By Ross Lelieur
Senior Staff Writer
Bond girls have long been an immediately recognizable facet of James Bond films. Young, beautiful, and easily replaced, they complement Bond’s suave machismo and bolster his masculinity. Yet, as much as they are a symbol for male virility and confidence, they are also a symbol for a particular brand of sexualized, marginalized, and ultimately disposable woman. These characters may have been acceptable in the 1960s, when Goldfinger and Thunderball were first released, but the damaging stereotype is now just as antiquated as the latter film’s iconic poster, which depicts Bond surrounded by four barely clothed and suggestively posed women.
Perhaps the most egregious example of Bond’s sexism is also the most obvious: Bond sleeps with a staggering number of women. Bond is exceptionally promiscuous, having slept with dozens of Bond girls over 50 years, and averaging two to three women per film. This points to an extreme sexualization of women in Bond films, and a lack of diversity in their roles.
Bond also fails to provide any examples of healthy relationships with these numerous women. The agent is transient, moving from woman to woman without any intimacy further than the most superficial level. Although he does actually fall in love and marry in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the death of his wife results in Bond falling back into his old habits. Coping mechanism or not, this is hardly an example of a healthy relationship pattern.
Bond films also represent a certain sexual fascination with traumatized women. Many of the most notable Bond girls were sexually abused, such as Tiffany Case, who was raped by a number of men as a teenager, and Honey Rider, who was beaten and raped by an acquaintance. Perhaps the most distressing example is Pussy Galore, who, after being abused by her uncle as a child, lived as a lesbian for her entire adult life. Still, Bond is able to enter the scene and seduce her, Case, and Rider, presumably because of his irresistible, sophisticated charm. This “overpowering” of the women’s trauma and sexual preference is a disgusting example of Bond’s prevalent chauvinism. Bond’s implied dominance over these women’s reluctance is not a theme appropriate for any film, particularly those in a franchise directed towards young men.
James Bond is one of the most famous film heroes of all time. Yet his immensely popular embodiment of elegant masculinity comes with a dark side: the marginalization and extreme sexualization of his female companions. If the franchise is to evolve into modern cinema in a meaningful way, James Bond will have to find it within himself to partner with women in meaningful ways, all of which go beyond just sex.