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Bond, Feminist Bond

They get cat-called, they get beaten, they have to wear bikinis all the time. The image of the Bond Girls is bad. But in reality, the women of the Bond films are pioneers to feminism.

When it comes to Bond Girls, James Bond gave us some of the most sexist scenes known to cinema history. There is that moment in 1974s “The Man With The Golden Gun” for example. Bond and his fellow agent Mary Goodnight are having diner. A waiter offers a bottle of wine.
“I approve”, says Bond. “You do?”, asks Mary and looks incredulously. She thinks it’s about the wine. But Bond is staring lecherous at her cleavage: “Oh, not the wine, your frock. Tight in all the right places, not too many buttons.”
From 1962s “Dr. No” till 2015s “Spectre” every Bond flick has such moments. And the Bond Girls are all like Mary Goodnight at first sight: beautiful, yet helpless. And answering Bonds silly chat-up lines with nothing more than a wink.

In reality, the Bond Girls were always ahead of time – and did some great pioneer work for feminism.

James Bond Pussy Galore

Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger

Bond might be a sexist, but the girls don’t let that pass. Author Ian Fleming wrote about strong women, sexually and economically independent. They weren’t the eye candy you see in the movies, but fighters and heroines, who save Bond several times.
Fleming wrote his books in the 1950s and 1960s – a time, where women were pictured in the kitchen. “But none of the ladies embodied the 50s prevalent role model of being an house wive and mother”, researcher Julia Kulbarsch-Wilke says. She looked in the zeitgeist of the Bond movies (Get her German book James Bond und der Zeitgeist here). Also, Bond Girls were “strong and sexually independent”, researcher Yvonne Tasker adds at “Time” magazine.

The early Sean Connery movies paid their respects to the Fleming Bond Girls.
There is Honey Rider from “Dr. No” (1962). She grew up as an orphan, got raped as a youngster and later killed her tormentor. In the book she is the one, who rescues an unconscious Bond from Dr. No’s island. Domino from “Thunderball” (1965) starts as the love interest of villain Largo. When she realizes, that he betrayed her, she helps Bond – and is the one, who kills Largo. With an harpoon. And there is Pussy Galore from “Goldfinger” (1964). She is a lesbian and doesn’t give a damn about Bond. Instead she rules the (first) women-only crime gang in the US and is pilot. Sure, at the end of the book (and the movie) Pussy has an affaire with Bond – but she leaves him right at the start of the novel “Trigger Mortis”. Bonds life was just too boring for her.

In the 70s, 007 made it hard for Bond Girls to shine – but then came the 80s

After the movies gained success, they moved away from the books. Women became jokes – for a short time. There is Tiffany Case in “Diamonds Are Forever”. Bonds says to her, a perfect women knows how to make Sauce Bernaise as good as she knows how to make love. The book version of Tiffany is a smuggler, tough as nails and drops Bond at the end for another man. However, the movie Tiffany (Jill St. John) is much more helpless. Beginning as the same tough smuggler girl, she soon runs around in a bikini, screaming for help.
The 1971s “Diamonds Are Forever” became the jump start for the simple Bond Girls.But especially in the Roger Moore era it was hard: Rosie Carver in “Live And Let Die”, Bibi Dahl in “For Your Eyes Only” and the already mentioned Mary Goodnight all start as strong women – and end as needy damsels.

James Bond Pam Bouvier

Pam Bouvier in “Licence To Kill”

In the early 80s Bond Girls began to re-emancipate themselves, writes Robert Caplen in “The Feminism of James Bond”. With Timothy Dalton playing the agent, his Bond Girls became serious. Kara in “The Living Daylights”? A hired Russian killer and successful cellist. Pam Bouvier in “Licence To Kill”? A gritty CIA agent. And one with a mouth. As she kisses Bond first, he asks, why she didn’t wait till she got asked. Her response. “So why didn’t you ask?”

Bond still loves beautiful women, the “Time” reviews the 1987 “Living Daylights”. But now he “relies on their intelligence and independence. They can fight manfully; he can fall in love.”

With Pierce Brosnan playing Bond from 1995 on, the women finally start to take over. M now is a female – and Dame Judi Dench portraits her with a nice certainty. First thing she says to Bond? That he is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur”.

Others fall in line: Wai Lin in “Tomorrow Never Dies” is a Chinese agents, who fights alongside Bond – or against him.
Elektra King in “The World Is Not Enough” plays the abuse victim. Later she turns out to be the main villain, tricking others into her game to play the oil markets.
Eve Moneypenny in “Skyfall” and “Spectre” got remodeled for her own good. She always was the MI6 secretary, who played cat and mouse with Bond. Now she was a field agent herself and is integrated into Bonds operations.
Then Madeleine Swann in “Spectre”. Doctor in psychology, daughter of a criminal and known to weapons, doesn’t need protection. At the end of the film, Bond quits his job for her – it’s gender equality turned upside down.

The mother of Bond Girls behind all this? Barbara Broccoli

She is the daughter of James Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and todays boss of the movie franchise. As a girl she played at the movie sets, then was co-director with 22 at the “Octopussy” set in 1983. Barbara Broccoli herself sees the Bond Girls as “progressive” role models to feminism (“The Telegraph”).
Maybe her choice to make Daniel Craig a Bond, was a nod to independent women. Because Craig himself knows how to fight for equality. Like this:

© Danjaq, MGM (1,2,3)