This summer I had the pleasure of interviewing Maryam D’abo, the woman made famous for sledding down a mountain on a cello case with James Bond in The Living Daylights. Actually I was able to spend a week getting to know her at the @WordTheatre retreat. She’s full of a combination of grace, wit, and love which is hard to find in this world. Add to that she’s made a full recovery cerebral hematoma and suffice it to say: she’s cool, really, really cool.
You don’t think of Bond Girls getting hematomas. Most of us don’t really think about Bond Girls ageing but of course they do. Despite being frozen in time on the screen the actor’s themselves age like the rest of us, falling victim to the mortal forces which cause everyone’s body to be uncooperative. Much like Disney Princesses, Bond Girls have certain standards to uphold. When we get a Bond Girl with a disability it’ll be a clear marker that society has knocked down some very serious barriers. Which got me thinking: What would a Bond Girl in a wheelchair look like?
A Bond Girl literarily speaking is a femme fatale, even the really angelic ones. They are the object that Bond goes back into the line of fire to rescue, putting himself in the line of fire to save the pretty girl. They tug on his heart strings in a way that nothing else can. Pretty, vulnerable, in need of a good man to take care of her, these are all attributes of the quintessential idealised women of the Bond films. It is also, coincidently, what is required of you by society if you happen to be disabled. If you’re pretty and people like to look at you, you’re disability is almost forgivable.
Having a disability and being a femme fatale actually go hand in hand. Anything that increases vulnerability also increase femininity. In this way, I don’t think it is very far fetched to have Bond have to risk his life for a woman with a disability. Good story telling is all about raising the stakes. As a writer I’d argue what makes Bond works is when we can relate to the characters. The fastest way to accomplish this is to give a character a flaw or limitation of some sort. Even in a multibillion dollar franchise, the basic rules of storytelling still apply.
When writers use the same basic rules of storytelling as apply them to disability, the sky’s the limit on how a tale can pull viewers off their feet. When we have a Bond Girl presented with a disability on screen it will be on undeniable milestone of how we are finally able to incorporate disability into a story the right way, without reinventing the wheel due to “special circumstances.”
It’s a Brave New World out there. Every Day.
The Period Route
March 24, 2017
Subtitles? Transcriptions? The debate with disability and media