OK, I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s one of my issues with the transition from Honor Blackman playing Cathy Gale to playing P*ssy Galore (asterix included because Tumblr might decide to flag it).
I think most of us can agree that the way Goldfinger (book and film) treats Galore is all kinds of problematic. But there’s an added issue with the way that things went down in terms of Blackman’s contemporary star persona.
Blackman got the role largely because of her performance as Cathy Gale in The Avengers. Cathy, superficially, seems perfect for the Bond franchise: the cool blonde judoka in black leather. But she’s also not good for the Bond franchise at all: she’s independent, intelligent, ridiculously competent, and really does not take any kind of male bullshit. She’s paired with a male character who, for the most part, respects that about her; who, when she pins him, early in their relationship, finds her physical and psychological strength not something to be overcome but something to be loved and respected. Whether or not we accept the idea that they eventually have a romantic and sexual relationship, there’s no doubt that Cathy retains her autonomy and that this is something that Steed supports and does not find threatening.
Cathy Gale, then, cannot be a part of the Bond franchise in 1964. Bond’s sexual politics do not allow for a woman to reject him on any terms. When Blackman takes her Gale persona and transmogrifies into the character of Galore, she’s largely playing Cathy but not – Galore is also a physically capable, psychologically strong female character who demands autonomy and is largely unimpressed by male posturing. While this is something that Steed actually likes about Cathy, that’s something that Bond cannot stand. She has to be dominated; that physical and sexual autonomy has to be made subservient to his desires, otherwise her very existence questions his masculinity.
Unlike Cathy, Galore is typed as a lesbian. (In the book, she’s explicitly lesbian, but even James Bond can’t get away with that in 1964.) So, she presents a double threat, a woman who not only doesn’t want James Bond but doesn’t want men, full stop. Again, Bond’s world view cannot allow for that. He will dominate her and control her desire, even if that means coercing her or raping her outright (which, yes, is what he does). That’s the only way he can bring her existence into line with his own view of masculinity and femininity.
In casting Blackman in the part, the Bond franchise is doing more than just bringing a Bond character to heel; it is trying to reconcile the existence of Cathy Gale with a conservative, patriarchal world. Cathy cannot exist in the same world with James Bond, but she can be transposed, commodified, and dominated as Galore. Cathy Gale is capable of breaking James Bond’s neck; Galore is not. Cathy Gale wouldn’t even permit him to look at her; Galore must, by the nature of the narrative and the franchise.