Hit Me With Your Best Shot: GOOOOLDFINGAH!

Margaret: Let’s talk about James Bond. Specifically, the movie that arguably clinched his status as an enduring cultural brand and challenges the discussant to resist overuse of the word ‘iconic’. No, not License to Kill. I’m talking, of course, about Goldfinger. No one ever makes a Top Five Bond movie list without including Goldfinger. Or should we say ‘GOOOOLDFINGAH’? Because when I read the movie’s title, I hear not mere spoken syllables but the glorious belting of Shirley Bassey.

Anne Marie: I can’t move past the opening credits without stating that this is the best song of all the Bond songs and I will fight all Paul McCartney fans TO THE DEATH who say otherwise. GOOOOLDFINGAH is so damn iconic. (BWA BWAAA BWA) Plus it’s tied to a title sequence that’s as uncanny as it is uncomfortable. The title sequence isn’t your choice for Best Shot, but considering how obviously it lays bare (har har) the franchise’s views on femininity, we should address it.

Margaret: It’s a pretty succinct summary woman-as-object paradigm of the Bond universe, and gives us a lot of visual ground on which to rest a denunciation of sexism in the Bond franchise. Maybe that’s too obvious? Yet how do you talk about James Bond, especially GOOOOLDFINGAH, especially its title sequence, without talking about the sexualization of violence and the dehumanization of women? As fun and sassy as this movie is, I can’t avoid that question. This shot in particular, yikes:

Shades of Laura Palmer. This in a sexy title sequence. Ye gads.

Anne Marie: That gives me the heebie jeebies. Really, if you replaced the music (BWA BWAAA BWA), this would look like something out of a horror movie.

Margaret: Rarely outside of horror do you see this abject reduction of women to parts and pieces. I know objectification is common as all hell, but this makes the rest of the Bond catalogue look subtle. (You can probably hear my Sociology degree threatening to rear its ugly head…)

Anne Marie: This article is a safe space. You let that inner sociologist shine!

Margaret: WELL THEN. Yada yada disembodiment yada yada removing personhood yada yada sexualizing violence and passivity and even death. (Relevant: http://youtu.be/_FpyGwP3yzE?t=2m41s ) (Also: http://youtu.be/ufHrVyVgwRg?t=5m16s )

Anne Marie: “Passivity and even death” perfectly describes the position of every Connery-era Bond girl. Especially considering that having boobs drives down a lady’s likelihood of survival. If you have boobs and 5 lines and a bikini, you’re basically asking to die in some very stylishly 60s manner. Besides the obvious dipped-in-gold method, I’m 99% positive there’s one film where a lady gets bitten by a spider in bed. And another where a lady gets poisoned in bed. All of the ladies die in bed.

Margaret:  Sexy, sexy violence.

Anne Marie: I suppose that’s what happens when you bring your work into the bedroom.

Margaret: The Bondverse is all about mixing business with pleasure. Bond is always the picture of action-star competence and power while still managing to seem relaxed– he’s never not on vacation. His name is synonymous with suavity and otherworldly cool, and therefore also mad skills with the ladiezz. There’s lots of James Bond iconography– the Aston Martin, the shaken martini, and the gun held just so, but the most defining visual component of the Bond Brand is its women. Excuse me, girls. Prostrate, heavy-lidded, sun-kissed, nearly naked girls decorating the scenery, poised to be prizes.

My choice for Best Shot is replete with the James-Bondiest of signifiers:

goldfingerBond is doing one of the most “spy” coded actions there is – peering through binoculars, sizing up his opponent from afar. His expression is keen and composed, his posture is firm, in control; he’s on the job and he’s very good at it. But being ‘on the job’ for him also means leaning over the the lounging body of a bikini-clad beauty queen. He may be strategizing a government mission of international importance, but any man who wears a terry-cloth romper when he’s on the clock can’t be all work and no play. Here we have business on the left and pleasure on the right, cozily sharing a frame.

And it’s his pleasure, make no mistake. The gender dynamics of this shot are also quintessentially Bondian. He takes a strong, active position, virtually pinning the glamorous (and at this point nameless) blonde played by Shirley Eaton. Eaton is positioned as passively as can be: reclining decoratively, admiring the confident stranger hovering over her décolletage from under seductively lowered eyes. And sure, she dies five minutes after the end of this scene (guess where? IN BED), but at least not before James Bond gets to bone her. Now that would have been a shame.

In fact, it’s only once she’s dead– the ultimate passivity — that she leaves any mark on the movie at all. She becomes the iconic golden girl, killed by ‘skin suffocation’ after being dipped head-to-toe in gold paint. To the Bond universe she was more memorable, more important, and more sexy dead than alive.

Anne Marie: Well, all I can say is thank goodness we’ve gotten over this trope of ladies as passive accessories in action films. Oh wait.

Margaret: Whatever our criticisms, Bond is a cultural institution and he’s here to stay. Here’s hoping that his next 50 years bring us more Bond Women than Bond Girls. Now, let’s all try not to die in bed.

Anne Marie: BWA BWAAAA BWA! (Sorry.)

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About Anne Marie Kelly

Classic Film history & restoration nerd. Writer of A Year With Kate and Women's Pictures for The Film Experience. Follow me on Twitter @WeRecycleMovies.
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9 Responses to Hit Me With Your Best Shot: GOOOOLDFINGAH!

  1. Nathaniel R says:

    this is the funniest. love love love. combined with the tweets last night, you are my favorite comedy duo going.

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  3. Sandy Maben says:

    Re: Strong Female Characters, thanks Anne for your “Oh wait” link. The article really made me reconsider the SFCs I’ve known and loved over the years through this lens.

    • Margaret says:

      I’m so happy I’ve seen it cropping up all over my social media feeds– it’s exciting how much more mainstream it is to critique pop cultural representation!

  4. Nathaniel R says:

    in all seriousness though, despite the humor of this discussion, this:
    ” To the Bond universe she was more memorable, more important, and more sexy dead than alive.”

    is a great and haunting observation. and ties in pretty well to Timothy’s admission in his piece to which I totally relate (since i also love Bond movies):

    “I’ve already said everything I want to say about this movie, which I of course love, and continue to love, and will love until I am dead, despite some vague misgivings that loving Bond films has an ugly moral angle to it that I’m happier leaving unexplored.”

  5. Jacquie says:

    I love you both so, SO much.

    And yes to all of the things re “strong female characters”

  6. Maybell says:

    I’m glad I found your article. I would not have
    made sense of this topic on my own. I’ve read various other articles on this subject, however I was
    baffled till I read yours.

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