Over 50 And Licensed To Thrill: James Bond Challenges Sexist Stereotypes In 'Spectre'

19/12/2015 8:09 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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There is a first time for everything I guess. This afternoon was my first James Bond movie Spectre in Hindi. My Man Friday got the ticket by mistake and I realized the goof up only when the lights dimmed. It was rather funny to watch Daniel Craig speaking perfect Hindi in a strangely squeaky voice! There was plenty else to have a giggle about too - for example, when Mr White told Bond, "Tum aandhi mein kati patang ki tarah naach rahe ho". Somehow "kati patang" conjured up images of the rounded bottom of Asha Parekh and those agonizingly pointy, anti-Eve teasing breasts of that era of heroines. As a result, I didn't experience the usual adrenaline rush of watching a 007 movie and that absolutely woozy feeling at the pit of my stomach whenever I see the utterly beautiful and hot Daniel Craig. I sat through the movie, however, mentally cursing the combo of overpriced ticket+Pepsi+popcorn that kept me glued to my seat.

I shall go and watch the movie again in English for sure because I am a diehard James Bond fan. But I must also admit that I feel inordinately pleased that a 50-year-old actress, Monica Bellucci, was found perfect to play the part of a Bond girl. She's the oldest girl thus far, replacing Honor Blackman who was 39 years old when she played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

"Oh James, James... for all your chauvinistic and alpha-maleness, you perhaps have become a champion of the feminine mystique, in all its forms and ages."

Why is casting a senior actress such as Bellucci so commendable? Primarily because a James Bond movie is all about machismo and maleness, with the tried and tested testosterone uppers of fast cars and hot girls. A Bond girl is usually in her mid to late 20s and not really "ripe". Inasmuch, dear old James is a bit of a sexist too!

The decision to cast an older actress as Bond girl, to my mind, is almost a paradigm shift. It shows an attempt at deliberate and conscious inclusiveness of women who stand outside of our society's definition of "acceptable". Just as the pivotal character of M could be a woman, so can a 50-year-old woman seduce a perpetually 40-ish James Bond.

Our culture is not kind to older women. In the words of self-help writer Dalma Heyn:

"[Women's magazines] ignore older women or pretend that they don't exist; magazines try to avoid photographs of older women, and when they feature celebrities who are over sixty, 'retouching artists' conspire to 'help' beautiful women look more beautiful, i.e. less than their age..."

So when popular culture licenses James Bond to thrill a woman past her prime (according to some!), it surely calls for a celebration.

Monica Bellucci, of course, is not your ordinary 50 year old. She is drop dead gorgeous. Director Sam Mendes, in fact, makes her look older for the part of Lucia Sciarra, a grieving Mafia widow who wears 5-inch Louboutin heels to her husband's funeral. Whatever was left after merciless censoring of her intimate scene with Bond was steamy, and she lay in feline splendour afterwards, in a burlesque corset and suspender belt. The impression one gets is that of a woman who has seen life. As photographer Helmut Newton once said :

"I like photographing women who appear to know something of life. I recently did a session with a great beauty, a movie star in her 30s. I photographed her twice within three weeks and the second time I said: 'You're much more beautiful today than you were three weeks ago. 'And she replied: 'But I'm also three weeks older.'

Which gets me to age and ageing in women that is the whole point I am trying to make. Erica Jong, in Fear of Fifty asks:

And what about ageing? Do men force the fear of ageing upon us -- or are we ourselves terrified because we only know one kind of power -- the power of youthful beauty? Isn't it possible that if we became comfortable with other forms of female power, men might too? In her wonderful futurist novel, He, She, and It, Marge Piercy imagines a cyborg who is taught to love the bodies of older women. A delicious proposal -- because it tells that whatever we may imagine can come true."

Oh James, James... for all your chauvinistic and alpha-maleness, you perhaps have become a champion of the feminine mystique, in all its forms and ages. You have licensed older women to realise that they are gorgeous and glorious. That cage of age? You have set women free from it.

And yes, dear James, you thrilled by choosing a dirty vodka martini -- combining vodka, dry vermouth, a muddled Sicilian green olive, and a measure of the olive's brine -- with Dr Madeleine Swann. Old boy, you ditched your straightforward vodka martini with a twist of lemon? Very sensual! You have really shaken things up with this one.

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