Bond Girls Still Bound in 007's Shadow

Listen to the chatter about the new 007 flick Die Another Day and you'll likely hear much ado about Halle Berry's character breaking free from the typically binding Bond girl role.

But despite all the hype, Bond girls are mostly still in shackles.

One scene, in which Berry's character Jinx is "all tied up" and needs to be rescued by Bond -- even after she's just helped save him -- is the perfect example of how little has changed for the dashing secret agent's leading ladies.

"I don't think there's been any real evolution in their role in the movies," said Graham Rye, editor and publisher of 007 Magazine and author of the coffee table book The James Bond Girls. "Their role is to inject some visual entertainment from the way they look and to be bedded and saved by Bond. Jinx wasn't any different."

In the weeks approaching the Friday opening of Die, actors Berry and Pierce Brosnan, along with a host of journalists, have been talking up the strides women have made in the series. The modern Bond girls, they say, are braver, stronger and sexier than their predecessors.

"I felt, 'Wow, finally a woman who is just as smart as, just as quick as, just as strong as, just as sexy as James Bond,'" Berry said in an interview with Fox News. "[She] can manipulate men into doing what she wants them to do like he has been able to do to women for so many years."

And in some ways, Bond girls have become women. Jinx kills a doctor in cold blood, fights villains, rescues 007 and then leaves him after they sleep together.

But the feminist Bond girl theory is a stretch.

"She was committed to making Jinx a full-fledged equal to 007, but it's impossible," Anderson Jones, movie columnist for E! Online, said of Berry. "She made a real effort, but the movie is still all about James Bond."

Brosnan, for his part, has been touting the flick's amped-up bedroom scenes as a sign of modern times.

Though the main Berry-Brosnan sex bit might be slightly hotter, it's hardly revolutionary -- even by 007 standards.

"There's not even really sex; it's foreplay at best," said Jones. "It feels like it's more intense -- there's a lot of heavy breathing, but it's no Monster's Ball."

Berry, who won Best Actress for that film and is the first reigning Oscar queen to play a Bond girl, got a lot of buzz about the explicit scene she did with Billy Bob Thornton in Ball.

Regardless, a look back through 007 history could refute the idea that modern Bond girls are more sexual than those who have come before. Rye points to the seductive, domineering Grace Jones character in A View to a Kill (1985) and the sensual, forward Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi in From Russia With Love (1963), among others.

Bond girls, in other words, have been sleeping around and using sex to their advantage -- like 007 himself -- since the series began in 1962 with Dr. No.

"They've always been unbelievably sexy," Rye said. "They're sexually aggressive. If you look at all those other films and the characters in them, you see women who live life on the same moral level as the male characters."

Nor are today's Bond girls necessarily any more dangerous than they have been in past 007 flicks. Jinx is not the first female agent Bond encounters -- Barbara Bach played one in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and so did Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). And as for packing heat or wielding a weapon of some sort -- well, what Bond girl hasn't?

"So Halle Berry runs around shooting people with a gun," Rye said. "So what?"

Rye wonders why there's been so much analysis of Bond and his women to begin with.

"I've never believed it's a subject matter with any depth," he said. "It's like the emperor's new clothes: People are looking for something that's not there. It's just a great deal of fun."