What's in a name? Well, if the name happens to be "Pussy Galore" or "Holly Goodhead" or "Plenty O'Toole," there's a bounty of salacious innuendo that prompts a tussle over the true identity of the gorgeous, well-endowed women known as Bond girls. Are they bimbos who forgo their wits for their wiles? Or predatory feminist totems with healthy sexual appetites?
The arm wrestle occurs every time a Bond movie opens. But a new twist arose recently when the owner and producer of the film franchise, Barbara Broccoli, referred to the early brigade of babes as "very progressive" and went on to say: "They had professional careers and did extraordinary things." Feminists pounced quicker than a mama cheetah on the idea of Bond's counterparts and conquests being anything more than male fantasies.
But is it really so unthinkable to be both: a feminist and a male fantasy? After all, what man doesn't dig a woman with great hair and a great career? And what woman wants frizz and a dead-end job?
Pussy Galore made her living as a pilot. Holly Goodhead -- that's Dr. Goodhead to you -- was an astrophysicist. Denise Richards, as Christmas Jones, defused nuclear bombs with her . . . acumen as a chemist. (I can't help but feel sorry for the character Natalya Simonova in 1995's "GoldenEye," who was a computer programmer. Pout. Yawn.) And three Bond girls -- Honey Ryder, Domino Derval and Kissy Suzuki -- were divers, a coincidence that seems to have something to do with requiring them to wear bikinis.
The girls get some feminist flak for their heaving cleavage and gowns with thigh-high slits and plummeting necklines, but, hey, a gal has to have quick and easy access to her Bowie knife. (On a side note, even fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier has praised the pioneering Bondettes from the '60s and '70s for "already mixing glamour and sportswear.") And those get-ups are marvelous. Honey Ryder's white bikini is practically as iconic as Marilyn Monroe's white dress. Octopussy's circus troupe/smugglers shine in red spandex leotards with sheik headdresses. I have always been partial to the exotic beaded caftans Jane Seymour wafted about in as tarot card reader Solitaire in "Live and Let Die."
Sexy jobs, memorable clothes -- what's not to like? Feminists, it seems, can't get over the Bond girls' taste in men. Almost all the women succumb to the tuxedo-clad cad and get disposed of like gum wrappers. His lovers either die or disappear. Early Bond sometimes battled his girls too, leaving critics to wonder why these strong females were always so quick to get intimate with him.
As a feminist, I don't fault the Bond girls for sleeping with James. They're all single -- or dating sociopathic villains -- and frankly, he's a decent one-night stand. (Obviously, protection is a must, as he's bedded more women than Wilt Chamberlain.) But I can't see how any woman would fall for a one-note lout who drinks too much and uses unctuous one-liners like "I didn't recognize you with your clothes on" and "When one is in Egypt, one should delve deeply into its treasures."
I like to think the girls are savvy enough to know that Bond would make a lousy husband and father. Do you really think he would stop at the 7-Eleven to pick up tampons and a Twix bar or make time for Lamaze class? He certainly can't stave off a foreclosure with his gadgets or escape an IRS audit in a speedboat. And I can only imagine how many parking tickets he must have in his glove compartment. Perhaps the Bond girls, sensing the futility of a lasting union with a man Judi Dench as M once called a "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur," see a future of recycling vodka bottles and darning velvet bow ties. Hence, they vamoose.
Sadly, however, ex-Bond girls don't meet up at resorts for reunions to discuss such things, like former sorority girls. There is no loyalty among the ranks. It's a sisterhood that never stops hazing one another.
Honor Blackman, a.k.a Pussy Galore and my fave Ian Fleming femme fatale, recently noted: "Most of the Bond girls have been bimbos." Eva Green, who took up the role of Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale," announced that she refused the part at first and then relented because: "She's not just a beautiful bimbo. She's also very clever, very sharp, very funny." In the same interview, though, Green went on to snipe at Famke Janssen's "GoldenEye" agro nympho, Xenia Onatopp.
Even the latest Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko (as Camille), is quick to tug at the lustrous mane of the legacy. "She is smart, focused and skillful. I don't think Camille is a typical Bond girl," she recently said of her character, who, incidentally, doesn't bed Bond.
In that case, why bother teaming up with him? Isn't it about time that a Bond girl struck out on her own or found some like-minded femmes with great hair, PhDs and some vacation time? The producers have made a big point in selling the new Bond girl as James' equal. She even appears at his side on the movie poster. But this feminist would rather see a spinoff in which a strong woman toys with gadgets, busts some heads and then seduces a guy. Let's call him Tug McGroin.
Corcoran is a Times staff writer.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times