Bond and Natalya

What's Love Got To Do With It?

By David Morefield

It's hard to picture James Bond without a beautiful woman on his arm. Gorgeous gals and 007 just go together like, well, like caviar and champagne.

And yet when you get right down to it, Bond's not exactly most people's idea of Mr. Romance. In fact, over the years he's been attacked by critics as a first-class misogynist — the poster boy for male chauvinist pigs. And as Ian Fleming wrote him, Bond may not have minded the title.

Fleming's Bond felt women were needful creatures loaded down with "emotional baggage," and often more trouble than they were worth. "On a job they got in the way," he mused in Casino Royale. "One had to look out for them and take care of them." Bond enjoyed sex, but was thoroughly jaded to the idea of romance. "He found something grisly in the inevitability of the pattern of each affair," wrote Fleming, again in Casino Royale:

"The conventional parabola - sentiment, the touch of the hand, the kiss, the passionate kiss, the feel of the body, the climax in the bed, then more bed, then less bed, then the boredom, the tears and the final bitterness - was to him shameful and hypocritical. Even more he shunned the 'mise-en-scene' for each of these acts in the play - the meeting at a party, the restaurant, the taxi, his flat, her flat, then the week-end by the sea, the flats again, then the furtive alibis and the final angry farewell on some doorstep in the rain."

Ultimately, however, the nature of Bond's job rules out any long-term commitments. For one thing, as soon as a new mission comes along he'll fall in love with a new girl.

And yet, for all his professed cynicism, Bond is forever falling in love, or something like it. He's a sucker for a pretty face, especially if it belongs to a girl in need of saving; a damsel in distress, if you will. In You Only Live Twice, Secret Service psychiatrist Sir James Molony says Bond fell for his late wife Tracy DiVicenzo "partly because she was a bird with a wing down and needed his help."

Indeed, Bond has a soft spot for any pretty lady with a hard luck story. Tiffany Case, with whom he shares his apartment for a time after the events of Diamond Are Forever, was the victim of rape as a young girl, as was Honeychile Rider in Dr No. Solitaire is a virtual slave to Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, and Bond fantasizes a melodramatic back-story for her worthy of a romance novel. Poor Tracy was probably the most psychologically unstable of them all, having attempted suicide on various occasions and suffered a long string of tragedies. Not coincidentally, she's the woman for whom Bond falls hardest. As Fleming put it, "like all harsh, cold men, [Bond] was easily tipped over into sentiment."

Ultimately, however, the nature of Bond's job rules out any long-term commitments. For one thing, as soon as a new mission comes along he'll fall in love with a new girl. But more importantly, he's sticking his neck out to care about anyone in the first place. It's a lesson he learns the hard way in Casino Royale, where he falls hard for fellow agent Vesper Lynd, only to learn she's a double agent. This brings him to a cold realization of where his true loyalties lie:

"He now saw her only as a spy. Their love and his grief were relegated to the boxroom of his mind. Later, perhaps they would be dragged out, dispassionately examined, and then bitterly thrust back with other sentimental baggage he would rather forget. Now he could only think of her treachery the Service and to her country and of the damage it had done."

So the literary Bond is a man drawn to women, but unable to commit to them. His romances have the life expectancy of a summer romance at the beach; basically, as soon as the mission's over it's back to the real world, and bye-bye lover. Truth be told, he rather likes it this way. Though it occasionally holds a fascination for him, he finds the idea of settling down to "domestic bliss" as distasteful as those periods between missions when "the blubbery arms of the soft life" threaten to strangle him. Maybe this is why he takes it on himself to solve each Bond girl's problems; he may see it as compensation for not committing himself to them permanently. He's comfortable in the role of rescuer, but not that of life-partner.

Movie Bond: Icon Of the Sexual Revolution

The James Bond of the films is a comparatively uncomplicated creature, slipping easily from one relationship to the next with no messy emotions, and no regrets when it's over. The Sean Connery model Bond was unencumbered by notions of romance or obligation; he was simply a sensualist with the good fortune to run into gorgeous women equally interested in sex for its own sake. It's hard to imagine any of them trying to cling to him at the end of an affair, and equally hard to imagine the Connery Bond falling for them had they been helpless damsels in distress, or needful victims of a tragic childhood.

Connery also established the film version of Bond as pragmatic and even hard-hearted about sex. In Dr No, he seduces the treacherous Ms Taro to arrange her capture, even as she thinks she's seducing him to arrange his murder. This sort of cat-and-mouse intrigue became an important element of the early Bonds, as 007 and various bad girls employed sex as a weapon of deception and coercion. This element of sexual tension helped make the Bond films a popular sensation, but it also called for a ruthlessness Fleming's Bond may not have been able to muster.

In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, newcomer George Lazenby had the difficult task of convincing audiences that the womanizing Bond of the films could settle down with a wife. He was helped by Diana Rigg's creation of the most well-rounded female character in the films up to that time. The few places where the film deviates from the novel illustrate the evolution of Bond on screen. For one thing, in order to convince us that Tracy's an acceptable mate for Bond, the film remakes her as a quick-witted strategist and capable action hero. Secondly, even though Bond surrenders his heart to Tracy, we've by now come to expect a certain amount of on-screen sexcapades, so 007 obliges by sleeping with half the young women at Blofeld's "resort." ("You've no idea how it's piling up!")

The '70s Sex Machine

This portrayal of Bond as a sex machine reaches its height in the '70s, as Bond racks up an impressive list of meaningless one-night stands. Meanwhile his leading ladies devolve into helpless damsels and irritating airheads. Not only does Bond not fall in love with these women, it's sometimes all he can do to tolerate them. Tiffany Case, for example, starts off promisingly as the head of a smuggling ring, only to degenerate into a complete ninny by film's end, prompting 007 to bellow sweet nothings like, "You stupid twit!"

This sort of attitude pervades Roger Moore's earliest Bond's. He callously pulls a gun on Rosie Carver as soon as they finish making love ("I certainly wouldn't have killed you before!"). He "stacks the deck" to steal Solitaire's virginity in Live and Let Die. He beats up "damsel in distress" Andrea Anders, then accepts her offer of sex as "payment" for killing The Man With The Golden Gun, who he'd already resolved to kill anyway. Adding insult to injury, he shows little distress when Andrea turns up dead, even though one imagines Fleming's Bond would have brooded over this event as something of a personal failure. Bond also loses some brownie points with 20th century women when he "consoles" the jilted Mary Goodnight ("Your turn will come, darling, I promise"). It doesn't help that Goodnight's so vacuous she makes Tiffany Case look like a Nobel laureate.

Sensitive New Age Guy?

But just as he was on the verge of becoming the narcissistic cad his detractors always claimed he was, Bond does an about-face starting with The Spy Who Loved Me. He learns to respect Anya Amasova's abilities as an agent and places himself in unnecessary harm to rescue her from Atlantis. By the time of For Your Eyes Only he's developed enough chivalry to refuse the advances of a too-young Bibi Dahl ("You get your clothes on and I'll buy you an ice cream!").

The World Is Not Enough makes romance a key plot element for the first time, really, since On Her Majesty's Secret Service... Here we get a big-screen glimpse of Ian Fleming's Bond, as 007 once again falls for a "bird with a wing down."

In Octopussy, he races after Kamal's plane on horseback like the proverbial knight in shining armor, and in A View To A Kill he even whips up a romantic dinner of quiche from leftovers in Stacey's fridge! In the course of his films, Moore swings Bond full pendulum from a callous cad to a sweet old softie.

Timothy Dalton takes a different approach than his predecessors, giving Bond a harder edge in the action scenes, but a gentler approach to the women. Having excelled as Heathcliffe in "Wuthering Heights" and Rochester in "Jane Eyre," Dalton essays Bond as a similar archetype; the brooding man of mystery, the rogue with a heart of gold. In The Living Daylights, there is true tenderness in Bond's scenes with Kara, and when they go into a clinch, the mood is more romantic than erotic.

Similarly, the Dalton Bond's relationship with Pam Bouvier in Licence To Kill is one of genuine emotional attachment, with Pam weeping like the heroine in a romance comic book until Bond leaps into a pool fully clothed to cheer her up. In the Dalton era, Bond is a charmer who can and does sweep the gals off their feet.

Pierce Brosnan continues the trend, more or less, and in his era the Bond women take on more importance than ever. Computer whiz Natalya, super-agent Wai Lin and nuclear weapons expert Dr. Christmas Jones each contribute significantly to the success of the Brosnan Bond's missions. Natalya cuts through Bond's "cold-hearted" act to touch the vulnerable man underneath, Paris Carver gets him to actually confess to love and regret, and Elektra turns his compassionate side against him.

Indeed, The World Is Not Enough makes romance a key plot element for the first time, really, since On Her Majesty's Secret Service. As Bond reviews tapes of Elektra's kidnapping ordeal, he touches a computer screen displaying her image, as if to wipe away her tears. Later, in bed with her, he quizzes her about the ordeal, while tenderly stroking her hair. Here we get a big-screen glimpse of Ian Fleming's Bond, as 007 once again falls for a "bird with a wing down." Unfortunately for him, this is one "damsel" who has no interest in being saved.

Where the series will take us next is anyone's guess, though as always the fun part is in finding out. But for Bond, the affair must always come to an end. As he muses in the novel "Moonraker," happy endings are for other folks. He may end each film in a clinch with the girl, but ultimately he'll have to leave her behind, and go back to the lonely role of, as he puts it, "the tough man of the world. The Secret Agent. The man who was only a silhouette."