Bond girls show women's progress

Grace Jones as May Day from the James Bond 1985 film, “A View to a Kill.” Modern Bond girls also present a more formidable challenge to the suave secret agent. Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Grace Jones as May Day from the James Bond 1985 film, “A View to a Kill.” Modern Bond girls also present a more formidable challenge to the suave secret agent.

LOS ANGELES – When Ursula Andress emerged from the sea, curves glistening, with a dagger strapped to her bikini in 1962's "Dr. No," she made the Bond girl an instant icon.

Always glamorous and sophisticated, yet uniquely susceptible to James Bond's flirtations, the Bond girl over the years has become as compelling as Agent 007 himself – and not just for the way she fills out a swimsuit.

"Initially, Bond girls were part of the aesthetic of the series. They had more transient roles," said Karen Tongson, a professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. "Especially in the last 15 to 20 years, there's been a marked shift in their greater involvement in the action of the story line and also the motivation for Bond, especially Daniel Craig's Bond."

The greatest change in women's position in the Bond saga, Tongson notes, is that the agent's boss, M, is a woman.

"The sense that the higher power that Bond responds to is this dignified woman played by Dame Judi Dench suggests that the relationships he has with these other (female) figures are not just fleeting casual sexual trysts, but far more complex," she said.

Who qualifies as a Bond girl has also changed over the years, as the blue-eyed, buxom blonde has given way to more diverse leading ladies, including Michelle Yeoh ("Tomorrow Never Dies") and Halle Berry ("Die Another Day"). Modern Bond girls also present a more formidable challenge to the suave secret agent.

"They reflect some of the shifts in the post-feminist perspective: Women who use their presentation and their wiles to outsmart Bond," Tongson said.

One thing that hasn't changed? Whatever their role, Bond girls still must be inarguably beautiful.

When Ursula Andress emerged from the sea, curves glistening, with a dagger strapped to her bikini in 1962’s “Dr. No,” she made the Bond girl an instant icon. Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

When Ursula Andress emerged from the sea, curves glistening, with a dagger strapped to her bikini in 1962’s “Dr. No,” she made the Bond girl an instant icon.

Daniel Craig appears with  Eva Green in the 2006 James Bond film, “Casino Royale.” Enlarge photo

Jay Maidment/Sony Pictures/Associated Press

Daniel Craig appears with Eva Green in the 2006 James Bond film, “Casino Royale.”

Jane Seymour and Roger Moore in the James Bond 1973 film, “Live and Let Die.” Initially, Bond girls were part of the aesthetic of the series and had more transient roles. Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Jane Seymour and Roger Moore in the James Bond 1973 film, “Live and Let Die.” Initially, Bond girls were part of the aesthetic of the series and had more transient roles.

Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in the James Bond 1964 film, “Goldfinger.” Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in the James Bond 1964 film, “Goldfinger.”

Roger Moore with Maud Adams, left, and Britt Ekland, from the James Bond 1974 film, “The Man with the Golden Gun.” Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Roger Moore with Maud Adams, left, and Britt Ekland, from the James Bond 1974 film, “The Man with the Golden Gun.”

Sophie Marceau Pierce Brosnan in a scene from the James Bond film, “The World Is Not Enough.” Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Sophie Marceau Pierce Brosnan in a scene from the James Bond film, “The World Is Not Enough.”

Halle Berry in a scene from the James Bond 2002 film, “Die Another Day.” Who qualifies as a Bond girl has also changed over the years, as the blue-eyed, buxom blonde has given way to more diverse leading ladies, including Berry. Women use their presentation and their wiles to outsmart Bond. Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Halle Berry in a scene from the James Bond 2002 film, “Die Another Day.” Who qualifies as a Bond girl has also changed over the years, as the blue-eyed, buxom blonde has given way to more diverse leading ladies, including Berry. Women use their presentation and their wiles to outsmart Bond.

Jill St. John from the James Bond 1971 film, “Diamonds Are Forever.” Enlarge photo

United Artists and Danjaq/Associated Press

Jill St. John from the James Bond 1971 film, “Diamonds Are Forever.”