The evolving history of the Bond Girl is a study in glamour, sexploitation and hypocrisy across six decades.
Ahh, the Bond Girls. A concept that we are constantly told is dated, sexist, condescending and misogynistic – usually by the sort of people who would never watch Bond films in the first place – but nevertheless as much an intrinsic part of the long-running movie series as the gadgets, the cars, the villains with ludicrously pointless plans for world domination and the lead character himself.
The Bond movies are a curious thing – cinema’s most staggeringly successful franchise that has run, with only brief hiccups, for almost sixty years, but one that seems continually uncomfortable with its legacy and unconfident in its appeal. The Bond producers seem too keen to listen to critics – again, the kind of people who are not actually fans of the franchise to begin with – and worry about passing trends. Since the end of the 1960s, Bond has continually played catch-up with whatever is popular at the time – martial arts, science fiction, the Bourne and Mission: Impossible films and even the Bond copycat films, all of which have been – relatively speaking – passing fads, instead of simply sticking to what the series did best. Despite the fact that every Bond film rakes in a huge fortune and gets the sort of relentless media coverage that other filmmakers can only dream of, the series’ producers seem to continually fret that Bond is out of touch with modern sensibilities, even though those sensibilities shift more often than our love of Bond does.
Chief among the complaints about Bond – certainly since the 1990s – has been the Bond Girls. The very phrase is seen as a condescending term for the young women that James Bond dallies with throughout the films. The Bond Girls have long been seen as little more than disposable eye candy, and virtually every film since the end of the 1960s has been promoted as somehow reinventing the Bond Girl for the modern age, a reinvention immediately forgotten by the time the next movie comes around and the same claims are trotted out. When the press gloat about how Bond will finally meet his match with a female partner or adversary in the latest film, I wonder how short their memories are – didn’t they say the same thing about the last film, and the film before that, and before that? Have they forgotten Michelle Yeoh, or Grace Jones, or Diana Rigg – to name but a few?
Bond has lost his way in recent years, and much of that has been down to a distinct lack of glamour. The Daniel Craig incarnation of the character seems to be an embarrassment for everyone – still, in theory, the central character, but so degraded and humiliated that he feels like a bad smell hanging around. Played by an actor who hates the role, produced by people who seem ashamed of the character, the Bond films seemingly only now continue out of greed – for all the contempt everyone involved has for the films, they still like the money that they bring in. So the films continue to be made, but only as a rather sad and degraded facsimile of the real thing.
Bond only works as fantasy – sex, violence, action and a sort of sophistication that we can only dream of. Realism has no place in the Bond universe. Who really wants a down-to-earth, gritty 007? What is the point of that? We already have those movies with other characters if we need them. Leave Bond be, with his ludicrous gadgets, his expensive tastes, his assorted vices and his madly ostentatious villains. The Bond Girls are an integral part of that glamorous fantasy world – seductive Femme Fatales, sexy spies and the world’s most beautiful women who can’t resist the charms of the world’s least secret Secret Agent. To change that seems to misunderstand the appeal of the films.
Here, then, is a thorough gallery of promotional shots of most of James Bond’s seductive partners and double agents (with some notable and significant exceptions that perhaps speak to the seriousness of the character in question), acting as a visual history of the changing face of the glamour girl and the style of the films – and the way that they were sold to audiences, magazines and newspapers – over six decades. These images are generally not film stills but instead tended to be glamorous photoshoots and behind-the-scenes shots aimed at both fan magazines and men’s titles. As the series went on, so more and more glamour models were added to the cast – often in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments – simply to provide more T&A pin-up material for the publicity machine, sometimes featuring the nudity that the films themselves avoided. There would increasingly be Playboy spreads and other magazine exclusives over the years, and these continue to this day – albeit more often with fashion models than Page 3 Girls and in glossy style magazines like Vogue or AnOther rather than girlie mags, but a cynic might say that it’s just a less honest bit of promotion with the same intention – to sell the films on their sex appeal, even if the women appearing in the photo spread are sometimes barely in the film at all (certainly, in the 1980s it seemed that the more the publicity photos, the smaller the part) – just with more hypocritical talk of ’empowerment’ thrown in. For all their talk of progress, the 007 promotional machine still knows what sells the movie to the general public.
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live and Let Die
The Man with the Golden Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me
For Your Eyes Only
A View to a Kill
The Living Daylights
Licence to Kill
Tomorrow Never Dies
The World Is Not Enough
Die Another Day
Quantum of Solace
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