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“Bond Girl” or Emma Peel? March 9, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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“Who wants to be a Bond Girl?” Silence Dogood here. This headline on the Yahoo! home page certainly caught my attention. I didn’t read the story, so I can’t be sure if they were being straightforward, as in which actresses are dying to play the part, or if their actual meaning was “Who’d want to be a Bond Girl?!”

Bond girls are basically boring. Whatever individual qualities the screenwriters and actresses try to endow them with—and there’ve been notable successes, such as Jane Seymour as Solitaire in “Live and Let Die”—they’re boring because we all know that eventually Bond will get the girl, then quickly leave her with all the other broken hearts in his wake. A trite formula can only carry you so far.

Turning a Bond Girl into a villainess, as in “The World Is Not Enough,” or a villainess into a Bond Girl, as in “Goldfinger” and “Octopussy,” does mix the formula up, but only a little. (I thought Sophie Marceau was marvelous in “The World Is Not Enough,” though Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was, as he always was, all pose and formula.)

There was just one time when Bond didn’t get the girl—when he married her, in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The “girl” in question was none other than Diana Rigg, playing Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, who is killed as the couple embarks on their honeymoon, leaving Bond—for once—heartbroken.

It seems to me that Diana Rigg’s legacy might show a way to breathe some life into the “Bond Girl.” But not because of her role in the Bond film, but rather, in the role that made her famous, as Mrs. Emma Peel in the British “spy-fi” series “The Avengers.” In “The Avengers,” Diana Rigg starred as the female colleague of John Steed, played by the marvelous Patrick Macnee. (Ironically, Steed’s first female partner was played by Honor Blackman, who’d played Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger.”)

There was great onscreen chemistry between Steed and Mrs. Peel. (The writers chose the name “Emma Peel” for “m appeal,” i.e., man appeal, so it’s clear what they had in mind.) Think “Moonlighting.”

But there was one little problem for Steed and Mrs. Peel: That “Mrs.” thing. It made Emma Peel untouchable for the ever-honorable Steed, whatever his feelings. It added a level of complexity to the series that the Bond movies lack. After all, the only women in the Bond movies Bond never actually hooks up with are M, a martinet in women’s clothing, and poor Miss Moneypenny, not exactly Playboy material, bless her heart. (Well, okay, there was that Nazilike woman, played so marvelously by Lotte Lenya, in “From Russia with Love,” and a few others of her ancient, reptilian ilk.)

I think a devastatingly well-matched but happily married and thus oblivious and unavailable “Bond Girl” might do wonders for the series. She could bring out Bond’s hidden, vulnerable side for the audience. We could all see him yearning at the end of the movie as she drives or flies away. It wouldn’t prevent him from the usual “I’m going to die tomorrow, so why not?” liaisons with desirable but forgettable women during the course of the film. And it would leave the door open for some future film when her unfortunate husband has been hit by a bus or dies of cancer and she and Bond are thrown together as colleagues once again. What will happen then? I’ll bet the audience would be very eager to know.

Bond writers, are you listening?

‘Til next time,

Silence

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