‘Bring on the Bond girls?’

So, I am not a massive fan of the James Bond franchise. I understand this is not exactly a popular position, even with feminists. But, what can I say – we didn’t watch Bond films in my house growing up, so I don’t think I got the chance to get caught up in the fun of the explosions and suaveness before viewing them through a jaded, politically correct lense (I got my secret agent(ish) kicks from the Avengers instead).

Today the Observer’s review section includes a double pager on seven women’s views on 007. The online version doesn’t do justice to the degree to which the newspaper embraced this theme – dressing up the normally-a-bit-serious commentators of choice in black and giving them dodgy props, backed with a bit of silly art (Kate Kellaway’s grenade looks particularly weird).

So, I’m split on this one – I kind of like the idea, even if it is on the silly side. And I didn’t realise Bidisha had such impressive tattoos (including a full sleeve, which she apparently regrets, although I can’t see why myself).

And it fits with the tone of some of the opinions voiced – Kathryn Flett’s amusing piece on re-reading the first Bond novel, Casino Royale (“Despite being fairly baffled by the casino scenes (and there are a lot of casino scenes in Casino Royale – the clue is in the title) I was entirely in thrall to the heady adult glamour of it all”), steers clear of too serious a look – I am reliably informed that the book ends with the line: “The bitch is dead.”

But… many of the seven pieces include some quite serious criticism of the misogyny and racism in the ‘franchise’. As Bidisha puts it:

I think the Bond mythos is loved because it represents people’s biggest bigot fantasies: a lone, authoritative hetero who seems to have no friends, who likes neither women nor children, whose idea of human drama is simple violence and peril, whose job is a quest for a (preferably foreign) bogeyman.

So – isn’t it a bit off for the Observer to dress up serious critique of a significant cultural icon with some silly fun? And what’s the message by casting Bond’s critics as… Bond? Or are they meant to be Bond girls? Or a bit of both?! How does showing Kate Kellaway as a Bond Girl (if that’s what she’s meant to be, it’s all a bit unclear – perhaps someone who’s seen more of the films would be better able to judge) fit with her comment that:

I also have a problem with Bond girls. Nothing personal. It is just that I can’t stand them. Each woman is no more than a new gadget to Bond. They are glamorously disposable. They are drop-dead gorgeous and then, at least in the sense of their screen lives, they just drop dead. None of them has a chance of lasting, let alone mattering (they’re only women after all) while Bond persists in going on for ever.

Does this function to puncture serious criticism of Bond? Or is the photoshoot more of a subversive critique in its own right? I’m not sure.