The following feature was pitched to, commissioned by and featured on Culture Fly.
“Nobody does it better…” croons Carly Simon during the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me and even though he’s a “misogynistic dinosaur”, Bond is still celebrated.
James Bond is the spy all other spies want to be, dispatching anonymous henchmen with ease, wearing sharp suits and having a questionable drinking habit. At the end of his arduous assignment he signs off by “keeping the British end up” with his lead Bond Girl.
Bond has an indelible place in British pop culture and Lauren Collins, sitting in a cafe with a paper cup filled with coffee, finds it easy to see why. Daniel Craig’s face is plastered on every bus that drives past the window, with the hurricane of hype surrounding Spectre, putting Bond back on the social agenda. But, for all his success, there has always been an issue with the way Bond Girls have been portrayed over the last 53 years.
Lauren, an average filmgoer, identifies herself as a feminist and annihilates Jurassic World for its sexism as well as the general trend of portraying women as fragile little things. But with Bond, things get more complicated. She lets the images of past Bond Girls filter through her mind before explaining how she reacts to their portrayal.
“The first one I ever watched was Live and Let Die. I couldn’t tell you who the Bond girl was,” says Lauren. Solitaire, played by Jane Seymour, is tricked into bed and becomes the first of Roger Moore’s many Bond Girls.
If this were to occur today there would be outrage, but a Bond film reflects the time it was made and it became so ingrained in the cultural consciousness so quickly, that the franchise seemingly gets a free pass.
“You know what you’re getting with Bond movies when it comes to the women,” Lauren says.
She suddenly stops talking, catching herself before she says something she may regret.
“Look, if you take Bond Girls as cultural icons, removed from their respective movies, then their representation is bad, but it’s just a movie. At the end of the day when I watch a movie, I’m just watching a movie and I don’t care,” she says, stressing every syllable. “That sounds really bad but I just don’t care. I’m watching it for entertainment, I’m not looking to react a certain way.
“I don’t think a platonic relationship would work with Bond. I know I wouldn’t like it,” Lauren says.
Many may tut at this sentence but it has some ground. The disliked Quantum of Solace is the only film where the lead Bond Girl doesn’t sleep with 007. Sure, the film has other problems but it’s significant that one of the less popular Bond flicks didn’t treat the woman as a sex object. Bond is a male fantasy and there will always be a “pretty girl in a bikini” whose role is to sleep with 007.
“That’s kind of the norm,” says Lauren rather dismissively. It’s not that she likes it, it’s just that she’s accepted it as something that will be hard to change. “Look, if a girl sleeps around she’s called a ‘slag’ and if a guy sleeps around he’s called a ‘lad’. It’s a society thing and I don’t think our culture will show this until there’s been a change.”
The Bond Girls may now be nuclear scientists but they’re still reduced to sexual fodder for Mr Bond. Slight twists to the protocol have been implemented, but Lauren believes this happened because societal shifts left the producers no choice.
“They’ve had to change a little bit because of the changing role of women over time, but the sexism is still there and I don’t think that will ever go with Bond,” she says. “Bond is suave and sophisticated – a ladies man. That’s what makes him intriguing as a character and that’s why I love Pierce Brosnan because he did it so well.”
She glances down to let out an embarrassed little giggle. “I have a bit of crush on him,” she admits. “I feel bad about having a crush on him because he’s naughty; a player; a bit of a dick. Everyone loves a bit of danger.”
Director Sam Mendes has called Spectre “revolutionary”. Let’s hope that when it hits cinema screens, this revolution sparks the awakening of a modern Bond Girl.
“I don’t really care,” she says. “Bond is just tongue in cheek so I don’t really take the whole thing seriously.”