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The New Bond Girl Is 50. So?

How people are reacting to the controversial casting

By Linda Bernstein

It’s been a week of heated conversation on Facebook, Twitter, phones, parties, gym locker rooms and supermarket checkout lines. The big question: Is it significant or not that one of the two “Bond Girls” featured alongside Daniel Craig in the James Bond franchise’s 24 film, Spectre, is 50?

Let me emphasize this: Monica Bellucci, the Italian bombshell who will play Lucia Sciarra, the wife of a man Bond has assassinated (and then whom he seduces), is the oldest Bond girl ever.
Could this mean that 50 is the new 23? Or is a hot babe simply a hot babe?

You want some theories? Here we go with four possibilities:

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Possibility 1: The James Bond franchise is trying to recapture its base audience.

Having been born in the middle of the baby boom (1946 to 1964), I actually remember the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. I swear I saw it at a drive-in on Cape Cod the summer of 1962, with my parents in the front seat. Weird. However, since the sex was pretty tame in that film, my memory may be real.
At that point, Ian Fleming had been writing his Bond novels for a decade, and by the time I hit junior high, I was devouring them. Spies were all the rage. Mad Magazine ran a monthly comic spoofing them (and The Cold War). Television scored hits with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Secret Agent starring Patrick McGoohan. James Bond, already identified in everyone’s mind with suave Sean Connery, ruled the public imagination as he outsmarted WWII-era-inspired villains.
Then, of course, there was the sex. Being that young adult fiction had not yet been invented, and it’s hard to call the young Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables a “love interest,” the Bond books taught us that 1) spies liked sexy women, 2) villains liked sexy women and 3) sexy women had a lot of fun. Yes, indeed! Of course, these particular alluring women never showed up in subsequent novels or movies, but, oh, to be with James Bond even once! Feminism and the sexual revolution were about to explode during the early Bond movie years, and we would learn that women were much more than sexual objects.
The timing is why those of us over 55 remain the first real “Bond generation” and some people conjecture that casting a 50-year-old woman is a ploy to win us back. We are, after all, a huge and relatively affluent (i.e., they can afford movie tickets) segment of the population.  
Ligeia Polidora, a wine grower and blogger who lives in Sonoma, Calif., wrote to me, “It might also be an effort to appeal to older audiences who know and still love the Bond series. I think it's an acknowledgement of the economic power of older women.”
LEVEL OF SIGNIFICANCE: Pretty high, I’d say. The 50+ crowd has been agitating for a long time for brands to make a nod in our direction and acknowledge that we, and not necessarily Millennials, make billions of dollars of buying decisions.
Possibility 2: People really are finding older women attractive.

I’ll scream if one more person says “MILF” to me. Seriously. Someone wrote on my Facebook, “This is the age of the MILF.” Another male friend, who was a bit in his cups, shouted over the holiday party din, “Let me say one word to you: MILF” (which, I’d like to point out is an acronym and not a word).
Christina Martinez, who lives in Turin, Italy, and works in communications, put the idea that 50 can be sexy a lot more eloquently: “A Bond girl above 50? Amazing. A kickass Bond girl above 50, who, by the way, has been very vocal against cosmetic surgery? Even better. Plus, she is one of Italy's prime actresses. Why not?”

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Lots of men chimed in on this possibility. “I have a weakness for younger women like Monica Bellucci. It's not her fault she's only 50,” said my friend Norman Green, a 58-year-old TV producer in New York City. “Bellucci is perfect for the part,” added another male friend of mine.
Several women I know who blog about sex and the 50+ woman took even stronger stances.


“I think few of us can aspire to be as sexy as Bellucci in the classic gorgeous body-sense,” mused Walker Thornton, a sex educator. “But we can have a sensuous outlook on life at age 50, 60 or 70 and be thought of, and viewed, as sexual beings. For me, this is recognition that older women have a wide range of appeal, as actresses getting strong parts and as women/characters who are sexually active and thriving. Maybe the Bond image is big enough to encourage people to accept older women and men as sexually active. That men can find what they want in women their own age instead of the idea that youth is what makes older men more virile.”
Or as humorist Linda Maltz Wolf put it, “I’ve always thought that Bond needed a mature woman,” meaning someone more like herself. Yeah, we’ve all been there in our fantasies, but Wolf has hit upon a rarely mentioned issue that says something about the sexual attitudes in our society: The character James Bond has never been “young” — he is consistently portrayed as in his 40s or even 50s. Sean Connery was 53 when he filmed his last Bond film, Never Say Never Again in 1983.
LEVEL OF SIGNIFICANCE: Again, I’d say pretty high. A 50+ sex symbol will erase many myths about the non-sexual post-menopausal woman.

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Possibility 3: Bond “Women” are frequently “interesting.”

Sure, there have been bimbos. But even the unfortunately named Pussy Galore in Goldfinger was a licensed pilot who was pretty good with the judo chops.
“There's always been a pendulum swing between very capable Bond Girls to vapid/helpless ones,” says Roopa Unnikrishnan, an innovation consultant and coach in New York City. Lately, Unnikrishnan observes, the Bond movies feature truly extraordinary women that Bond seems to respect, such as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace.

“He's lucky to have a shot at them and knows it. They aren't seduced by him; they just have a playmate for awhile until they move on as well,” she adds.
Jill Kroop Manty, a web designer in Texas adds to Unnikrishnan’s point of view: Bond women, she argues, are “not the typical damsels-in-distress. They're often pretty much Bond's equal.”
LEVEL OF SIGNIFICANCE: Once more, pretty high. If we’re watching the character who was known to be a seducer of women, and his female leads manage to become seducers of men without being “sluts,” then we know Hollywood attitudes (and thus those of the general public) have changed.
Possibility 4: Monica Bellucci’s age isn’t important because it’s just entertainment, after all.

So this is the final conjecture: Lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing. To me it was interesting that Susanna Speier, a writer who lives in Colorado, commented, “The older Bond ‘Girls’ tend to be more equally matched to James, which is why I like them. And I don't really see them as sexual fantasy movies so much as really good genre movies.”
Or as Sharon Greenthal, who co-runs the website Midlife Blvd, says:“I would not want to see a James Bond who looked like some ordinary schlub. Bond Girls should be gorgeous, too. It's a movie, after all.”
LEVEL OF SIGNIFICANCE: Also high. See below.
Yes, Bond flick No. 24, named Spectre after the shadowy, evil organization (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) that 007 has been pursuing all these years, is “just” a movie. And entertained we certainly will be. The leaked Sony emails have indicated that pre-filming (which began in early December 2014), the script was still a mess, with “logic” issues and a terrible ending.
But I expect that will all be fixed by Nov. 6, 2015, when Bellucci will walk the red carpet for the premiere. She will look gorgeous, because she is. And whether it’s because we’re all psyched that she’s taking 50-plus sexiness to a place it’s never been before or that we’re happy to have James Bond back or  just that we’re anticipating another riveting thriller, we’ll all be there (in spirit if not in actuality), cheering her on.
Is it significant that the new Bond “Girl” is 50? Let us know what you think in your comments.

Linda Bernstein has written hundreds of articles for dozens of magazines and newspapers, writes the blog GenerationBsquared and teaches journalism at Long Island University, Brooklyn. Read More
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