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02 November 2012

Skyfall (Review): "The Death of the Bond Girls"

"A Bond We Can Like."
James Bond films, despite having  a 50-year run, still have hints of sexism and imperialism but Daniel Craig’s Bond is now more grounded on reality and tackling more complex political issues than just being a spy fantasy for boys who refuse to grow up.  Moreover, Craig really looked like he can beat you up and that is highly appropriate when you are playing a super spy.

This latest Bond film offers new revelations.  We finally get to see where he grew up. We get to see Moneypenny in action, which is long overdue.  As it turned out, Moneypenny has never been just a secretary. The new Q is young and looked like he can start World War III with his laptop or create the new Facebook.  Gone are the ridiculous gadgets and Q offers Bond only practical weapons. It is as if Q were saying to Bond, “Welcome to the Digital Age.  You are a highly trained agent. Why do you need an exploding pen? Use your training like I do.”  Finally, we also get a hint that Bond may not be a straight shooter all the time, if you know what I mean. 

“Skyfall” offers much precedence in a Bond film and some intriguing surprises courtesy of Javier Bardem’s character, Silva.  Bardem is superb. His character is probably the most interesting Bond villain that I have ever seen, and that is saying much because I watched most of the Bond films.  I grew up with parents who loved James Bond.  As a child, I heard my mother commenting that Sean Connery was the best Bond.  I can now contest my mom and say, “Daniel Craig is the best Bond.”

Most importantly, “Skyfall” may have officially announced the death of the Bond Girls.  Ever since Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond, and the role of Judi Dench’s character M was further expanded, the need for a Bond girl has continually become less important.  Yes, gone are the Pussy Galore, Kissy Susuki, Honey Ryder, Holly Goodhead, Plenty O'Toole, Xenia Onatopp and of course, Octopussy. For me, the last Bond girl would be Camille Montes played by Olga Kurylenko in “Quantum of Solace.”  In fact, we may not even consider Camille as a Bond Girl but as a second lead character.  For one thing, Bond never slept with her.  That may be a first.  Bond is becoming more of a real spy on the job than a horny teenage boy in an expensive suit with many toys in his pockets. Well, there was also Strawberry Fields, but she died abruptly after sleeping with Bond, which seems to be the fate of most of the girls who slept with Bond. 

Bond Girls have continually become more like bit players or Bond’s random sexual partners. Give the man a break; he still embodies the best and worst of an old-fashioned gentleman.  Still, the diminishing role of the Bond Girls should be a cause for celebration.  This means Bond, despite being a stylist debonair dinosaur is evolving with the times.  Bond does not have Bond girls anymore. He has female colleagues. Moneypenny can flirt with him without putting out and compromising her dignity as a qualified British agent, and M is a formidable boss who sees Bond as an asset to British intelligence, and vice versa.

With M, we finally see Bond looking at women as his equal, and grieving like an evolved man when a female loved one passes.  This new maturity started in “Casino Royale,” and we hope to see Bond to stay continually in the twenty-first century.  Certainly, we do not want Bond to stop being Bond. We just want him to start acting like a real man, a man we are not embarrassed to like.

Farewell Bond Girls, hello Agent Moneypenny.

Judi Dench is the greatest! Cheers for Sam Mendes. 


(First published in “The Chair” Blog)

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