Peter Lorenz at the excellent, fantastic Illustrated 007 blog (a site I really can't say enough good things about)
Anyway, Peter's post got me thinking about this debate, because that unfinished piece of Brian Bysouth art in which the woman whose legs and butt are displayed so prominently is not merely cut off, as she appears on the final poster, but unfinished. If one were inclined to read too much into posters (a hobby I rather enjoy, myself), one would not be remiss for thinking that this image of the unfinished woman might perfectly portray the sexism of the Bond franchise. (Again, that's a subject to which there are two sides. In college a good friend and I presented a paper at a conference on action films reading the Bond canon as feminist text. And I think at least a couple of our arguments held merit, as have some made by many others on the subject.) What is a woman to Bond, someone more judgmental than I might ask, but her parts—and not even their sum? ("Splendid protuberances, front and rear," wrote Ian Fleming in Casino Royale... to spray some gasoline on this hypothetical fire.) Of course, this is the point in this hypothetical debate where a voice of reason might interrupt, and point out that what we are discussing is an unfinished piece of artwork, and not any sort of intentional commentary on gender politics in Bond films. But it's fun to think that way, isn't it?
So thinking along those lines sent me running to one of my two favorite scholarly tomes ever penned on the subject of 007 (a resource I frequently cited in film studies classes in college), specifically to Tony Bennett and Janet Woolacott's analysis (or possibly over-analysis, depending on your perspective) of that poster on page 242 of their book Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (Methuen, 1987):
Since the 1970s, this licensed adjustment of traditional norms of female sexuality has given way before an obsessive concern to effect a redistribution of phallic attributes back from women to men. Publicity posters for the Bond films of this period thus typically represented the relations between Bond and 'the Bond girl' in the form of a contest between two rival sources of phallic power and authority.Well put, no? I wonder if that's exactly what Brian Bysouth was thinking? So what is this poster to you, dear readers? Sexist, misogynist objectification of women? A desperate man's attempt to restore the symbolic order of the phallus? Or just a clever image dreamed up by a savvy marketing department who knew how to sell their product? Good art? Bad art? Please, chime in!
The poster for For Your Eyes Only, read from an anxious male perspective, is a case in point. The foreground is dominated by the buttocks and legs of a girl clad in swimming wear and seen from the rear. She stands with legs astride, the relations between her two feet - clad in high-heeled shoes - and her crotch form a triangle with the crotch forming the apex. Her right hand holds a cross-bow, sprung for action and armed with an arrow, pointing to the ground. Bond is framed within the triangle formed by the girl's legs and crotch. Diminished by the girl's domination of the foreground - his head is level with her knees - Bond is placed directly below the girl's crotch, gun in hand with his gaze directed anxiously not to the viewer or to the girl's face but to her crotch. Outside the triangle formed by the girl's legs, a variety of action scenes from the film are depicted.... The 'adventure' elements of the plot are thus relegated to the margins of the composition, a series of escapades which have a distinctly Boy's Own flavour compared with the central challenge which Bond has to respond to: restoring the symbolic order of the phallus by 'outgunning' the girl whose phallic power threatens to overwhelm him.
If you're into Freudian takes on spy imagery, also check out the post Lipstick Feminism: Gender Roles in Deadlier Than the Male (Or: When is a Speargun Just a Speargun?)