Wherever you find James Bond, an international covert agent on Her Majesty’s secret service, you will also find someone else: the Bond girl. She is his love interest in each film of the franchise, there is usually more than one, and she is always beautiful.
No Time to Die is the 25th film featuring James Bond since the series began in 1962 with Dr. No. And over those years, 6 different actors have played author Ian Fleming’s creation, and the character of the Bond girl has been a mainstay. Let’s take the focus off the male lead for once and see if the women next to Bond today are recognizable in the ones who came before.
Early Bond: Connery/Lazenby
Let’s get the fanboys angry right off the bat: Bond is misogynistic on the page. And these first entries reflect that. One case in point: the personality-reducing quality of the ridiculous Bond girl names. This is an Ian Fleming trademark— remember Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? These mostly get better as the franchise goes on. Another sticky point: the Bond girl attire. The privilege given to the male gaze is extremely obvious. In Dr. No, Ursula Andress‘ Honey Ryder (uh-huh) makes her entrance in a bikini. This HASN’T changed that much since then, though revealing evening gowns have been given more screen time now.
To a bigger point, these women are not often given much to do, much depth of backstory, or much of their own internal lives. The attitude Bond has to them– that they are interchangeable– prevails. (A possible exception being when the character famously gets married in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.) There can be condescension, too. At one point in 1963’s From Russia With Love, Bond tells Daniela Bianchi‘s Russian double agent, “Just do what I tell you” with a gesture that’s almost a pat on the head. Bond deserves all the side-eye, even during the most interesting moments of his adventures.
Middle Bond: Moore/Dalton
This section of the series’ history features tiny steps in the right direction towards better female representation. 1973’s Live and Let Die allows for Bond’s first depicted dalliance with a black woman, Gloria Hendry‘s Rosie, and gives a memorable tragic history to Jane Seymour‘s Solitaire. The Bond girls now can sometimes be government operatives themselves, like The Spy Who Loved Me‘s Anya Amasova, aka Agent Triple X (Barbara Bach) in 1977, or a useful scientist, like Moonraker‘s Dr. Holly Goodhead (again: uh-huh) in 1979, played by Lois Chiles, or at least be successful at a certain skill, like The Living Daylights‘ cellist Kara (Maryam D’Abo) in 1987. (No silly name for her–PROGRESS!)
Despite these advances, the undertone of Bond’s mindset when it comes to his romantic life does still have some distance to go to improve. In 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun, Britt Eckland’s Agent Goodnight (sigh) is concealed by Bond in a closet while he beds the other female love interest! ICK. The end of every film leaves you with the impression that Bond will stay with this woman, but he never does.
The more important problem may be the producers’ attitude toward female characters. Goodnight is presented a quite useless at her job, for example. This only corrects itself slowly and incrementally. There is also a glaring example in this Bond era of the gross Hollywood cliche of putting leading men with much younger women: Moore was 30 years older than Carole Bouquet, his love interest in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. A woman watching these films has got to start to wonder: is it really that easy for Bond to get EVERY woman he comes across?
Recent Bond: Brosnan/Craig
Now, we enter the era that comes up to the present day, including Bond’s latest adventure, No Time to Die. In this period, the audience finally sees Bond face off against a female villain, not just a love interest working for the villain. (More progress!) In 1999’s The World is Not Enough, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) is the enemy Bond must stop, though he only realizes it after going to bed with her. We now also get to see Bond with the same woman more than once. In 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond reunites with a past girlfriend, Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), who is now the wife of a power-mad media mogul trying to start another world war. His emotion feels quite genuine when she is killed.
Also for the first time, a Bond girl character appears in more than one film. Lea Seydoux‘s Madeleine Swann enters Bond’s life in 2015’s Spectre and he is still with her in No Time to Die. (Even more progress!) It’s worth noting that this part of the series also takes the step of recasting M, Bond’s boss at MI 6, with a woman, legendary Dame Judi Dench, beginning in 1995’s GoldenEye. She is, of course, not a love interest but an important female character nonetheless.
No Time to Die also gives Bond’s 007 designation to a female agent, Lashana Lynch‘s Nomi. She is, again, not a love interest, which is noteworthy in itself, but she is the first female double-O agent we see in the films. And she’s a woman of color! Best of all, the female gaze seems to be quite centered when Craig’s Bond emerges from the water in a swimsuit in 2006’s Casino Royale. Of course, the male gaze isn’t going anywhere in this franchise but this step is definitely significant. It’s no coincidence that this is the section of the series when Barbara Broccoli moved from associate producer to producer.
Of course, there is another female Bond character who could be interpreted as a love interest and who is present for most of the series: Moneypenny. She is M’s secretary, and she and Bond have plenty of conversations laden with innuendo, though nothing ever comes of it. The latest incarnation of this character, played by Naomi Harris, is given much more to do, starting out as a field agent before choosing a desk job. She is also a woman of color as well. We love to see it.
After No Time to Die, the future of the Bond franchise is unknown as yet, but when it comes to the Bond girl (can we start calling them Bond WOMEN yet??), the producers can make even more inclusive strides. Can we get a Bond love interest who is below average height for once? This short woman would appreciate it. Or even… A PLUS-SIZE Bond girl? Come on, you know it’s time. I personally would also enjoy very much seeing a Bond guy. I mean, at the very least, a male character should have a juvenile, sexual joke of a name, just once. It was already heavily hinted in Skyfall, just do it, filmmakers!
They may have evolved over time, but the Bond girl is an integral part of the series and for that reason will last forever.
No Time to Die is now in theaters.