It’s been 53 years since Ursula Andress stepped out of the water as “Honey Ryder” in Dr. No, achieving instant fame and establishing a new class of sex symbol: the Bond Girl. Visualized on screen, the Bond Girls became venerated for their cunning, power and sexuality.
However, the move from page to screen tended to further simplify their already sometimes troubling characterization in the original novels, the first of which dates to 1953. They were given awfully misogynistic double-entendre names (Pussy Galore, Mary Goodnight, Molly Warmflash, and Holly Godhead, to name but a few), labeling them as sex objects even when they had some form of power and were portrayed as strong of will and mind. If one considers the societal norms of the 1950s, many of their professions were even considered inappropriate for women at the time, but all of this “empowerment” merely served to make them more of a match/catch for Bond himself.
Many of the Bond Girls had traumatic back-stories, often including physical and sexual violence inflicted by men during their teenage years. Bond is portrayed as a temporary savior of these troubled women, who fall for his charms, bed him, get discarded after the fact and normally die before the end of the novel. In one particularly troubling incident, Bond manages to ‘convert’ a practicing lesbian, and this little gem of a conversation takes place:
Bond: They told me you only liked women.
Pussy Galore: I never met a man before.
Once on screen, the Bond Girl lost even this amount of depth, becoming a sexualized and ultimately expendable sidekick. The darker parts of the novels were eliminated for the screenplays and precious little screen time was devoted to the women’s own stories and role in advancing the plot in Bond movies until the 1980s.
Thankfully times have changed a little, and with it, the Bond Girl. Shows such as Archer and the Austin Powers franchise have lampooned the role of the “irresistible” male secret agent (and his egotism) and more recent incarnations of the Bond Girl seem worlds apart from their earlier counterparts. 2012’s Skyfall featured Naomie Harris as “Eve,” who not only manages to survive the entire plot, but also manages to independently scheme and shoot her way out of trouble, all the while remaining impervious to Bond’s sexual advances. In another small but welcome development, 2015’s Spectre will star actress Monica Belluci, who at 50 is the oldest actress to play a role frequently given to younger starlets
The Seattle Women’s Chorus are exploring these themes in their new concert “Reel Women” highlighting the musical hits of the James Bond series:
She is smart, sophisticated, confident, and yet she is rarely powerful. She is often used as bait or reward, and she doesn’t seem to mind. When she first emerged from the sea fifty-three years ago in that barely-there bikini, she became an icon that continues to endure…but has she changed?” …The greatest musical hits of James Bond will be live onstage at Reel Women, the Seattle Women’s Chorus upcoming movie-themed concert. We may not have any Bond Girls, but we do have 158 Bond Women, and that’s even better.
The Seattle Women’s Chorus, comprising over 300 singers, are part of Flying House Productions, home to two of the largest community choruses in the United States (the other being the Seattle Men’s Chorus). “Reel Women” promises an evening of iconic music, and perhaps—more importantly—a much needed knock to James Bond’s bulletproof ego. A special benefit concert for Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse (CADA) will also be held in Langley, WA on February 15.
Seattle Women’s Chorus Presents Reel Women
Thu, Feb 5, 2015 – 7:30 PM;
Fri, Feb 6, 2015 – 8 PM
Sat, Feb 7, 2015 – 2 PM
Sat, Feb 7, 2015 – 8 PM
Sun, Feb 8, 2015 – 2 PM
Where: Cornish Playhouse (201 Mercer Street)
Tickets available through www.flyinghouse.org