”THE PARADOX OF JINX JOHNSON”
When I had first posted comments about the 2002 James Bond movie ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” on message boards and forums, I found myself face to face with a surprise. Apparently, many fans found Halle Berry’s performance as NSA Agent Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson unsatisfactory. And after perusing more of the James Bond message boards, I also learned that Berry is regarded by many Bond fans as ”the worst Bond girl” in the franchise’s history.
After recovering from this shocker, I began to read some of the reasons why Berry is now so reviled by the Bond fandom. Quite frankly, many have accused her of a bad performance in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. Others have accused screenwriters Purvis and Wade of creating a badly written character. After recently viewing the movie myself, I am completely stumped by this assessment. Time and again, I have asked myself - ”How could anyone come to this conclusion about Berry’s performance?”
Frankly, I do not consider Jinx Johnson to be the best Bond girl ever created. I once ranked all of the Bond girls (the leading ladies) on one of the Bond forums. Jinx ranked seventh on my list. As I had stated in my review of ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”, I enjoyed Berry’s sly and humorous portrayal of the NSA agent. I also admired the way she handled the action. And one could tell that Berry was simply enjoying herself. Which is great. But when I had learned from the Bond forum, MI-6 Forums that Berry was one of the most unpopular leading ladies from the franchise, I was simply shocked. What had she done to earn the enmity of so many Bond fans?
Right now, I have the unpleasant suspicion that much of the hostility toward Berry had to do with either three things:
*Many fans hate the idea of Bond’s leading lady being a highly trained intelligence agent. This makes her an “equal” to Bond in the eyes of many and they cannot stomach this. I call this theory – ”SEXISM”.
*The actress is one of the few Bond girls who is a major Hollywood star and many resent her co-starring in a Bond film. I call this theory – ”JEALOUSY”.
*Many fans have taken umbrage over her bad dialogue. And considering most of the major characters in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” were also saddled with bad dialogue, I would call this theory - ”HYPOCRICY”.
*Many fans are uneasy over the idea of Bond’s leading lady being an African-American (in other words, non-white) actress. Of course, Berry is only half African-American. Her mother is white and British. Although other actresses of African descent have appeared in Bond films – namely Gloria Hendry, Grace Jones, Trina Parks, etc., Berry is the first to be the leading lady. Either fans are uneasy about this or they simply cannot stomach the idea of Bond’s leading lady being either non-white (non-European ancestry) or of some African descent. I call this theory - ”RACISM”.
Before I go any further, I will try to recall some of the complaints regarding Berry’s performance in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”:
*Jinx ended up captured twice in the film, which went against her role as an action woman. - Not only have many male Bond fans have issued this complaint, but a good number of female fans have complained about the same. In the movie, Jinx was captured, while searching for one of the movie’s minor villains – a North Korean agent named Zao. Not long after Bond had rescued her (at the same time, she managed to save his life during his fight with a character named Mr. Kil), he advised her to hook up with his MI-6 colleague, Miranda Frost, not realizing that the latter was a double agent for the main villain. And Jinx ended up caught in a booby trap, set up by Frost in the latter’s room. Now I find this particular complaint extremely hypocritical, especially when you consider the number of times Bond had been captured in many of the movies throughout the years:
-“FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE” – captured twice
-“GOLDFINGER” – spent the second half of the movie as the villain’s prisoner
-“YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE” – captured twice
-“DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER” – knocked unconscious once and captured twice
-“LIVE AND LET DIE” – captured three times
-“MOONRAKER” – captured twice
-“FOR YOUR EYES ONLY” – captured twice
-“A VIEW TO A KILL” – captured twice
-“LICENSE TO KILL” – captured twice (first time by a fellow MI-6 agent and the Hong Kong police)
-“GOLDENEYE” – captured three times (once by the Russian military)
-“TOMORROW NEVER DIES” – captured twice
-“THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH” – captured twice
-“DIE ANOTHER DAY” – captured twice
Not only did Bond end up captured twice in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”, he also spent 14 months as a prisoner of the North Koreans following his first capture. Yet, many fans are willing to excuse his numerous captures because he is James Bond – the main protagonist . . . and a man. There seemed to be no problem for Bond to be captured by the villains no matter how many times. Yet, Bond fans are unwilling to tolerate the capture of a Bond girl, especially if she is an action character. Apparently, a woman who is an action character like Bond is not allowed to be captured in a story. It seems that in the eyes of many, her capture repudiates her believability as someone capable of fighting alongside Bond. Not only do I find such an attitude hypocritical, I also find it rather sexist. And this brand of sexism seemed to be prevalent amongst both genders.
*Halle Berry’s fame had threatened to upstage Pierce Brosnan’s role in the movie. - Apparently, many fans seemed threatened by the idea of the very famous Miss Berry upstaging Brosnan in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. In other words, they found her too famous to even be considered as a Bond girl. Granted, Berry turned out to be the most famous of all the Bond girls, during the franchise’s 45-year history. But she was not the first. Both Honor Blackman (”GOLDFINGER”) and Diana Rigg (”ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE”) had achieved fame for co-starring alongside Patrick Macnee in the 60s cult favorite television series, ”THE AVENGERS” when they appeared in their respective Bond movies. But they were never as famous as Berry. Britt Ekland (”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN”), Jill St. John (”DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER”), Tanya Roberts (”A VIEW TO A KILL”), Michelle Yeoh (”TOMORROW NEVER DIES”), Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards (”THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH”) were somewhat well-known when they became Bond girls. And actresses like Ursula Andress (”DR. NO”), Jane Seymour (”LIVE AND LET DIE”), Maud Adams (”THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN”/”OCTOPUSSY”) and Carey Lowell (”LICENSE TO KILL”) became well-known following their stints as Bond girls. But none of these actresses had ever achieved Berry’s stature as an actress. Berry’s stardom never bothered me. Despite her fame, the movie made it quite obvious that the real star in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY” was Pierce Brosnan. How this managed to elude many Bond fans still astounds me. Frankly, I find Berry’s stardom as an excuse for her unsuitability as a Bond girl rather shallow. Especially, since she had only appeared in at least two-thirds of the movie.
Speaking of other famous Bond girls, many seemed to have accepted the prevalent view of Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder) as the ”best Bond girl” within the franchise’s history. Why? Because of her screen entrance in ”DR. NO” - in which she appeared on the beach, wet and wearing a bikini? As I recall, Halle Berry had re-created this scene in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. But most fans seem to dismiss it. Personally, I found neither versions – Andress or Berry’s – anything to get excited over. But at least Berry’s character had provided a significant addition to the story. I cannot say the same about Andress in ”DR. NO”. I have developed a little theory on how Bond girls are relevant to the story in which they appear. In order to be relevant, the leading lady requires any of the following:
*The Bond girl should have an emotional tie to the leading villain.
*The Bond girl should have an emotional tie to Bond.
*The Bond girl assists in helping Bond foil the villain’s plans.
Berry’s character, Jinx Johnson, did not adhere to the first two points. She had no emotional connection to the leading villain. Nor did she or Bond ever show any signs of being deeply attracted to one another (lust and professionalism seemed to be the hallmark of their relationship). However, Jinx did assist Bond in foiling Colonel Moon/Gustave Graves’ plans, while serving the interests of her own agency and country. The character of Honey Ryder, on the other hand, failed to meet any of the above requirements. She never had an emotional tie to either the main villain or Bond. Nor did she help Bond foil the villain’s plans. In the end, Honey proved to be irrelevant to the story of ”DR. NO”. The character’s claim to fame seemed to be centered around some cheesecake moment in a wet bikini. And personally, I find that rather shallow.
*Many attribute her bad dialogue in the movie to what they perceived as a bad performance.: Yes, Berry was unlucky to be saddled with some bad dialogue. So were Pierce Brosnan, Toby Stephens, Madonna and Pike. Yet, many fans tend to accuse Berry of being unable to handle it. Personally, I suspect that all of the actors had trouble handling Purvis and Wade’s bad dialogue. I do not care how skillful an actor or actress is, I have yet to see one performer deal effectively with bad dialogue.
*Speaking of dialogue – “Yo mama!”: Many Bond fans had complained about Berry’s use of this slice of African-American slang. Despite the fact that Berry is part African-American, these fans apparently believe that such a phrase has no place in a Bond film. Racism seemed to have reared its ugly head in this topic. If African-American slang is such a problem with many Bond fans, why are they willing to excuse the slang found in 1973’s ”LIVE AND LET DIE”? Perhaps they are willing to excuse it, due to the number of African-Americans in that particular movie and its settings in New York’s Harlem and New Orleans. Since Berry was portraying the only character of African-American descent in a movie not partially set in the United States, her use of ”Yo Mama!” was apparently not tolerated. I guess being surrounded by whites or non-African-Americans, Berry should have sounded white. Hypocrisy much?
Actually, on the MI-6 Forums, I have actually come across a few racist and sexist insults regarding Berry. And I have encountered several posts that wax lyrical over ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”’s other female star – Rosamund Pike. Most of the compliments surrounding Pike seemed to be centered on her British ancestry and race. Because of this and a recent high demand for white European women as Bond girls, I can only conclude that a good number of the hostility toward Berry has a lot to do with racism and nationalism.
I realize that I cannot order someone to like Halle Berry’s role as Jinx Johnson in ”DIE ANOTHER DAY”. Nor can I order them to change any negative perceptions they may have of her as a Bond leading leady. However, as a member of several Bond forums, I do have the right to offer my own opinion of Berry’s performance. Just as I have the right to either agree or criticize those members’ opinions. Although I found Berry’s watery entrance in the movie unimpressive, I have yet to come across any argument that would convince me that she was an ineffective Bond girl, let alone the worst Bond girl in the franchise’s history.