My mission, and I chose to accept it, was to watch half a dozen Bond movies and summon up some firepower on the Bond women.
I could gun down the pathetic sexism of early Bond, or the patronising raised eyebrow of mid-Bond, and we could detonate the tortured hero of Brosnan Bond, and, guess what? I will. But first let’s agree that Bond movies are fabulous fun, and I confess to booking my tickets at the Cheltenham Odeon as fast as I can negotiate the One Way system in my Z3.
I don’t know which I enjoy more – the cars or the girls. I didn’t buy my 3-litre BMW because I saw Golden Eye, but I was very upset when Bond got the Z8 in The World is Not Enough. Why? I can’t afford to spend £80,000 on a car, even though I long for a champagne cooler under the handbrake. Driving round Cheltenham without one is a mini-roundabout too far. If I knew there was a Dom Perignon 53 ready to drink on touch down in the multi-storey car park, I would feel less like machine-gunning Burger King, as I pass it for the twentieth time in a traffic labyrinth that could have been devised by Dr No.
Yes, the Dom Perignon is a Sean Connery special, but Champagne, like Martini, shaken and not stirred, is vintage Bond. It’s an interesting choice, because while the cars are really boy’s toys, the drink is surprisingly feminine. Girls drink champagne and Martini – and even at his most butch, Bond has something to hide; he’s a bit of a girl himself.
Before every Bond Wannabe drops their plastic Smith and Wesson into the cat tray, let me argue that the facts are on my side:
He’s got more outfits than Barbie. The hand-made clothes, beautifully tailored to fit, are not exactly a he-man pursuit. Only a dandy gets fitted up, (yes I am thinking of you, Guy Ritchie). Men who enjoy a bit of made-to-measure, are indulging their senses just as women do. They enjoy the attention, the flattery, the expense, and the look. Gay men have known this for years – look at Oscar Wilde and Dirk Bogart. I was going to say Julian Clary, but I know that every Bond Fancier worth his underpants would tear up this newspaper. There’s nothing wrong with liking clothes, but it’s a girl thing.
Bond has his own espresso machine. Now he is beginning to sound like a homosexual. Nobody had their own espresso machine in the 1970’s except for James Bond and Quentin Crisp. Have a look at Live and Let Die, and there is our hero, disguised as Roger Moore, making M a cappuccino to keep him out of the bedroom. An Italian lovely is in the bedroom, of course, and Bond’s Embarrassment Reading is wobbling dangerously high, until Moneypenny arrives and helpfully shuts the girl in the closet.
The bizarre thing about this scene is Bond playing the dizzy blonde to Moneypenny’s quick thinking control. There’s Bond, louche and tousled in his dressing gown, here’s Moneypenny buttoned up to the neck with an iron hair-do. Sure, she looks like this because she’s the one Bond girl who’s not allowed to be sexy, but the role-playing is clear. Bond’s not the helpless male here – he’s a girl who’s trying to distract his boss with a cup of coffee, while figuring out how to get the lover out of the house. With his floppy blond hair falling in his eyes, and his games with a magnetic teaspoon, all he needs is a pair of kitten heels, and he’s Marilyn Monroe.
And take a look at that manicure… The hands on the steering wheel are not those of an action-hero. Since when did Terminator buff his nails?
Bond drives like a girl. …Every time he reverses he crushes someone’s bonnet. Oh I know about the handbrake turns, and the back wheels in space, but you get that for free on the school-run. Look what he did to Tilly Masterson’s tyres in GoldFinger. That was a classic school-run stunt.
While we’re doing gender reversal, what about those flying lezzos in GoldFinger, headed by Honor Blackman as an air-born dominatrice? I have never wanted to be James Bond, (though I have occasionally wanted to be in bed with James Bond, especially when he’s specially ironed his sheets from Frette), but Pussy Galore? Yes! Yes! Yes! As a not-so-distant relative of Octopussy, the grrl-gang leader gets my vote.
Am I just a sucker for a lesbian sub-plot? Aren’t we all? What could be sexier than a bunch of girls wearing their tits like epaulettes, and tripping out of their bi-planes in their little black flying suits, just longing for a kiss from Ms Blackman?
‘I’m a damn good pilot’ she snaps at Bond, nosing her plane down the runway. Which is more than can be said for Bond himself. Ever done a Bond Dead Plane Count?
What Bond certainly is, is a very good lover – which is not the same as to say he is a lady-killer. Lady-killer he is, but rather too literally, and one of Brosnan’s most disturbing moments is when he shoots dead at close range, the gorgeous Sophie Marceau, in The World Is Not Enough. Of course, we know that he had fallen in love with her – a mistake an earlier Bond would never make – and one suspects that this is the real reason she had to die. All women fall for Bond – even Judi Dench, God help us, but Bond was an emotional virgin. Brosnan has opened Bond to feeling, – and he may have gone too far. Killing your enemies extravagantly is the stuff of high adventure. Shooting the woman you love through the heart takes us nearer to tragedy.
Bond Girls are for lovemaking. That is their first function. They are soft porn of the Pirelli Calendar type. Mention Ursula Andress rising out of the Jamaican sea like Venus Primavera, and a man will start adjusting his tie, even if he’s not wearing one. On the wilder shores of feminist rant I once read that Bond’s tie (endlessly adjusted) is a penis substitute. It isn’t; there is no substitute for a Bond penis. It is the potent, hidden guided missile, the mini-death that all women long for, whether they are the bolshy, ball-breaking Grace Jones, in A View To Kill, or the crystal-vowel neophyte, Jane Seymour, in Live and Let Die.
You could take the view that this is the kind of crass stereotyping typical of boysie blockbusters; women, however different, skilled, talented, independent, just WANT IT. That is the message of pornography, and it is present in Bond.
You could also take the view that women want Bond because he satisfies them sexually, and any woman in touch with her body will want a lover who does that – and yippee, she doesn’t have to marry him.
Early and mid-Bond may patronise women, but he will go to any lengths – at least nine inches – to please them ‘Nobody does it better’ Carly Simon sings, in The Spy Who Loved Me, and the truth is that as Bond morphs down the years, he becomes less and less like a caveman – and more and more like, well, yes I’m sorry, one of the girls.
Bond makes love like a girl. Whaaaat?? Watch it for yourself. He flirts, he likes kissing necks and shoulders, he sometimes keeps his pyjamas on, he holds hands, he banters in bed, and he makes breakfast.
Bond is no humping terminator – he loves pleasure and beauty and softness, and he doesn’t just take these things; he offers them.
His legendary prowess in bed gives us a clue, because of course, only girls can really keep it up all night long.
Maybe I’ve gone too far – it must be the pink shirts – but as the gruff bluff M discovered his feminine side and re-incarnated as Judi Dench, so Bond is a little bit less in denial about his other half. As Bond relaxes, his women are less caught in the arm-lock of gender.
Watching the Bond women evolve is a Pirelli Calendar of social change. It’s not only that Christmas Jones can be a rocket scientist where Ursula Andress had to collect shells, it’s the transformation of M and Moneypenny that is so revealing. Bond’s boss is a woman, and his boss’s PA is a woman. These two are the strictly no sex characters, but Judi Dench has a charisma all her own, which Bond responds to, and Moneypenny is no longer the rather sad, stay at home, pining spinster of yesterday, but an attractive sexy powerbroker, who fancies Bond, without needing him.
What next for the Bond Girls?
Rumour has it that Saffron Burrows is back in the running, and what could be better for the new Bond than a six foot model who takes her pleasure with women as well as men? We could do with an update on Octopussy.
And now that Brosnan has confessed to a homosexual thought when he was fifteen, perhaps Bond will have to relax even further?
Brush down the outfits and get out the espresso machine. I reckon that the best Bond Girl has always been Bond himself.