Sara Heredia Losana
Sara Heredia Losana is a content creator at online film publication, SensaCine.
Sara Heredia Losana, 07/10/21. Translated by Saskia Russell
In the latest instalment of agent 007, his female counterparts carry him like a package on a motorcycle, they fight in the same way as him and they manage to make him fall in love. They may be still be just ornamental for some, but for the majority of the public, they’re proper, up-to-date characters.
*THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS*
Ursula Andress, the 'Bond girl' from Agent 007 vs. Dr. No (1962), landed her role after the director, Terence Young, saw a photograph of her in a wet T-shirt. At that time, those were the qualities that were required: having a good figure and being able to dazzle the male audience. 60 years later, Lashana Lynch, the new 00, carries Daniel Craig's Bond like a backpack on a bike while she is the one riding it. They are two completely different types of women and, between the two, there is a long road that has ended up achieving equality in a saga that, traditionally, has been sexist.
With No Time to Die, a concerted effort has been made to remove this stigma. Daniel Craig has been determined, since he arrived in 2006 with Casino Royale, not to be the purely macho agent that his predecessors had been. There have been seven actors tasked with playing Ian Fleming's action hero for 25 films, each with his corresponding Bond girl, a character used only to serve the story of the agent; for many years, it was only the colour of her bikini that mattered.
In the new instalment of the saga, the mantle is picked up by two actresses who are anything but flimsy doormats or vehicles for male storylines. They are Léa Seydoux in the role of Madeleine Swann - who, by the way, is the first female Bond actress to reprise a role of this kind - and Lashana Lynch as Nomi, the 00 agent who replaces James Bond after he leaves his position. They are the ones who have changed Craig's environment in favour of a more balanced environment without such prominent masculinity. "James Bond is still very traditional, but I do see a break in the classically masculine figure; he doesn’t just subscribe to the same normative qualities. He is an older James Bond, who realises he’s weaker, but retains his heroic sensibilities until the end”, Asunción Bernardez Rodal points out, Professor of Communication at the Complutense University of Madrid and author of the book Soft Power: Heroines and babes in media culture.
Presenting him as a family man is a twist in the way his masculinity is presented, but he still maintains a very strong traditional line. In No Time to Die, James Bond is a man with a daughter who’s already grown up and a beautiful, young, amazing woman. "The plot does not contravene the masculine ideal because now we are dealing with an old Bond, who has been a player all his life. Now he finds himself with an already well-brought up daughter and with a young woman, through which those ideals of masculinity are perfectly maintained because the perfect woman is found ", maintains Bernardez.
NO TIME TO DIE: A CHANGE WITHOUT TURNING BACK ON BOND GIRLS
"Bond can be sexist, OK, I mean, it's not okay for someone to be sexist, but he can be as long as everyone around him points out that he is. You can’t separate yourself from difficult people, it’s about making sure other parties, especially the women, are equal to him." These are the words of Daniel Craig in an interview for SensaCine. The actor agrees that the franchise must shift toward feminism and equality. For this they have two great assets: Léa Seydoux's Madeleine Swann and Nomi, Agent 00 played by Lashana Lynch.
The maternal role falls on Swann as she is the mother of James Bond's daughter. They ran the risk of pigeonholing her into a domestic role, but she is well balanced, in the words of Asunción Bernardez Rodal. "She is the figure of a professional woman, but also very domesticated, integrated into the family environment. She presents herself to us as a warrior woman and then what she is, above all, is a mother figure, although she is a very positive figure because she defends herself ", says the professor.
In that sense, she still has male characteristics, that is, she knows how to use force and combines it with motherhood and with the most classic characteristics of femininity. She is quite a positive figure.
On the other side is Nomi, a girl who comes to the agency with great strength, security and great skills. She comes also with a lot of knowledge about James Bond with which she is able to push his buttons. For the gender expert, this inclusion is a big change: "The arrival of a 007 who is a black woman is fantastic. This character is positive. She is a woman who does not conform to beauty norms. She is not really skinny, she is black, it's very interesting."
The character of Lashana Lynch stars in a scene that embodies the spirit of this instalment of James Bond. She is the one who drives her partner on several occasions, either on a motorcycle or on a plane. "It is very symbolic. In a James Bond film, the whole issue of technology is always handled by men. In this case, the fact that it is a woman who is riding the motorcycle, which also represents masculinity, is very important " says Asunción.
FROM A WET T-SHIRT AND A CONFUSED LESBIAN TO THE MADELEINE AND NOMI REVOLUTION
Ursula Andress has the honour of being the first Bond girl in history. Although she first appears in the film with great force, her qualities soon fade to give way to an infantilised character who needs Bond’s help. What do we remember about her? The famous scene coming out of the water with that white bikini on that, decades later, would also be the most iconic of Halle Berry's character in Die Another Day. This is the trend that these types of characters have followed, highly sexualised at the beginning and a little more subtly towards the end.
There are some cases that are more problematic than others. One that would generate quite a controversy today is that of Honor Blackman, who brought the character of Pussy Galore to life in Goldfinger (1964). Theoretically, an interesting character, since she is the only known criminal woman in the United States. The film was ground-breaking in the sense that she was portrayed as a lesbian, like all the participants in her organisation. It soon becomes clear that the inclusion of this progressive detail ultimately doesn’t hold water, and you soon end up cringing. Bond forces her to kiss him until she succumbs and, although she is a seasoned criminal, she has to be saved by Bond from Goldfinger's clutches. However, the detail that could never make the final cut in a Bond film today is that she and Bond end up together, despite Pussy's sexual orientation.
In the 70s, Gloria Steinem founded the famous feminist magazine Ms., the National Organisation for Women (NOW), which brought together hundreds of women in its protests and the Equal Rights Amendment was on the agenda of political groups. The saga of agent 007 could not look the other way and built its next protagonist based on what was in line with society at the time. This is how Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) was born in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), one of the most developed Bond girls, equal to the main actor. Thanks to this change, then there would be room for Halle Berry's Jinx in Die Another Day (2002), the first black woman who did not end up in a villain role and a breakthrough as an action heroine.
To close this review of the long list of Bond girls, we highlight two recurring themes. On the one hand, death is a common fate among them, starting with Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) in You Only Live Twice (1967), who is accidentally poisoned, and continuing with Plenty O'Toole (Lana Wood) and her fall in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who played one of the few women who had managed to capture the agent's heart in Casino Royale, also suffers a fateful end. It is a trend suffered by characters considered to be minor in fiction, such as women, people of non-Western races and those belonging to the LGBT community.
Another detail to highlight is the age of the actresses who have played the agent’s companions. Few have been older 30, Monica Belucci being the great exception, having played Lucia Sciarra in Spectre (2015) at 51 years old. Today, the youth of Bond girls is something that hasn’t changed. Léa Seydoux was just 30 years old when she appeared in Spectre, while Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas, the stars of No Time to Die, were 33. Of course, James Bond has a license to grow old; Roger Moore was 50 years and Pierce Brosnan was well into his forties.
That said, what will the new James Bond look like? There is much debate about the idea of a woman in the role. Just as there are advocates, there are many voices against it. Craig's position is that what is really necessary is to create rich and complex female characters, not to replace those who have traditionally been men by women. "The interesting thing of course would be that, that these stereotypes run naturally, that both men and women play these roles. Society has to change as well. In the end, what happens is that fiction is still very conservative, more than we think. Now we see female characters, which is great, but there is an implicit conservatism that’s still at work, "says Asunción Bernardez.
Original source: www.sensacine.com/noticias/cine/noticia-18589703/