Kelechi from Confessions From A Geek Mind was kind enough to do a guest post for the conclusion of my Bond run, being one of the more knowledgeable bloggers following this run of the franchise as well as a big fan. Do check out the Geek Mind’s site, it is an enjoyable one!
It’s not everyday that I get asked to guest write on someone’s blog but I feel truly honoured (and chuffed) to be asked by Zoë to give my rundown on my top 5 Bond girls.
I think the question that I had to ask myself is how do I define a Bond girl? What makes them special and stand out from others? Is it just purely based on looks and their beauty? Does she still qualify as a Bond girl if she’s the villain? Does Bond necessarily have to sleep with her to automatically get the Bond girl label? Watching the entire Bond 50 collection in chronological order has helped shaped my opinion on them as well as my views on each film as part of my weekly Bond countdown.
Over the years, the nature of a Bond girl has evolved. No longer are they just the damsel in distress, but women who are strong and independent. That tradition has continued with the latest Bond girls expressing more emotive feelings, providing us a sympathetic view towards their cause. I guess the best way to look at this is the alternative look at the Bond girls from what usually comes out in public opinion polls. Based on their qualities, these are Bond girls who have stamped their authority on the franchise, making them memorable and testing and developing Bond as a character.
So here it goes…
#5: Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman)
Just the name alone is worthy of an entry! Yes Pussy Galore became the name that started it all – giving a Bond girl a double entendre gimmick name. You name it, Plenty O’Toole, Christmas Jones, Onatopp, Jenny Flex – all of that originated from their predecessor. Sometimes you do wonder what their parents were thinking when they were naming their child!
But the name is not the only reason why she is on the list. Just like her Bond girl predecessor in Honey Rider from Dr. No, Pussy Galore is resourceful, clever, independent and strong. She can fly a plane and knows judo. When Bond encounters her for the first time, she’s not easily swayed. That’s because she’s a lesbian and it presented a unique opportunity in the Bond franchise. While the film doesn’t come out and say she is, the hints couldn’t be more clear and having a character that is not entirely interested in Bond is a bold move. It goes against the grain of what we usually expect from a Bond girl (a girl who just typically falls for Bond and then their moment is over…or dies at the hands of her boss). She easily rejects Bond’s charm offensive, claiming she is immune. She points a gun at him, making sure he behaves. She even performs a judo throw on Bond! It does become a little questionable when Bond tries to change her sexual preference (and successfully does), but I love that Pussy Galore makes Bond work harder at his mission. He can’t just rely on his natural appeal – he has to convince her, just like with Honey Rider that his intentions are honourable and that she is associating herself with a mad man.
While the gimmick of Pussy Galore’s name has gone on to become a staple standard of the Bond films (due to the blockbuster success of Goldfinger), the essence of her character and what a Bond girl could do became cemented in stone.
#4: May Day (Grace Jones)
Film: A View to a Kill
There are not many Bond girls in which they embody both physical and mental strength to take on her male counterparts. The sexually charged Onatopp (Famke Janssen) from Goldeneye stands out in recent memory, but for me, May Day was the one Bond girl that set the standard and quite possibly redefined what a Bond girl was.
In some Bond films, the Bond girl could come off as a damsel in distress and the only thing that stands out about them is their funny name. However in A View to a Kill, May Day wasn’t even the Bond girl but she certainly stood out against non-stop screaming Stacey (Tanya Roberts). What makes May Day so memorable is really the eccentric nature of Grace Jones and A View to a Kill is the perfect vehicle for her. She theatrically laughs in the face of danger, she can lift up grown men with ease, she hides in the back seats of cars to take out her opponent and parachutes from the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Even her dress sense is beautifully striking, epitomising the bold and daring 80s fashion. I’m pretty sure if you called her name silly she would have something to say about it! Growing up and seeing May Day for the first time on TV, I was in awe because it’s a character you don’t see often. She’s a character that takes care of business.
But what Grace Jones probably doesn’t get enough credit for is also showcasing May Day’s vulnerability. May Day cared about Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his plans for world domination. In fact, she thought Zorin loved her. The real game changer is that despite her support for him, Zorin (being the psychopath that he is) thought she was expendable. She was used, just like everyone else when he commits the equivalent of mining genocide by blowing up the mines and leaving her to drown. With her left to die in the mines and seeing her friends murdered at the hands of the psychopath, May Day switches her allegiance to help Bond. It’s a great little moment and it’s something you root for. Another great thing about May Day, she takes upon herself the imminent and fatal danger and she gets the last laugh/revenge on Zorin, something I’m sure he didn’t anticipate.
Hell hath no fury like a May Day scorned…
#3: Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell, Caroline Bliss, Samantha Bond, Naomie Harris)
Film: In every Bond film except for Licence to Kill, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
I know what you are thinking? Moneypenny is not a Bond girl! But in my opinion, she totally is and probably the most overlooked and underrated Bond girl.
In my head, one day Bond will wake up and smell the roses because Moneypenny has always been there for him. What makes her stand out from all the other Bond girls is her own natural charm towards Bond. She knows his weaknesses and his strengths. She matches Bond’s sense of humour, she flirts with him and when Bond tries the sweet talk, she reminds him that she’s not that kind of girl. She just has a natural affection for him, willing to back him up or ease drop on highly classified conversations to make sure he’s ok. She even shed tears for him at his wedding in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in which he lovingly reciprocated with a sweet hand wave. All these qualities you have to give massive thanks to Lois Maxwell who played Miss Moneypenny for the first 14 Bond films. She started that tradition and all the other women who have gone on to play Moneypenny have embraced that same spirit.
In an interesting twist, Skyfall showed the evolution of Moneypenny. With her identity kept hidden until the final frames of the film, Naomie Harris shows Moneypenny as having field experience. She accidentally shoots Bond! But when he returns alive and well, they joke about the experience, so already there’s a sense of forgiveness and an introduction of “the moment” of how this banter first started. It adds to their character. It has been criticised that after Moneypenny shoots Bond, in the end she gives it up for a desk job. It’s a fair and valid comment yet at the same time, I honestly don’t think Hollywood has cracked down how to write genuine female characters without coming off as a sexualised movie cliché. But in this circumstance we have to remember that people are different and On its 50th anniversary, Skyfall was a film that embraced change and tested character limitations, in particular with Bond and M. Just because Moneypenny wasn’t cut out for fieldwork doesn’t make her any less of a woman. She was strong enough to walk away like Bond could have done when the same situation came to him. For her reasons, it makes Bond respect her more and vice versa because the job shouldn’t be taken lightly. All in all I look forward to seeing more of the future exchanges of Harris’s Moneypenny and Craig’s Bond because it’s a relationship that always brings out a smile in me.
#2: Teresa (Tracy) Bond (Diana Rigg)
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
One word springs to mind every time I think of Teresa – tragic. A woman that completed Bond in every way, dies on her wedding day by Blofeld and Irma Blunt.
Beautiful and classy, Tracy doesn’t immediately fall for Bond’s charms and it’s a relationship that doesn’t start off the best of ways. At the beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond saves her from committing suicide by drowning in the sea. Later on, Bond is then asked by Teresa’s father to court her. Bond initially refuses but her father insists that he would be perfect for her. What started out as an icy relationship quickly turned into love.
What makes Teresa memorable is her natural resilience and attitude. She clearly is a fighter, no doubt her experience within her crime family and her troubled past certainly helped. But what Diana Rigg does so beautifully is give her heart and soul, characteristics that captured Bond’s heart. When Bond was vulnerable, trying to outrun Blofeld’s henchmen on the ski slopes, Teresa turns up to save the day, driving at high speed along the icy roads and a racetrack in Switzerland. In any other Bond film, the Bond girl would have been rendered useless and Bond would have used some car gadget to stop the threat. With On Her Majesty’s Secret Service being a realistic take on Bond, Bond relies on Teresa’s skilful driving to escape. She saves his life. Every obstacle they faced together, they were there risking their lives for each other. While the off-screen relationship between Diana Rigg and George Lazenby hit trouble now and again, Bond’s relationship with Teresa felt genuine and heartfelt.
Quite simply, Teresa Bond was a different kind of Bond girl. It felt modern, giving her character essence and not relying on just simply her looks to get by. Teresa helped add to Bond’s character by making him more than just a cliché. When Bond proposes to her, you felt Bond had grown up and moved pass his misogynistic ways and found happiness. So when Teresa dies, it is heart breaking and a stark reminder to the audience that in Bond’s line of work, there’s no such thing as happy endings. It’s a pity that the next Bond film, Diamonds are Forever doesn’t even pay tribute to such a wonderful character or get Bond to reflect on what happened. The film goes back to formula rather than deal with the consequences. We would have to wait until the 80s for remembrance when Roger Moore’s Bond pays tribute to her in For Your Eyes Only. Gone but not forgotten.
#1: Vesper Lynd (Eva Green)
Film: Casino Royale
“I’m the Money.” – those were Vesper’s first words to Bond…and I love it so much!
It was a close call between Teresa and Vesper landing the number one spot because both characters essentially do the same thing – they are beautiful, complex women who melted Bond’s cold-blooded heart. But what stands out the most with Vesper and why she is my number one Bond girl is her amazing introduction. Her lines are flirtatious, almost like a married couple and in this short exchange during a train ride I quickly realised I’ve witnessed the best piece of Bond dialogue in the entire film franchise.
Eva Green gives Vesper warmth which makes her instantly loveable from the get go. In Fleming’s original novel of the same name, in the beginning she appears slightly nervous yet excited working with Bond when she meets him for the first time. But in the film adaptation, she is brimming with confidence, already laying the ground rules. She brings out Bond’s emotional side, matching Bond’s charm and sense of humour and at the same time, exposing his vulnerability. They both realise they have a similar background, hinting that they were orphans. She witnesses the brutality of Bond’s work when he gets into an altercation with an African war leader and his men. Seeing her shocked reaction is definitely a welcomed change because we see how Bond’s work affects others around him and it’s not pretty. By the nature of their chosen career path and their choices, they are essentially broken characters searching for peace. But what is also unique about Vesper is despite eventually falling for Bond, her ulterior motives were kept very hidden. You see, while Bond’s enemies killed Tracy in OHMSS, in Casino Royale, Bond was betrayed by Vesper, someone he deeply loved.
That’s what troubles me about Casino Royale (in a good way) and why I still react so positively to it every time I watch it. It’s because no matter how brilliant their love was or how much we will it on, it was a relationship that was doomed to fail. She broke his heart but not out of malice but to spare his life from Le Chiffre and the secret organisation he works for. Because Bond loved her so much, he couldn’t see the signs or as M liked to say, “we pay so much attention on our enemies, we forget to watch our friends.” Vesper’s death is hard to take because whether it was part of her plans or not, she genuinely loved Bond and by killing herself, it spares her the guilt and the secret she had been withholding but separates her from someone who got her as a person, despite her betrayal. For Daniel Craig in his first appearance as Bond, he delivers a magnificent performance, dealing emotionally all sides of Bond’s rawness as a 00. He shows us that Bond can love somebody. He uses his experiences from Vesper as a launch pad to redefine Bond as a character, from a cold-blooded spy to a complicated and tortured soul. It was a tough, cruel lesson for him to learn from Vesper but it essentially became the moment when Bond grew and develop into the spy we know and love.
Vesper helped achieved that. Smart, ridiculously beautiful and complex and that’s why she is my number one Bond girl.
Other notable mentions that missed out:
- Elektra King (The World is Not Enough)
- Honey Rider (Dr. No)
- Agent XXX (The Spy Who Loved Me)
- Pam Bouvier (Licence to Kill)
- Natalya Simonova (Goldeneye)