London, Sept 21 : James Bond girls have long been touted as mere eye candies, but now the joint owner and producer of the 007 franchise has claimed that the women in the secret agent's early adventures were "progressive" role models.
Barbara Broccoli said that characters like Honey Rider, played by Ursula Andress in Dr No (1962), and Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman in Goldfinger (1964), were feminist icons.
Broccoli, 48, is the daughter of Cubby Broccoli, the founder of the James Bond franchise.
"The women were unique for their time. Pussy Galore, for instance, was a female pilot. A lot of them were sexual predators who gave as good as they got. They had professional careers and did extraordinary things. I think the early women were very progressive," Telegraph quoted her, as saying.
However, her comments elicited angry response from feminists.
According to her, there was a difference between the female characters who appeared alongside Sean Connery in 1960s and those who appeared opposite Sir Roger Moore in the 1970s.
She confessed that with time, the strong women of the 1960s were replaced by girls who were little more than eye candy.
She said: "The depiction of women has changed over the years. I think we went through a period later on when they became more window dressing. They were draped around swimming pools and that sort of thing."
In many Bond films, silhouettes of naked or semi-clad women were showcased in their opening musical sequences. And many of the famous lines are laden with sexual innuendo.
In fact, even the most formidable female characters in the franchise, including some of 007's enemies, have all fallen for his charms.
Not barring Honey Rider, who steps out of the sea in her bikini in Dr No, makes love with Bond in a boat at the end of the film and Pussy Galore, and initially betrays Bond, eventually ends up in his arms beneath a parachute.
Now, Broccoli and her step-brother, Michael G Wilson, who co-produces the films, have made a deliberate effort to update the portrayal of women in Bond films.