Femme Fatale: Xenia Onatopp

There is no doubt that opinions are divided about who is the best James Bond and which is the best James Bond film. One thing it is easy to agree on is there are some great female characters. Among the best is Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye (1995), Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film and the Bond film that arguably reinvented the franchise. In my opinion, it is without doubt the best Brosnan Bond film, an accolade that is enhanced in no small part by the presence of Onatopp.

Ignoring the only-in-a-Bond-film nature of her name, Xenia Onatoppa is a character with all the charm of a great Bond girl and all the vicious malevolence of a great Bond villain. She is brutal and cruel and fun. She wants to play. The only problem being the games she wants to play are dangerous and sexy.

The audience’s first encounter with Onatopp involved her, a scene which takes emphasis away from the fact she brutally murders a group of innocent people and focuses instead on her rather excited reaction to mass murder. She is one sick and yet interesting character. Bond encounters Onatopp in the luxurious setting of an isolated spa and the introduction if a mixture of sexual friction and all out violence. Unlike Roger Moore and Grace Jones, when she played Mayday in A View to a Kill (not exactly the best Bond film), Brosnan cannot actually have sex with his woman because she the epitome of a black widow spider or praying mantis. Once she’s got what she wanted, her male partner dies. (Arguably the same thing happens when the knight encounters the woman without mercy in Keats poem).

As far as female characters in Bond films are concerned, she can hold her own with the men. She likes to drive fast cars, making first contact with Bond in a red Ferrari and beating the pants off him in a race down mountainous road. She goes toe to toe with him in the casino, flirts openly and then leaves him swinging in the wind with nothing more than a late night call to Miss Moneypenny who tells him where to sling his hook.

I must admit feeling a little disappointment when she was defeated by Bond. She remains one of the few women he has killed and one of the only women he kills face to face. In The Spy who Loved Me Bond kills Naomi with a rocket from his underwater car-submarine. A little phallic but not as hands on as Xenia’s death.

If you haven’t seen Goldeneye, go out and watch it as soon as possible. If it has been a while since you saw the film, the Christmas season is approaching, a perfect time for a Bond film.

(There is much to say on the subject of the Bond girl villain. I won’t bore you now, but if you are interested check out The Journal of Popular Film and Television Volume 37 Issue 4 (2009).)


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