February 2, 2014

Nobody’s Done It Since: How May Day Changed My Game

No one does it like Grace Jones can.
I thought James *had* met his match. Too bad everyone else thought it was Stacey Sutton.

By Alexa Day

My love affair with James Bond ended when the Powers That Be sent Pierce Brosnan packing. The affair began with Roger Moore. The year was 1985, the film was A View to a Kill, and I was 12.

I think a woman develops a certain affection for her first Bond, but Sir Roger, as much as I love him, is not the reason I adore this movie. For a preteen girl trying to figure out where on earth she belonged and what to make of the world around her, A View to a Kill is all about May Day.

Played by the one-of-a-kind Grace Jones, May Day was exactly the heroine I needed at exactly the time I needed a heroine. She dressed to impress – or at least to be noticed – with bright colors and backless dresses. She knew how to handle her business. She singlehandedly calmed a skittish racehorse, handed Bond’s ass to him on a fishing rod, and jumped from the Eiffel Tower with a stylish parachute, and that was just in the first half of the film.

By the time I was 12, I’d learned a hard lesson of life: The more you can do, the less popular you’ll be. Bear in mind, I was growing up in a world before Buffy but after Cleopatra Jones. In this dark time, a 12-year-old black girl had very few lady bad-asses to admire, and even fewer of those had men in their lives. In the films of my youth, girls like Stacey Sutton (poor Tanya Roberts), girls whose placid minds were untroubled by thought, seemed to get the guy.

It's a hell of a job, being May Day, but I think I could do it. For a few hours.
It’s a hell of a job, being May Day, but I think I could do it. For a few hours.

But on top of her killer wardrobe and lethal talents, May Day had a boyfriend. A blond boyfriend. And the man doted on her. He kissed her hand while they hung out at the lake waiting for Bond to drown. He watched her get downright giggly over the view from his blimp. They were a well-oiled machine combing his estate looking for Bond and later burning down San Francisco’s City Hall. They were good together.

Okay, let’s stop for just a second. I will acknowledge that Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin was probably not the ideal boyfriend. He was a genetically engineered megalomaniac with pretty deep-seated psychopathic tendencies. I get it. But I challenge you to look at the positives.

Max had his own money. He had his own place, which came with its own servants’ quarters. He was pretty sharp. He had a plan for the future that ostensibly included May Day. I see a lot of non-megalomaniacs out there who can’t manage all that. I would suggest that the megalomania is more of a long-term relationship issue, something to work through as it causes trouble.

Just think about this like a 12-year-old for a second. Max is looking pretty good now, right? I mean, the man had a blimp with his name on the side. That’s pretty persuasive stuff. I was all ready to be May Day.

Admit it. You would love to put this expression on at least one ex's face.
Admit it. You would love to put this expression on at least one ex’s face.

Even when things went bad between her and Max and he tried to kill her, I wanted to be May Day. A breakup like that might have rendered another woman utterly useless. May Day went out the way every scorned woman dreams of – she became the instrument of her ex’s downfall. James didn’t foil Max’s Master Plan. May Day did. And she made damned sure he could see her doing it.

Today, I’m a somewhat jaded 40something in a world my 12-year-old self only dreamed of, filled with stories where black women kick ass, take names, and get their swirl on, too. I still haven’t become May Day (yet), but I’ve always thought A View to a Kill is very much her movie. Each time I see it, the romance writer in me can’t stop wondering about the doomed relationship between her and her blond megalomaniac. I know May Day got the resolution that was perfect for her. But maybe one day, I can write a better man for another inimitable woman.

Are you following Lady Smut? We don’t have a blimp yet, but I like our chances for world domination anyway.

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  • Post authorchristineblackthorn

    You have managed what countless men have tries for a decade — I am now going out to watch a James Bond movie (well, tonight, I cannot stomach James Bond at 6 in the morning).

    But I get your point. I have grown up in the era of Buffy and with a deep hate of all the women whose only purpose seems to be to look decorative, preferably pure, and scream. What I find worse is that in the last few years we have regressed to that.

    Reply to christineblackthorn
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Yeah, James Bond first thing in the morning is kind of a lifestyle decision. It’s a little like vodka in the morning — nothing wrong with it, but maybe not an everyday thing. 🙂

      I should warn you, though: Stacey is going to drive you crazy. You might want to make a game of it and give yourself a bon bon every time she does something that makes you want to scream. Or you could just scream. Either way.

      I’m glad I brought you back to Bond! May Day will make the journey worthwhile. 🙂

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    You make me giggle but also nod in complete agreement. I know that Grace Jones was in that film, but I could not have told you which actor played bond, who the villain was, etc.

    The other film where Grace Jones haunts the landscape is FRANTIC —her music plays during the best moments of the film.

    I agree that the tension in her relationship with Christopher Walken was more interesting than any other relationship with any other woman in the bond films. It seems to me that the more deeply racial the profile of the women in his films, the more bold and competent they make these women — like Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      The moment where Bond and Wai Lin fight over who will drive the motorcycle restored my faith in the franchise. 🙂 The Bond GIrls of Color have come a long way from Thumper and Rosie Carver! Actually, Thumper was kind of a bad ass herself. Look what you started!

      I read somewhere (don’t you love that as an attribution?) that Max and May Day were unique in BondWorld because they were in a relationship — she wasn’t the girl who worked for him. The two of them are interesting to me because I usually spend a lot of time making up better endings for couples like them. In this case, I think the ending is spot-on, but I wonder about how they came together. I’ve always loved a good origin story!

      I have to check out Frantic! I’m all about Grace’s music, too.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorLizEverly

    Roger Moore was my first Bond, too. Very dashing!

    Reply to LizEverly
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      You never forget your first! 🙂 To me, and I know this is anathema to many, Sir Roger is the “real” Bond — the lethal playboy. Sean Connery was the guy who was Bond before Bond was Bond.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    I wish I could get on the Bond bandwagon. I’ve tried – believe me I’ve tried. There’s just something about the formulaic structure of Bond that doesn’t do it for me. It’s not a knock on formula – not in the least. But the particular formula of Bond just hasn’t captured me and I’ve finally had to throw in the towel. However, I loved your point about the paucity of role models for an impressionable 12-year-old black girl. And we still have a long way to go . . .

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
    • Post authorAlexa Day

      Yeah, I see Michelle Obama on one side but stuff like Braxton Family Values and Real Housewives of Atlanta on the other. We’ve come a long way, but it’s not far enough by a long shot. I mean, I know we’re not all going to be role models; I get that. But so much of what’s out there is making me cringe.

      Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorC. Margery Kempe

    Love love love, Grace Jones! Certainly the best thing about that film. I love her version of Warm Leatherette too. She’s just übercool.

    Reply to C. Margery Kempe

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