Bond girls have always been the spy franchise’s Achilles’ heel when it comes to representation of well-rounded female characters, and movies across the years have more often than not shown them as no more than 007’s plaything.
Maybe it was the inherent narratives of Ian Fleming’s source material, or the lack of women writers at the helm of bringing them to the big screen (till date only one female writer was involved in Bond films — Johanna Harwood, who had been the secretary to first Bond producer Harry Saltzman and worked on ‘Dr No’ and ‘From Russia with Love’), Bond girls have always had the raw deal.
Now woke fans are hoping that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who has reportedly been hired to jazz up the script for the upcoming Bond movie, will change all that.
Known for her work in female-centric ‘Fleabag’ and ‘Killing Eve’, 33-year-old Waller-Bridge will now try her hand in livening up the current script of ‘Bond 25,’ and it is hoped that it will involve adding more meat to the Bond girls in the movie.
Ever since the first movie in the franchise, Bond girls were looked at as gorgeous women taking a lead role in the narrative and were generally considered a muse to the man-in-charge (It was Bond, almost all of the time). Not that there were no exceptions to the trend, and we saw Bond women playing a more dynamic role, be it Halle Berry as Jinx in ‘Die Another Day or Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies.’
However, it was not a consistent thing, and it was back to muse mode again in the Daniel Craig era where they appeared as characters who ended up being the ones to pay the price for aiding Bond in a bid to help accomplish his missions. (Remember Miss Fields aka Gemma Arterton in ‘Quantum of Solace’)
Additionally, the other factor that we saw less of over the years was the double entendre of the female character’s names. Currently, the only names that come to mind are Eve Moneypenny (Naome Harris) and Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), hardly a comparison to ‘Xenia Onatopp (GoldenEye)’ or ‘Chew Mee (The Man with the Golden Gun).’
In addition, these characters weren’t just quirky names as they also possessed a wicked wit, something that could also put Bond off his guard, even if it was for a brief bit, which unfortunately has been a sporadic element in all of Craig’s movies.
One of the standout moments of ‘Skyfall’ was M’s (Judi Dench) description of Bond. She quotes part of the poem from Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses.’
“Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
And as she narrates this, with the visuals screaming ‘Here’s the British knight in shining armor,’ one can’t help but feel sorry that this is a man who showed zero emotions to Severine (Berenice Marlohe), who helped him grab Mr. Silva (Javier Bardem), but in the process, was shot flush in the head and the only remark Bond could come up with was, “I think it’s a waste of good scotch.”
Moving on to ‘Spectre,’ we see Bond seduce Lucia Sciarra (Monica Belluci) to giving him information so that he could infiltrate a meeting of criminals. He follows this up by getting romantically involved with Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) who after hearing the news of her father’s death is still vulnerable.
Swann is introduced as a feisty character who later gives in, physically and emotionally, when Bond saves her from the baddies for a second time.
Eventually, all this goes on to say that Bond may be vulnerable, but he’ still the cold-hearted spy who eventually ends up saving the world.
Going back to Waller-Bridge being brought onboard for writing duties, there are two possibilities: A Bond movie that will have a healthy dose of humor and wit and a character upgrade. Better yet, a Bond character change? Bold move, but one cannot rule out the possibility.
Research has shown that Bond geeks have always supported the idea of bad-a** Bond girl rather than an arm-candy who is eventually bedded.
What Waller-Bridge might bring in is the angle that Bond women can be some really cool villainesses too. (Again, a sporadic treatment. Think back to Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost, for instance)
With Waller-Bridge now having a look at the script, will she give the Bond girl persona an upgrade? Will we see Seydoux as the one to rescue Bond instead of being a damsel-in-distress for the fourth time in a row?
Will we see a more quirky Bond girl who subtly puts Bond in his place? In an ideal scenario, we would love to see a Bond girl like Ursula Andress. She began it all. Her role as Honey Ryder was equal parts sexy, sassy and independent. Her role distinguishes Bond girls from the vast majority of other female sidekicks/love interests that are speckled throughout movie history.
But again, only time will tell.