterton says they’re a cliche

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Madeline Smith who starred as Miss Caruso in the Bond film Live And Let Die (pictured), says Bond girls have been trailblazers

Madeline Smith who starred as Miss Caruso in the Bond film Live And Let Die (pictured), says Bond girls have been trailblazers

NO

BY MADELINE SMITH, BOND GIRL IN LIVE AND LET DIE 

Let’s keep things in perspective. When woke women decry Bond girls as sexist anachronisms, they are forgetting the context in which the films were made.

I’ve never regretted playing Italian secret agent Miss Caruso in the 1973 Bond film Live And Let Die. The part was so sketchy that she was originally known merely as Beautiful Woman.

Objectified? You may think that if you look at the film from the po-faced perspective of 21st-century feminism, but it is, in essence, a cartoon. It was created not to be scrutinised by the politically correct, but with the laudable aim of entertaining families.

I featured in a scene worthy of a Whitehall farce in which Bond — played by that most gentlemanly of actors, Roger Moore (pictured with me) — unzips my dress with a magic watch. The dress was a preposterous creation, with a padded bra that enhanced my bust, and the ridiculous zip wouldn’t unfasten. So three people, two of them men, disappeared under my frock to yank it down. Did I worry about the indignity? Of course not! I still laugh about it.

But I would guard against trivialising all Bond girls and portraying them as the vacuous creations of sexist male writers. The redoubtable Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore (yes, I know the name is a ghastly double entendre, but let’s remember this is comedy) was hardly a shrinking violet.

Her character was skilled in martial arts and led an all-female aviation group. She was not a cipher, any more than Diana Rigg’s Bond girl was.

Far from being stereotypes entrenched in an era of casual sexism, the Bond girls have been trailblazers. Moonraker’s Dr Holly Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles way back in 1979, was a NASA aerospace engineer long before it became fashionable to urge women to study science.

Bond girls like me have been trailblazers 

‘A woman?’ Bond asks in surprise when he meets her. ‘Your powers of observation do you credit,’ she replies with glorious sarcasm.

Neither should we overlook the fact that Monica Bellucci was 50 when she played the first Bond girl who was older than the male protagonist. Another quiet triumph for older actresses.

Now, of course, we have been promised that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who co-wrote the new Bond, No Time To Die, will bring us a cast of strong, exciting women.

I have no doubt that she will. I just hope that, with all the clamouring to appease the politically correct, she has not forgotten that what audiences need most right now is the escapism and glamour of 007 and his bevy of unashamedly sexy sidekicks. 

YES

Tanya Gold (pictured) argues Bond has become a parody

Tanya Gold (pictured) argues Bond has become a parody 

BY TANYA GOLD, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR 

Bond girls are less a sexist relic than a sexist joke. The clue is in their collective noun. They are defined by who beds them.

Gemma Arterton, who played Strawberry Fields — because you want to lie down in her? — in Quantum Of Solace recently said she wouldn’t take the part now as she had no backstory. That’s true. Bond girls live and die to have sex with the spy, often literally. So many La Perla-clad bodies become corpses. It’s an occupational hazard.

When I think of Bond girls, I see cleavage and hear women shouting, ‘James!’ — a bit like cross mothers of teenage boys.

There have been gauche attempts at modernisation, but they seem pointless — the script doesn’t want the modernisation to succeed. Yes, Bond had a female M in Judi Dench, but she died in his arms. He had a clever girlfriend in Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, but she drowned in a palazzo.

My husband says Bond would have been faithful to Tracy, played by Diana Rigg, whom he married — but I doubt it. She gets killed, of course. It’s easy to be faithful to a memory. The older I get, the less I care about being asked to believe that the babe in the shorts is actually the world’s top nuclear physicist Dr Christmas Jones, played by Denise Richards. Or that Barbara Bach, who starred as Russian agent Triple X (geddit?), would throw the Motherland over for a tryst with 007.

The world has moved on — but Bond can’t 

Bond began as a masculine fantasy, but he has, through overuse, become parody. The world has moved on, but Bond can’t. In the real 21st century his jaw would be broken by the first woman he tries to pun into bed.

Every character in the Bond films is a relic: the women; the villains (too often foreign, like Enid Blyton baddies). But no one more so than Bond himself. He is a poster boy for broken mid-20th-century masculinity. He can’t form relationships, so he acts out his trauma, caused by being orphaned, through sex addiction.

Imagine him in a studio flat in Neasden, rather than a luxe hotel in Barbados, and he’s less interesting.

So don’t let Bond and his fembots vex you. Rather, remember this: there is a female Bond already. Her name is Lisbeth Salander: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. To his credit, current Bond Daniel Craig knows this. He starred as her sidekick — her Bond girl — in the film adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s book, trussed up by a serial killer until she saves his life. Was he trying to make a point?

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