Sylvia Trench: Authentic Feminist

james_bondLast week, Sylvia Trench died.  She was 90 years old.  You’ve probably never heard of her, but she had a massive impact on popular culture that’s still ringing in our ears, today.  You see, before Honey Ryder (played by Ursula Andress) rose out of the surf like Venus in a white bikini, Sylvia Trench (played by Eunice Gayson) was the original Bond Girl in the original Bond movie, Dr. No.

Here in the ‘fraidy-cat days of contemporary feminism, there is a prevailing myth that “Bond Girl” is synonymous with bimbo.  Nope!  Guess again!  Ian Fleming didn’t write ‘em that way.  First of all, Fleming’s Bond Girls weren’t girls — they were women.  And secondly, the majority of his female characters (written between 1953 and 1965) were decidedly not typical women of that era.  Back in those days, the female ideal was June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver) Margaret Anderson (Father Knows Best) and (let’s face it) the seriously ditzy Lucy Ricardo (I Love Lucy.)  Fleming’s women, on the other hand, were mainly independent, assertive professionals who were sexually active and made no bones about it.  (Ring any bells in 2018?)  Which brings us back to Ms. Trench.

Actually, Sylvia Trench was not in the novel Dr. No, but the movie version is the first time the world got a good look at James Bond, so she’s there to set the tone.   In fact, she appears before Bond does.  In the scene, we see a woman (not a girl) in an off-the-shoulder red dress.  She’s gambling at a high stakes Chemin de fer table.  She’s there by herself, and she’s clearly a regular player. (The house agrees to cover her marker when she loses.)  An off-camera voice says,

“I admire your courage, Miss…?”
She replies, “Trench, Sylvia Trench.  I admire your luck, Mr…?”
Cut to Sean Connery.  Cue the theme music:
“Bond, James Bond.”

And the 007 film franchise begins.

However, this isn’t where Sylvia Trench leaves her mark as the quintessential Bond Woman.  Three scenes later, Bond returns home and there’s Sylvia, out of the red dress and into one of Bond’s shirts, practicing her putt – with Bond’s golf clubs.  Bond (because he’s Bond) bursts into the room with a gun in his hand, but Sylvia doesn’t freak out, shrieking “OMG!  He’s got a gun!” — she flirts.  This is a confident woman.  This is an Ian Fleming Woman.  She’s come to Bond’s apartment (broken in, actually) to sleep with him.  She hasn’t been seduced.  She hasn’t been coerced.  She isn’t a victim of Bond’s raging sexism.  She’s a woman who makes her own decisions — and today she’s decided on James Bond.

So, as feminists from Maine to Malibu theorize and chatter about how many misogynists can dance on the head of a pin — Ms. Trench, I salute you!  You were a woman before it was fashionable and saw no reason to complain about it.

Sticking To The Facts!


One of the most amazing things about facts is how mutable they can be.  I’m not talking about changing the facts.  That’s impossible.  As John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of the facts and evidence.”  Nor am I talking about this stupid “truthiness” that’s garnered so many headlines since Stephen Colbert coined the word in 2005.  I don’t think many people realize that this is actually a comedic device invented for laughs and regardless of who or how many people take it seriously, it isn’t.  I’m talking about rearranging the facts to create a faux truth which is then widely accepted as not only a reasonable facsimile but an actual alternative, indistinguishable from — and equal to — truth itself.   It’s a sort of mutant truth, accepted and unquestioned, as if it were the real thing.  Here’s how it’s done.

There is a widely held belief, purported by William S. Baring-Gould, that Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler had a love affair which produced a son who became, in later life, the great detective Nero Wolfe.  Stuff and nonsense!  Baring-Gould has taken a few isolated facts and woven them into a fiction that has gained enormous credibility.  However, even though many accept this as the truth, including many reputable writers, nothing could be further from it.  Let’s look at the facts — objectively.

It is well known that Irene Adler was the love (or as close as he could get) of Sherlock Holmes’ life.  He kept a portrait of her on his desk, and she was the only woman he ever spoke about with grudging admiration.  It is also well known that in May, 1891, Holmes and Professor Moriarty fought a life-and-death struggle on a ledge over the Reichenbach Falls, in Switzerland.  It was reported at the time that, locked in mortal combat, both adversaries slipped from the dizzying heights and plunged to their deaths.  Of course, we now know that, in fact, Holmes defeated Professor Moriarty but was unable to return to Watson because he was set upon by Moriarty’s henchmen.  However, for three years, Holmes was presumed dead; his whereabouts, unknown.

This is all factual information.  From it, we can conclude that Holmes must have been severely injured.  Otherwise, he would have simply rejoined Watson in the nearby town of Meiringen.  Therefore, we can also conclude that, because of his injuries, Holmes would have needed assistance to descend the mountain.  These are two reasonable deductions, worthy of Holmes himself.  The tricky part, however, is after recovering from his injuries, what would make Sherlock Holmes abandon his career as a detective for three years?  Nothing else had ever captured the soul of Sherlock Holmes – except, perhaps Irene Adler whom, we know, was living on the continent with her husband.  Therefore, it is more than reasonable to assume that it could only be Irene Adler, out hiking on a late spring vacation, who found Holmes and rescued him.  We can further make the case that (given their history) in his weakened state, Holmes succumbed to Ms. Adler’s considerable charms.  In short, as she nursed him back to health Irene Adler seduced him.  No other explanation is possible.

The result was a child; however, not, as some would claim, a boy, but a girl whom they named Monica (from the Greek monos which means “solitary or alone.”)  Obviously, in the early 1890s, this was a very delicate situation.  Clearly, a love affair and an illegitimate child would have folded up Irene Adler’s marriage like a cheap lawn chair.  Furthermore, Holmes was not exactly daddy material.  Therefore the child was given to a local Swiss couple named Delacroix, who changed her name to “Monique,” and raised her as their own.  Eventually, consumed by guilt, Holmes and Adler parted, never to see the child — or each other — again.

Monique Delacroix grew up totally unaware of her biological parents.  During the First World War, she met Andrew, a dashing British military officer.  They married in 1919, when he left the service and took employment as a Vickers’ armaments representative.  They had one child, born November 11th, 1920, whom they named “James,” after his paternal grandfather.  Unfortunately, Monique and her husband, in a weird stroke of irony, were both killed in a climbing accident, in the early 1930s.  Eleven year old James went to live with his father’s sister, Miss Charmian Bond.  James Bond completed his education in England and went on to a brilliant career in British government service.  Thus, when we examine the facts objectively, we find that Sherlock Holmes is not, in fact, the father of orchid detective Nero Wolfe, but, indeed, the maternal grandfather of James Bond, 007!

As we can see, it is easy to fall into the trap of alternative truth.  Even though the facts remain the same, sometimes they can be mismanaged, or perhaps unwittingly manipulated to produce, not a deliberate lie, but an untruth, all the same.  William S. Baring-Gould were not maliciously trying to deceive us; yet deceive us they did.  Therefore, it is always best, when faced with an acceptable truth, no matter how plausible, to return to the facts to make your own judgement call.



Originally written in 2012

Tom Hiddleston, You Ignorant Slut!

Tom HiddlestonFirst of all, I think Tom Hiddleston is a brilliant actor.  He’s played Cassio, Coriolanus and Henry V.  After his portrayal of Loki stole the Avengers’ franchise out from under the good guys — Tony Stark and Captain America — he became the Internet’s  boyfriend.  After The Night Manager, he literally kicked Idris Elba off the top spot in the Who’s The Next Bond Sweepstakes.  In some circles, Q had already given him the keys to the Aston Martin.  Wow!  What a difference a couple of months make!  As of today, Hiddleston’s screen cred is lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.  What happened?  Taylor Swift.

For some unknown reason, Hiddleston dropped himself into the Taylor Swift propaganda machine, and from the looks of things, he’s not exactly struggling to get out.  Tom! Tom! Tom! What were you thinking?  Taylor Swift has built a multi-million dollar business out of dumping boyfriends and then selling the soundtrack to the emotional carnage, in a fauxmance frenzy worthy of Zsa Zsa Gabor.  (FYI, it took Ms. Gabor 99 years to amass 8 exes.  Swift has 7 and she’s only 26!)  The brutal truth is Ms. Swift is either the Humpty Dumpty of love or there’s something very cold and calculating going on here.  My money’s on B.  Swift’s life reads too much like a season of The Young and the Ruthless to be anything but fake.  My God!  Calvin Harris’ side of the bed wasn’t even cold when Swift’s Promo Team started feeding “improv pix” of Tom and Taylor to social media under the newly-coined #Hiddleswift.  I know romance never sleeps, but even Bluebeard took a day off, once in a while!

Of course, celebs change partners the way the rest of us change our socks, so it’s no big deal … but…  the problem is Hiddleston would have made a really good James Bond.  Unfortunately, Bond is suave, he’s smart, he’s sophisticated, he prefers women and would never even consider dating the Queen of the Tweenies — no matter how coldblooded her marketing plan was.  Swift’s persona is just way too Barbie for Bond — half the sexy/twice the plastic.  But more importantly, Bond wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a dickie “I ‘HEART’ T.S.!” tank top.  That’s the fashion equivalent of an Adam Sandler fart joke.  Nothing is ever going to erase that image from the retinas of Bond fans.

So you blew it, Tom! You’re never going to be James Bond now.  But think of it this way: in six months or so, the whole world’s going to know what a bastard you are.  You see, Swift hasn’t put out an album in over two years, so she’s about due to release her next “kiss and yell” recording.  And I have a feeling you’re going feature prominently in it.

Good luck with that.