Sunday, February 03, 2008

Top Ten Bond Females

So I was thinking of stealing a posting habit from Tosy and Cosh, and start doing Top Ten lists of random stuff, and the other night, as The Family Unit sat down to watch For Your Eyes Only, I figured I had the obvious starting list: my personal Top Ten Bond Girls. Well, lo and behold, it turns out that someone went and took a poll to determine who the Top and Bottom Ten Bond Girls happen to be, at least as far as British public opinion goes. I'll give my own list below, but first, I must discuss the polling results, because they're, well, really bad.

First, here are the lists, with the Worst Bond Girls first, followed by the Best Bond Girls.

(Wait a minute, actually, before I do that, let me renew my objection to the somewhat sexist term "Bond Girls". I only use it here because the linked article already uses it, and it's pretty much the accepted way of referring to these characters as a group.)

OK, the lists:

Worst Bond girls

1. Denise Richards as Dr Christmas Jones in "The World Is Not Enough"
2. Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton in "A View To A Kill"
3. Corrine Clery as Corinne Dufour in "Moonraker"
4. Maryam D'Abo as Kara Milovy in "The Living Daylights"
5. Karin Dor as Helga Brandt in "You Only Live Twice"
6. Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight in "The Man With the Golden Gun"
7. Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier in "License to Kill"
8. Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead in "Moonraker"
9. Lynn-Holly Johnson as Lili Bahl in "For Your Eyes Only"
10. Maud Adams as Octopussy in, you guessed it, "Octopussy"

Best Bond girls

1.Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in "Dr. No"
2. Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in "Goldfinger"
3. Diana Rigg as Tracey Divicenzo in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"
4. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale"
5. Barbara Bach as Anya Amasova in "The Spy Who Loved Me"
6. Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp in "Goldeneye"
7. Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin in "Tommorrow Never Dies"
8. Lotte Enya as Rosa Klebb in "From Russia With Love"
9. Jill St. John as Tiffany Case in "Diamonds Are Forever"
10. Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock in "For Your Eyes Only"

Got all that? Well, where to begin?

First of all, we should probably establish just what a "Bond Girl" is, since by my personal reckoning, some of those listed aren't "Bond Girls" at all. When I read these lists, I had to think to myself, "Hmmm, they seem to be pretty liberal in what they consider to be a Bond Girl", which then led me to wonder what a Bond Girl really is. My personal definition, therefore, is as follows:

A Bond Girl is a female character with whom James Bond engages in the act of sexual congress who is either (1) on Bond's side, (2) totally incidental to Bond's mission, or (3) initially against Bond but comes to his side after the afore-mentioned act of sexual congress.

This definition automatically rules out several of the "Bond Girls" listed in the polls. Taking their "Worst Girls" list first, we can exclude Helga Brandt (You Only Live Twice), because she's a villain and although Bond gets her to not kill him by using his manly charm, she doesn't change her allegiance, and we can likewise toss aside Bibi Dahl (For Your Eyes Only), who is a notable female character in that not only does Bond not sleep with her, he actually refuses to do so, and quite vehemently, at that. Those two are not Bond Girls. (By the way, you'd think that whoever wrote this article could at least get the character names right. It's Bibi Dahl, not Lili.)

As for the second list, GoldenEye's Xenia Onatopp is disqualified on two counts: first, she's a villain who doesn't change allegiance, and second, she doesn't actually sleep with James Bond. (They engage in some kinky swimming pool foreplay before Bond grabs his gun and forces her to take him to the boss.) The same goes for From Russia With Love's Rosa Klebb, whose presence on this list is almost laughable: not only is she a villain through and through who never considers changing sides for one second, and not only does she not sleep with James Bond, it's doubtful that Bond would ever even attempt to sleep with her because she's and old, ugly, and frumpy woman, to be quite frank. (If you're having trouble placing her, this should help.) The notion that Rosa Klebb can be thought of as a Bond Girl makes one wonder if the people putting the poll together just gathered a list of female characters who appear in Bond movies and called them all "Bond Girls"; if that's the case, one rightly wonders why Miss Moneypenny doesn't appear on the list. (Not that she should, since she's not a Bond Girl either.)

And besides, the lists are just bad anyway, on other grounds. Ursula Andress is the best Bond Girl? Huh? Sure, that shot of her, bikini-clad as she emerges from the water, is a famous shot, but as a character, she's of almost no interest at all, and Andress's performance is pretty much monotoned throughout. Honor Blackman, second? Ahead of Diana Rigg? Really, folks, we need to get over the notion that Goldfinger is the best of the Bond movies. Pussy Galore's got that name, of course, but again, she's not a terribly interesting character and it doesn't help that Blackman comes in third among the other potential Bond Girls in the very same film, in terms of plain physical beauty. (Both of the doomed Masterson sisters are prettier, and it's a shame Tilly had to die, because she was potentially interesting.)

Likewise, I've always thought that Barbara Bach is a tad overrated as well in The Spy Who Loved Me. Her accent is unconvincing, and while the idea of Bond having a female counterpart in the KGB who's as capable as he is could be interesting, the movie doesn't really do much with this notion, making Anya a damsel-in-distress several times, including at the end of the movie. And Jill St. John's Tiffany Case (Diamonds Are Forever)? Huh-whuh? Bond himself calls her a "stupid twit", and that's pretty much what she turns out to be.

Of course, the lists aren't complete bollocks. Some Bond Girls fail on the basis of their performances (Honey Rider), while others fail because the characters aren't well written (Stacy Sutton), and all this is opinion, anyway. It's always struck me as unfair that Tanya Roberts gets pilloried for her character's wailing ("James! Don't leave me! James! James!") and her failure to notice things like propeller-driven airships coming up behind her, when none of that was Roberts's fault, unless she did some script-doctoring and didn't receive screen credit for her work in that capacity. Likewise, Denise Richards can't be blamed totally for her character's lack of focus in the script to The World is Not Enough, but frankly, as an actress she's blown right off the screen by Sophie Marceau (not a Bond Girl, because she's a villain to the end).

So there are names I'd bump from the "Best" list, but what of the "Worst" list? Who would I bump there? Well, frankly, I've always liked Lois Chiles (Moonraker), Maud Adams (Octopussy), and Maryam d'Abo (The Living Daylights). They perform well, they're beautiful, and the characters are nicely written. Chiles, I think, may be the most underrated of all "Bond Girls"; she's the CIA female equivalent of Bond, as Anya Amasova was one film earlier in the KGB, but she doesn't end up the damsel in distress, instead being an actual equal and partner in Bond's heroics. Maud Adams and Maryam d'Abo also show a lot of spunk, with d'Abo particularly displaying nice character growth as she becomes more and more capable as the film goes on.

But anyway, time for what I meant to do in the first place: a list of the Top Ten Bond Girls.

1. Diana Rigg as Teresa di Vicenzo, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

2. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, Casino Royale.

3. Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock, For Your Eyes Only.

4. Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead, Moonraker.

5. Claudine Auger as Domino Derval, Thunderball.

6. Jane Seymour as Solitaire, Live and Let Die.

7. Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, Licence to Kill.

8. Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova, GoldenEye.

9. Maud Adams as Octopussy, Octopussy.

10. Maryam d'Abo as Kara Milovy, The Living Daylights.

And there you have it. No, I'm not doing a worst list.

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