actors playing James Bond, were christened “Bond Girls” by promotional ..... This
modern interpretation of Bond's adventures extends into both the bedroom.
Bond Girls: Gender, Technology and Film
Michelle Adams Culture, Communication & Technology Program Georgetown University
2 The twentieth century has witnessed the development of one of the most widely enjoyed, profitable and entertaining modes of communication and technological innovation in America: film. Utilized both as an artistic medium and a money-making enterprise, the Hollywood system has provided the American public with countless reels of action, tragedy, drama and comedy since its incorporation into popular culture in the early twentieth century. Through “formula” Hollywood film, the zeitgeist and ideologies of all facets of American life have been documented for the masses; they have both influenced and been influenced by our cultural conceptualizations of contemporary life. In the current digital age, film has increasingly portrayed technological advancement in our lives as normative, developing story lines that range from the fantasist computercontrolled world of The Matrix to online romance in You’ve Got Mail. However, these depictions do not stand alone; in society and its film representations, technology and the culture by which it is utilized are bound together, acting and reacting to one another. These bonds have combined to transform gender. In this paper, I will examine the relationships between technology and gender relations in one of the most widely recognized and popular film collections of modern film studies: James Bond Movies, focusing most closely on the films made in the 1990s post-internet culture: Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day, all starring Pierce Brosnan. Actresses, most famously including Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, and Maud Adams as Octopussy, who co-starred with early actors playing James Bond, were christened “Bond Girls” by promotional advertisers; the phrase has since become part of the vocabulary of popular culture in America. Their
3 roles as Bond’s love interests, partners, or enemies have all been characterized by their submission to his charismatic persona and masterful manner, which in and of itself has become an institution of popular culture: phrases such as “Bond. James Bond” and “Shaken, not stirred” have become familiar to moviegoers and non-moviegoers alike. However, women in Bond movies do not all simply wait to be rescued by the handsome spy; often, they provide worthy adversaries or partners for Bond, skillful in the arts of espionage and subterfuge themselves. The art of espionage and spy culture is deeply rooted in Cold War America, hence its incarnation in these action-adventure films. However, as competing technologies become a greater facet of global communications, interaction and warfare, technology in many forms has played a greater part in films dealing with these issues. Bond, as a British Agent, is increasingly involved in preventing schemes involving world domination achieved through the auspices of technology. In this context, Bond’s relationships with his various female co-stars, his relationships with his male and female nemeses, and the manner in which both of these types of interactions relate to technology and the power which its ownership can bestow are extremely enlightening as to the gender ideologies that exist in contemporary society. Espionage, technological domination, and gender interact to reveal the matrices of domination that exist between men and women, men and men, and women and women. Competition and opposition between Bond and his rivals to achieve ownership or dominion of technology and of each other reveal more than a struggle of good and evil; rather, these connect gender roles and relations to the technological innovations of post digital-divide Western civilization.
4 In this sense, the films also expose our notions of masculinity and femininity in a post-feminist, post-Xena, post-Buffy1 world. “Bond Girls” fight as well as the next Warrior Princess or Slayer and can also program software or manipulate networks to rival Bill Gates. However, their relationships to Bond reveal deep-seated conventions involving romance and sexual interaction between men and women that add complexity to cultural fantasies and realities of modern man and woman in film and in society; the films appeal, in short, “because they have a dream-like quality, dealing in symbols and wish fulfillment and not at all in plausibility…they define…the dreams and paranoia of a particular moment in history,” according to Philip Hensher’s “The Painful Truth About Our Love Affair With Bond” (2 and 3). The characters that populate Bond’s cinematic paradise of fast cars, hard liquor, high stakes, powerful weaponry, handsome spies and beautiful women reflect the attitudes and ideologies, as well as the wishes and dreams, of the public that they entertain in the theaters. British journalist Shawn Levy traces 007’s roots in his article, “Oh James….” The character of James Bond originated with novelist Ian Fleming. Casino Royale, published in England in 1953, was the first of 14 novels and short story collections concerning the adventures of the British secret agent (2). In 1961, American producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli approached United Artists Films to secure financing for a series of films featuring Bond. As a result, Dr. No, starring then-unknown Scottish actor Sean Connery as 007, was released first to in London on October 5, 1962 and then to America in New York on May 29, 1963, according to John Cork and Bruce Scivally in their article, “Reeling Through the Years” (1-2). Followed shortly by From Russia With Love in 1963, then Goldfinger (1964) Thunderball (1965) and You Only 1
Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy The Vampire Slayer,
5 Live Twice (1967), all starring Connery, the James Bond franchise became one of the fastest and highest grossing film phenomena of the decade, in both the U.S. and Great Britain (Cork and Scivally, 2). Following Connery’s incarnation as 007 (although he returned briefly in 1971 for Diamonds Are Forever), George Lazenby took over for one film (1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and was immediately replaced by Roger Moore, who starred as Bond for most of the 1970’s and early 80’s in seven films (Live and Let Die, The Man With The Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and A View To A Kill). In 1987, Timothy Dalton became Bond in The Living Daylights and 1989’s License To Kill (The James Bond Films, http://moviereviews.colossus.net/bond.html). From 1962 onward, Bond films appeared on average every two years; however, following Dalton’s characterization, there was a gap of six years while Bond’s image was reworked for the 1990s post-internet digital culture as well as for the post Cold War political climate in Britain and the U.S. On June 8, 1994, Pierce Brosnan was chosen to take over the role of 007 and appeared for the first time in 1995’s Goldeneye. Bond’s new incarnation premiered, following a major media publicity campaign, at Radio City Music Hall on November 13th to the largest box office sales for a Bond film since 1967 (Cork and Scivally, 4). James Bond’s image has remained consistent throughout the franchise’s 40-year film history; “[h]e never ages, he never gets seriously injured, he never stops boozing or chasing skirt, he never settles for anything less than the best cars, clothes, accommodation and weapons, and he never takes time off from saving the world from
6 disaster to muddle through the mundane quotidiana that plague us all;” he is the quintessential suave, dry wit and capable secret agent (Levy, 1). However, characterization has varied from actor to actor, from decade to decade, according to social and political climates and values. Film representation often reflects the temporal, geographical, and ideological context of its production. The early films featuring Connery as 007 displayed characteristics of both political and gendered ideologies of the time. At the time that Dr. No was released, the escalation of the Cold War rendered Bond “not only an action hero, but a reminder of the sort of world the good guys—the British and Americans and their respective espionage and military services—were fighting for, a place where one dressed, drank, drove and screwed only the finest” (Levy, 4). He is devoted to Queen and country, a warrior in their service to make the world safe for capitalism and its accoutrements. Stephanie Zacharek, in her article “The Spies Who Thrilled Me,” writes that “[h]e’s always surrounded by lavish appointments…You never see Bond…spending money—only wearing it, eating and drinking it. The soul of Bond is laid out right in front of us in the choices he’s made: in the cut of a suit, in the gleam of a cigarette case. The 60s Bond movies are largely about things” (3). Thus the materialism inherent to this perspective is displayed by the hero; the films are produced by capitalist societies in sharp opposition to the fear of Communist incursion, displaying the best available to the Western consumer in an almost overt political statement. The films of this era also use technology to make statements regarding Bond’s superiority to his enemies. Regardless of how impressively high-tech the devices of the enemy are, Bond’s gadgets, cars and guns always prevail, even over insurmountable
7 obstacles, due to Yankee (or Brit) ingenuity. Clearly, one British secret agent with a watch (complete with hidden laser beam) on his wrist and no other weapon is more powerful than any number of Soviet missiles, lasers, or hit men. The films demonstrate through these devices that even if the technology of the hero is not as advanced as that of the enemy, the values of capitalist Western civilization render the hero more able to use what IS available technologically to him to better advantage in order to triumph. In this sense, they reflect the armaments race between the Soviet bloc and the West in the Cold War, rendering the West victorious in the cinema if not clearly in reality. As well as making economic and political statements, the Bond franchise, particularly the early films, makes overt statements as to socially and culturally engrained ideologies pertaining to gendered behavior and gendered relationships. As per his relations with women, David Morefield suggests that the image of Bond remains the same: he “is a comparatively uncomplicated creature, slipping easily from one relationship to another with no messy emotions, and no regrets when it’s over”; a sex symbol rather than a romantic hero (2). However, Morefield characterizes Connery’s Bond as “unencumbered by notions of romance or obligation; he was simply a sensualist with the good fortune to run into gorgeous women equally interested in sex for its own sake…pragmatic and hard-hearted about sex…ruthless ”(2). This depiction holds true not only in the individual films but in the franchise as a whole. No female character, other than Moneypenny, the devoted MI6 secretary with a crush on Bond, appears in more than one film up until the Brosnan period, when M (Commander in Chief of MI6, the British Secret Service) was reincarnated as a woman played by Judi Dench. Conversely characters such as Desmond Llwellyn as Q, the MI6 gadgetry master, and
8 Bond himself reappeared consistently. Bond girls are a series of one-film stands, even when they last longer than one-night scenes. Bond women in this era, such as Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in Dr. No and Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, fall victim to either Bond’s charm or his ruthlessness. This happens regardless of their independence, availability, or which side they are working on. Honey Ryder’s role has been characterized as “that bikini coming out of the water” by the newest Bond girl Halle Berry (Jinx, Die Another Day) in AMC’s documentary special, “Bond Girls Are Forever,” hosted by ex-Bond girl Kara d’Abo (Kara Milovy, The Living Daylights). Berry’s statement clearly delineates the objectivity of the actress’s role as a sexual target for Bond, evident not only from the storyline, which involves her helplessness and need for Bond to rescue her both physically and emotionally but also by the cinematography of the “bikini scene.” The camera is positioned at a slightly lower than head on position, rendering the emergence of the actress out of the sea more dramatic and framing her figure in the center of an almost empty mise-en-scene, while her face is averted in a clearly objective manner. She is being watched without her knowledge: the female is subjected to the male gaze by both Bond and the audience. The scanty costume is, of course, another factor in the viewer’s understanding of her status as sex object, her body clearly revealed. Pussy Galore is perhaps the most obvious example of Bond’s omnipotence with women. As a confirmed lesbian and self-proclaimed “damn good pilot,” she is independent and allegedly, by sexual preference and by assertion, immune to Bond’s charm. As Elizabeth Ladenson’s article “Lovely Lesbians; Or, Pussy Galore” states, “it is her sexual indifference that has attracted Bond in the first place” (4). However, Bond’s
9 masculinity is so powerful that it overcomes her strength as a woman and a lover of women, and in a scene in a hay-filled barn, she ceases to resist. “The very phallic [masculinized by her lesbianism] Pussy succumbs to the even more phallic James Bond” (Landenson, 4). At the end of the film, Bond is asked why she altered her sexual preference, and responds “I appealed to her maternal instinct.” “The…lesbian…always comes down to an image of the desirable and punitive mother, and she is always conquered, whether by a well-aimed chair or by the sheer irresistibility of the hero” (Landenson, 4). Bond’s “irresistibility” being a hallmark of his persona, and the sexual politics of the era lacking recognition of gay and lesbianism, it is not surprising that the character is first rendered masculine and empowered both physically and mentally by her lesbian status. Jeanette Winterson refers to her in “Girls, Girls, Girls” as an “airborne dominatrix” and “grrl-gang leader,” and she in fact defeats Bond himself at judo and is then subjugated by Bond’s superior, “real” masculinity to helpless femininity (2). His masculinity is unquestioned and dominant just as the femininity of Connery’s Bond girls is absolute and submissive; they are objects of desire to be used to complete his mission successfully; however, he is the subject of the film. In this sense, the gender roles and stereotyping of pre-feminist movement American and British society are confirmed by the films of the era. “Bond girls are for lovemaking. That is their first function”(Winterson, 3). Roger Moore’s Bond of the 1970s takes his portrayal one step further and is described as a “sex machine” with “an impressive list of one night stands,” in keeping with the sexual revolution and the ideals of potent masculinity of the era in film (i.e. Shaft) (Morefield, 2). His economic politics remain consistent, even more so as the films
10 become more decadent in terms of special effects technology, but it is Moore’s Bond who is truly the basis of feminist criticism for being “a world class misogynist—the poster boy for male chauvinist pigs” (Morefield, 1). His relationships with women in these films are not only non-romantic but often bordering on abusive. In Live and Let Die he deceives Jane Seymore’s Solitaire in order to steal her virginity and pulls a gun on Gloria Hendry’s Rosie Carver immediately after a sexual encounter, stating that “I certainly wouldn’t have killed you before!” Bond girls in these instances are not only objectified but almost victimized by the hero. His caveat is that “all women fall for Bond,” even those he mistreats, with primitive subservience to his dominant male persona and “masculine sexual allure” (Winterson, 3 and Zacharek, 3). He is unmistakably their possessor, subjugating them in a sometimes subversive, sometimes completely overt manner. But he always provokes their attention and affection regardless. The female characters respond to his abuse or patronage by becoming “so compliant you can almost see their skin melting underneath his fingers,” with the result that their characterizations become those of “helpless damsels and irritating airheads.” By today’s post-feminist gender politics, they epitomize the antifeminist sex kitten role, oppressed and complacent in that oppression, valued only for physical attributes and usefulness to the male figures who control them (Zacharek, 2 and Morefield, 3). The later Moore films and the Timothy Dalton Bonds portray the hero as more sensitive and charming, the women as more empowered and intelligent, and their relationships more equal, as later 1970’s post-feminist mentalities and sensibilities rendered the misogynist Bond character incompatible with the zeitgeist. The first real
11 Bond girls to take on the role of partner and equal to Bond came in this era as Barbara Bach’s Major Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) gained Bond’s respect as a Soviet agent working with him. Even the film’s title reinforced the romantic and non-exploitative relationship. As Christopher John Farley’s article “Live Another Day” in the November 11, 2002 issue of Time Magazine states, in 1985, Grace Jones as May Day in A View To A Kill opposed 007, and the film’s publicity campaign asked the public “Has James Bond finally met his match?” bearing startling similarity to the campaign for Die Another Day. The November 29, 2002 cover of Entertainment Weekly contains a photo of Brosnan and Berry with the headline “Bond Meets His Match” (2). In the 1990’s, Timothy Dalton appeared as Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill. The latter was released in 1989, “coinciding with the fall of the Soviet Union and marking what would have been a nice historical coincidence: the conclusion of the Cold War bringing an end to the career of the last secret agent still fighting it” (Cork and Scivally, 6). However, following the film’s relative failure at the box office, United Artists recreated the character of 007 in a more contemporary mold, casting Pierce Brosnan in the main role, in order to recapture the success of Bond’s earlier incarnations. Massive promotional advertising followed the decision, along with promises to the public of a “more modern” Bond. The character was reinvented to coincide with the post-Cold War deglamorization of espionage, as well as the decline of social acceptance of sexism (a true post-feminist action hero), and the rise of technology. The battles of good versus evil which he would face, as well as the methods and strategies by which he would emerge victorious, would now be in keeping with the post-Internet, post-digital boom culture in place in the mid-1990’s. Goldeneye was released in 1995, to major box office
12 success: 350.7 million dollars worldwide and 24.45 million in audiences, as opposed to License To Kill’s 156.2 million draw and only 8.7 million attendees (The James Bond Films, http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/bond.html). This modern interpretation of Bond’s adventures extends into both the bedroom and the boardroom as well. While gender politics in post-feminist Western society updated the roles of Bond girls, they have not changed very much outwardly, nor has the formula of Bond’s seduction of them been altered. They are still beautiful, sexy, physically idealized representations of womanhood, and they still fall for Bond’s charm. However, they no longer fit the sex-kitten stereotype of the Sean Connery or Roger Moore films: “Bond women take on more importance than ever. Computer whiz Natalya, super-agent Wai Lin, and nuclear weapons expert Dr. Christmas Jones each contribute significantly to the success of Brosnan’s Bond missions. Natalya cuts through Bond’s ‘cold hearted’ act to touch the vulnerable man underneath, Paris Carver gets him to actually confess to love and regret, and Elektra turns his compassionate side against him” (Morefield, 3). Both the women and Bond’s reactions to them have changed; in some cases, they know more than him, and in some cases he cares more about them than before. Though they still need to be rescued by him (in both Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day, Bond administers a “kiss of life”2), and though all eventually fall into his arms, they are not helpless. They surprise Bond with their ingenuity and lack of ready availability at times. For instance, Wai Lin’s tagline is “Don’t get any ideas, Mr. Bond.” They are also more assured of their sexual power over men than ever before, demonstrating a confidence equal to Bond’s own. Sophia Marceau’s Elektra King in The World Is Not Enough makes various statements to this effect, including “I used my body—it gave me 2
To a drowning Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) in Tomorrow Never Dies, and to Jinx (Halle Berry) in Die Another Day
13 control” and “I’ve always had a power over men.” As the film’s villainess, her survival depends on her attractiveness to Bond to prevent his shooting her (“James, you can’t kill me—not a woman you have loved”). Jinx also references her own “short relationships”—one night stands that rival Bond’s own. Even his relationship with Moneypenny, once a “sad spinster” with a crush on 007, has been altered; with Samantha Bond in the role, she is now “an attractive, sexy powerbroker who fancies Bond, without needing him,” making comments such as “I know just what to do with that” when he presents her a cigar as a gift in The World Is Not Enough, before throwing it in the wastebasket (Winterson, 3). Judi Dench’s M calls Bond “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms are wasted on me” in Goldeneye and coldly dismisses him as “of no use to anyone anymore” in Die Another Day. Both these women treat Bond with affectionate contempt for his playboy antics combined with authority, modern versions of a secretary and a female boss. These Bond girls are objects of desire, but he is no longer the only subject of the films. In the past, the mantle of being a Bond girl was a stigma in Hollywood that rendered an actress typecast in sex kitten roles. In AMC’s “Bond Girls Are Forever,” Luciana Paluzzi (Fione Volpe in Thunderball) admits that “the noted Italian directors of the day—Fellini, Antonini, Visconti—wouldn’t give [her] a second look after [she] appeared in what they viewed as a ‘comic strip.’” However, with the incursion of Judi Dench and Halle Berry into the franchise, both Academy Award winning, “serious” actresses, even the career trajectory of Bond girl actresses has been altered.
14 In tribute to this, Bond demonstrates an unprecedented degree of emotion for them, admitting to Paris that she “got too close for comfort” in Tomorrow Never Dies and showing his hurt anger at Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost in Die Another Day and Elektra King’s betrayals, rather than maintaining his cool, as previous Bonds have done. His greater sensitivity and status as a romantic hero are products of post-feminist culture but do not compromise his role as a ruthless secret agent; Bond still uses his license to kill, even women when he must (i.e. Elektra King), and is still primarily an action hero and a suave sophisticate, rather than a tortured soul, in keeping with the traditions of the franchise. If the science of war is the science of competing technologies, particularly true in digital society, audiences of the Brosnan era demand not only more intelligent Bond women but also more advanced technology and competition in both special effects and in storylines. Although Goldeneye in particular does indeed involve the formula Bond theme,3 Tomorrow Never Dies is particularly enlightening as to the new manner in which Bond saves the world. Jonathan Pryce as Eliot Carver, media mogul, is about to gain control over the world’s satellite network, rendering him in control of global news and broadcasting, able to create any situation through the auspices of the media. His immediate goal is to start a war between the U.S. and China, by broadcasting fraudulent and inflammatory information to both. Rather than struggling with a weapon of actual war, Bond seeks to prevent the weapon of information from becoming too powerful in the wrong hands. Global telecommunications and satellite technology combine to render a portrait of one of the newest ways for a villain to gain global domination- by
Bond opposes Soviet arms dealers and a disgruntled ex-MI6 agent for the Goldeneye satellite, which would destroy London, a center of Western culture and economic importance
15 controlling the opinions and subsequent actions of the global community through the media and communications devices. While both The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day confront power through greater technological weaponry or innovation rather than through information control, the message is the same: whoever possesses the strongest technology is dominant. While, true to form, Bond can outwit his enemies using less spectacular but more ingenuous means to great effect,4 the greater battle is always for a technological breakthrough which will give its controller unlimited global power. In the first case it is the King oil pipeline to supply the world into the next century; in the second, the Icarus satellite to harness the power of the sun as a weapon of war. Technology has always been a quintessential factor in Bond films. Desmond Llewellyn as “Q” has always provided 007 with various “toys” to aid him in his missions, and his cars have always been high-quality and highly equipped for battle (with Aston Martin and more recently, BMW, providing transportation); and of course, guns have always played a substantial role. However, the importance of technology overall, to Bond, to his enemies, and to the world, has never been as evident as our digital society forces its film representations to be now. The culture of information engendered by the Internet and global telecommunications, as well as the science of technological warfare, are depicted in Bond’s cinematic world. The side of evil attempts to gain personal power through their auspices, and Bond and the Western side of good attempt to prevent global dominion by any one entity, preserving the United Nations concept of global information sharing, economic market, and peaceful negotiation.
In both films, his wristwatch alone allows himself and his female companions to escape traps set by the villains, and his cellular phones and cars are also unexpectedly useful.
16 Brosnan’s interaction both with women and with technology in Goldeneye sets the precedent for post-Cold War, post-digital divide conflicts and roles on the screen, which become clearer as the series progresses. Gendered relationships reveal far more regarding matrices of domination between technology, its control, and the power that this control confers in these films than ever before; with war technology and telecommunications reaching ever more advanced and global heights, the network of power relations which control them has become worldwide, and the films reflect this. In this sense, Bond’s relationships with women and with his enemies are complicated by the technology issue; power is rendered on the bodies of both sexes as well as on the technology for which they compete for world domination. In Goldeneye, Bond and his nemesis, Sean Bean’s Alec Travalyne, face off over the detonation of the Goldeneye satellite. More subtly, though, it is over the possession of Isabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova, Russian computer programmer. Trevalyne attempts to seduce her, assuming that she and Bond are involved in a sexual relationship already, saying “you know, James and I shared everything” and then later taunts Bond by implying that he has violated Natalya (“she tastes like strawberries”). The two men compete for technological superiority but also for dominion over a woman, who, in new Bond tradition, is no longer a helpless victim but a participant in Bond’s mission and a valuable resource in her computer expertise. In Tomorrow Never Dies, the sexual competition between men veiled as technological opposition is more overt. Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver, Eliot Carver’s wife, is Bond’s ex-girlfriend. When Bond “dominates” Eliot by sleeping with Paris, Eliot counters by having her executed and placing a call to Bond stating “You have two things that belong to me in your hotel room: the red box
17 [encoder for the media satellites] and my wife.” The “stealing” of a woman is directly linked to the usurpation of technology, rendering Eliot inferior to Bond on both a sexual and a strategic level. Finally, in Die Another Day, Bond is rendered at a sexual disadvantage by Miranda Frost’s treachery; after spending a night with her, he discovers that she is working for his nemesis, Gustav Graves (Toby Stevens), who taunts him with the fact that she uses all the resources, “even her sex,” for him. Bond responds, “The coldest weapon of all,” by which he implies that seduction is more destructive than any other form of manipulation. This scene comes at a point where Graves is in complete possession of the technology (the Icarus satellite), and Bond is rendered helpless by his capture and by his empty gun (Miranda removed the bullets while he slept by her side). Graves’ revelation of his power over the woman is the last nail in the coffin of Bond’s helplessness over the enemy’s control over the world through the satellite. Women in the films also compete with each other more overtly than ever before for Bond. Pointed comments such as Elektra King’s “Pretty thing—you had her too?” in reference to Denise Richardson’s Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, and a face-off between Jinx and Miranda Frost in Die Another Day (which ends with Jinx’s expletive “Bitch!”) have become de rigueur. In this sense, women work on the side of good or evil, to prevent or facilitate technological dominion, but their aggression is overtly motivated by sexual jealousy, veiled by their strategic opposition, rather than the opposite overt/covert nature of the male competition in the films. Once again, Bond’s masculine appeal is the main focus of the Bond girls. Perhaps the most evidence of feminine equality in any Bond film thus far, rather than any women with whom Bond is romantically or sexually involved, is Madonna’s small role as Bond’s fencing instructor.
18 When faced with a fencing competition (rife with phallic symbolism) between Bond and Graves, she walks away, stating “I don’t like cock fights.” She represents a strong female persona, a world class fencer, who, rather than remaining in the thrall of either man, walks away with disdain for the masculine competition that ensues. The success of the new Bond series indicates that audiences were able to identify with both the social and political messages of the updated franchise. Brosnan’s Bond obviously appealed, as the films and his characterization of 007 were both lauded for their new, higher tech action-adventure pace and for the actor’s combination of the character elements—ruthlessness, introspection, and dry wit—of his predecessors. However, the character’s new political correctness and accommodation of contemporary social sensibilities garnered criticism for their alteration of the “Bond formula”. Universal approval of updated special effects and story line wars over technology rather than Communism ensued, but uneasiness as to the implications of a real post-feminist era Bond persisted. In his article, “Shaky, Not Stirring,” which appeared in Time Magazine on November 27, 2002, just after the release of the first Brosnan film, Richard Schikel criticizes Brosnan’s Bond and his producers, writing that “in the age of sexual correctness, they have cut back his double entendres and people keep telling him he lacks the capacity for mature relationships with women. Worse, he seems to believe them. What next? Teetotaling, with perhaps a demand that his Perrier be served in a bottle, not a can?” (1). Perhaps due to Bond’s status as the ultimate fantasy of the dominant male, the idea of his “toughness” being somehow underwritten by gender politics of the 1990s was bothersome to the male public, despite approval for the movies overall as successful and entertaining incarnations both of the Bond formula and of the new digitally-
19 remastered action adventure genre. Our society, from the individual psyche to the collective acceptability, appears more comfortable with confronting new technologies than new ideologies. Christopher John Farley, in a November 10, 2002 article also appearing in Time Magazine on the eve of the release of Die Another Day, discusses the new Bond in the context of his culture: “The conventional wisdom is that Bond has changed with the times. Agent 007, once the coolest of cold warriors, is now a more generalized sort of hero, tailored to fight the evil triumvirate of problems that bedevil our times; rogue states, terrorists and drug kingpins. Nowhere is Bond’s nod to modernity more apparent than in the supposedly evolved image of the Bond Girl. 007’s paramours, once buxom and docile, are still the former, but no longer the latter. They are expected to be smarter, tougher, and more multicultural than they have been in the past. Basically, they’re expected to do what Bond does, but sexier and in high heels…However, it’s also true that the bigger and more complex Bond Girls get, the more they confirm Bond’s masculine omnipotence when they are conquered…Much of what Bond adventures are about still boils down to sex…The world has changed since Dr. No and the status of women has shifted, but Bond is still on top. Bond, like Tarzan in the mid-20th century, or Eminem in the 21st, exists to demonstrate to men of European heritage that they are still in control, that they are masters of any domain, no matter how tangled the jungles of Africa, the hip-hop world, or international politics. Bond girls are disposable affirmations” (1-2). In this sense, Farley makes the argument that Bond really hasn’t changed very much, despite superficial alterations, reassuring the male public that the hero is still the same symbol of male sexual dominance, a fantasy figure of the man’s man, and that the films still “produce images, however preposterous, of male sexual desire and dreams of fabulous, uninterrupted sadism” (Hensher, 2). Cork and Scivally echo the sentiment, stating that “[t]hat raw, subrational, visceral, have-your-way-with-me response assures us that as long as there is an actor born somewhere in the Commonwealth who looks good holding a gun in formal wear…there will always, bless us, be a Bond,” insuring his
20 significance to women as a fantasy man, to which one surrenders instinctively, primitively, without recourse to feminist principals or political correctness (7). The Bond fantasy of style, grace under pressure, taste, and wit appeal to both men and women in the United States and Great Britain. Bond was and is a fantasy character for both sexes; “the fantasy of James Bond is [not] a purely male one, as long as you don’t feel the need to always identify with a character in terms of needing to be him” (Zacharek, 2). In other words, men would love to be him, women want to love him and be loved by him; this is true both of female characters in the films and of female audiences. If we define film in the twentieth century as a medium for reflection not of “appropriate or desirable behavior” but rather of behavior that takes the morals and values of the societies which produce them to extremes, Bond portray a hero who is desirable to both sexes, on a deeply cerebrally sexual level, in touch with cultural fantasies of dominance and submission, being powerful and being powerfully seduced (Zacharek, 2). However, it is not only the character of Bond that produces fantasies in our culture. Bond Girls are also powerful impetus for escapist imaginings by audiences, male and female. Just as women want Bond and men want to be Bond, women want to be the new Bond girls, and men want to possess them as Bond does. In “Bond Girls Are Forever,” various Bond girls discuss their experiences as such. Jill St. John (Tiffany Case, Diamonds Are Forever) defends her position that critique of gender politics on the basis of the films is ridiculous by stating, “Bond women are larger than life. They’re meant to represent a fantasy quality.” Though this is true, the social context of film production must be taken into account, regardless of entertainment value. If Bond girls
21 are a fantasy, they are a cultural fantasy for men and women. Halle Berry reiterates this point stating that “the women are a big part of it, not only for men, but for women too.” A Bond woman, in the sense of being an idealized, worshipped symbol of feminine beauty to the male gaze, is then a fantasy for the women who play them, as well as the women who watch them on the screen, no different that being a supermodel or a Playboy centerfold. Our society worships beauty and sex appeal, the cinematic fantasy of physical perfection. In many ways, this perception of the female Bond girl fantasy resembles the obvious male fantasy; their beautiful faces and bodies and attention-getting costumes, as well as cinematographic devices render them objectified, in the tradition of Bond women, in thrall to male power and gaze. Centered shots of women framed in brightly colored and revealing costumes5 or shots taken from Bond’s perspective, rendering the actress looking beseechingly or alluringly up at the viewer6 accomplish this goal. However, in post-feminist Western society, it may be true that the dominance/submission model exemplified by Bond’s relationships with women has not changed at all; it may be that dominating strong women only confirms Bond’s own masculinity and the weakness of women for a handsome and enigmatic man (Farley, 2). However, the fantasy of the Bond girl appeals to modern women, not only in the physical sense, but in the fact that it allows them to be empowered, independent purveyors of their own destinies, even in control of technology which Bond cannot fathom (i.e. Natalya Simonova or Dr. Christmas Jones), or secret agents in their own rights (i.e. Wai Lin and Jinx) before they encounter Bond. They can therefore still surrender to him romantically
Halle Berry’s tribute to Ursula Andress’s emergence from the sea, reinvented in a bright orange bikini As in many of Sophia Marceau’s scenes
22 or sexually without forgoing their abilities (which are often useful to him in his mission). In short, they can simultaneously have a relationship with a man as smart as they and a career. In her article entitled “Why Bond Is Every Girl’s Dream Man,” Helen Legh encourages women to “understand and embrace the fact that all men want to be James Bond” in order to use this fact to their advantages in their own romantic relationships with men, “achieving female James Bond nirvana. The results include “a smartly-dressed boyfriend for a change….he becomes the ideal helpful husband/boyfriend without realizing it…you get to do what you like!” (Legh, 1-2). Translating the Bond fantasy into real-life relationships between men and women (presumably longer-lasting than Bond’s own), Legh suggests that every woman remake her man into her very own Bond by taking part in his own fantasy of being the secret agent in order to realize her own fantasy of having a boyfriend as “cool” as Bond. She should be the woman by his side. “He may be a sexist (and I admit, quite sexy) trigger-happy old womanizer, but James Bond can touch every one of our lives and make them so much better!” (Legh, 2). The power of Bond’s legacy thus extends from screen into the bedrooms and kitchens of millions of viewers. Brosnan himself acknowledges the compulsion of the Bond fantasy, concluding upon reflection of Bond’s world, that “the thing about [Bond] is that he lives in a world all his own. A very polished, very burnished world…this elaborate fantasy he exists in. I think that’s why he’s survived for so long” (Svetkey, 28). The world of Bond exists only on film, but cultural reflections and identifications with it and the characters that live within it resonate in the collective consciousness of the audience; created for and by our
23 society, the Bond films of the 1990s onward reflect a startling change in the connectivity and technological network of the world, as the world wide web and global telecom advance, as the science of war, weaponry and terrorist continue to touch our lives in new ways. They also reflect new power relationships between the sexes, while confirming our gendered perspectives and deeply rooted cultural sexual ideologies. In short, the newest Bond and Bond girls maintain the fantasies of the older films but with technological twist intertwined with gendered relationships. The films demonstrate the nature of digital society, the nature of gender roles, and the connections between the power relationships of these two ideologies in our culture, continuing into the twenty first century.
24 Works Cited
Films Andress, Ursula and Sean Connery, perf. Dr. No. Dir. Terence Young. United Artists, 1962. Connery, Sean and Honor Blackman, perf. Goldfinger. Dir. Guy Hamilton. United Artists, 1964. Hendry, Gloria, Roger Moore and Jane Seymore, perf. Live And Let Die. Dir. Guy Hamilton. MGM/UA, 1973. Bach, Barbara and Roger Moore, perf. The Spy Who Loved Me. Dir. Lewis Gilbert. MGM/UA, 1977. Jones, Grace and Roger Moore, perf. A View To A Kill. Dir. John Glen. MGM/UA, 1985. Goldeneye. Dir. Martin Campbell. Perf. Pierce Brosnan, Isabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Sean Bean, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond. MGM/UA, 1995. Tomorrow Never Dies. Dir. Roger Spottiswoode. Perf. Pierce Brosnan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Pryce, Teri Hatcher, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond. MGM/UA, 1997. The World Is Not Enough. Dir. Michael Apted. Perf. Pierce Brosnan, Sophia Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richardson, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond. MGM/UA, 1999. Die Another Day. Dir. Lee Tamahori. Perf. Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Madonna, Judi Dench, Samantha Bond. MGM/UA, 2002. Articles Cork, John and Bruce Scivally. “Reeling Through the Years.” Variety 11-17 November 2002. Online. Lexis. 3 December 2002. Farley, Christopher John. “Live Another Day.” Time Magazine 10 November 2002. Online. Google. 24 November 2002. Hensher, Philip. “The Painful Truth About Out Love Affair With Bond.” Independent (http://argument.independent.co.uk/regular_columnists) 19 November 2002. Online. Google. 3 December 2002.
25 Ladenson, Elizabeth. “Lovely Lesbians; Or Pussy Galore.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 7.3 (2001) 417-423. Project Muse. Online. 24 November 2002. Legh, Helen. “Why Bond Is Every Girl’s Dream Man.” Coventry Evening Telegraph 30 November 2002. Online. Lexis. 3 December 2002. Levy, Shawn. “Oh James…” The Guardian 13 September, 2002. Guardian Unlimited. Online. Google. 24 November 2002. Morefield, David. “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” MKBB Magazine (http://www.ianfleming.org/mkbb/magazine/rnpa-whatlove.shtml) Online. Google. 24 November 2002. Schikel, Richard. “Shaky, Not Stirring.” Time Magazine 27 November 2002. Online. Google. 3 December 2002. Svetkey, Benjamin. “Double Agents.” Entertainment Weekly. 29 November 2002: 22 33. Winterson, Jeannette. “Girls, Girls, Girls.” The Guardian 13 September 2002. Guardian Unlimited. Online. Google. 24 November 2002. Zacharek, Stephanie. “The Spies Who Thrilled Me.” Salon Arts and Entertainment July 26, 2002. Online. Google. 24 November 2002. The James Bond Films. (http://www.klast.net/bond/films.html) Online. Google. 24 November 2002. Bond Women. (http://www.jamesbondmm.co.uk/women.html) Online. Google. 24 November 2002. Television “Bond Girls Are Forever.” Hosted Maryam d’Abo. AMC. 6 November 2002.