MI6 agent Strawberry Fields, played by Gemma Arterton, is one of the nine per cent of red-haired Bond girls
Gentlemen may prefer blondes but Britain’s most sophisticated secret service agent tends to go for brunettes, according to an extensive investigation into James Bond’s love life.
Academics who set out to discover what makes the ideal Bond girl found that apart from having long dark hair, she is likely to have an American accent – and to carry a weapon.
The unexpected findings were reached by a team who assessed the physical traits of all 195 female characters in the first 20 Bond movies, then contrasted the characteristics of the 98 who had “sexual contact” with Bond with those of the 97 who did not.
Their research, published in the journal Sex Roles, examines how Bond girls have changed over the years as well as exploring what kind of women end up in the spy’s arms.
Unsurprisingly, Bond’s sexual partners also tend to be younger, slimmer and more attractive than the women he does not bed – and they are less likely to wear glasses.
Those who fit the ideal type include Lois Chiles as Dr Holly Goodhead in Moonraker (1979) and Lana Wood as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
The researchers studied all women who had speaking roles or who appeared in two or more scenes in each film from Dr No in 1962, starring Sean Connery, to Die Another Day in 2002, starring Pierce Brosnan. The only film during the period that was excluded was Never Say Never Again (1983), because it was a remake of Thunderball.
The average age of the women was estimated at 26. Down the years, 46 were judged to have had “strong” sexual contact with Bond, while a further 52 had only “mild” contact such as kissing.
Only 27 per cent of the women were blondes, compared with 40 per cent with black hair, 19 per cent brown and nine per cent red. Those with dark hair were proportionately more likely to get intimate with Bond.
The 18 per cent of women who had long hair were more likely to end up in a sexual situation with 007 than the 22 per cent who had short hair.
More than 90 per cent of the women were judged to be of above-average attractiveness – and the prettier they were, the more likely they were end up in bed with Bond.
Only a quarter of the women in the films had an American accent, but those that did were more likely to end up in a sexual liaison with Bond than the 43 per cent who had a European accent of some kind.
“A majority of female characters engaged in some sexual activity, particularly those in major roles. And the great majority of sexual behaviours involved Bond himself,” says the research team, led by Kimberly Neuendorf, professor of communication at Cleveland State University, Ohio.
“Every Bond film has multiple female characters who variously tempt, distract, and assist James in his latest mission. At least one ‘Bond girl’ is particularly striking – a woman with an adventurous nature, cunning attributes, strong potential for romantic entanglement with Bond, and a sense of self-assurance, whose name – Pussy Galore, Honey Ryder, or Holly Goodhead, for example – is as provocative as the character she portrays.”
Three-quarters of the women in the films were white, eight per cent Asian and seven per cent black, with a handful of Arab and American Indian women. One in five female characters were dead by the end of the movie, including many who had had sexual contact with Bond.
Perversely, Bond was more likely to have sexual contact with a woman if she used a weapon than if she did not. Two women attempted to kill Bond before sexual contact, two tried during sex, and 10 tried afterwards.
Comparing the earlier Bond films with the more recent releases, the researchers found that Bond girls’ hair has got shorter and they have become more promiscuous. The number of major roles for women in the films has increased, the researchers found. Yet they concluded that females appearing in the films continue to be locked into “stereotyped” roles.
Their report says: “The women of Bond are eternally attractive. Their typically slender body type … is unchanged over time.
“The women of Bond continue to be portrayed in a rather limited and sex-stereotyped manner. The ultimate penalty for a woman in a Bond film – death – seems to accrue from promiscuity and daring to threaten the ultimate iconic masculine hero, James Bond.
“This study provides further evidence of the continued sexualisation, marginalisation, and disposability of women within Bond films. The Bond films glorify the sometimes chauvinistic persona of Bond.
“Bond single-handedly takes on any ‘bad guy’, saves the world and always gets the girl. Bond accomplishes these feats by the power of his wit and more importantly through violence.”