Everyone has a seminal moment that defines their youth. Alright, it may not actually “define” their youth per se, but a moment that certainly played an integral role in shaping their transition from childhood to adulthood. It may not have been a specific moment, perhaps a series of moments that culminated into an event. Or, it could’ve been a pivotal “ah ha” epiphany that forever changed how you viewed the world.
For me, it’s pretty obvious. I grew up a James Bond fan. My father introduced me to the old school 1960s Sean Connery Bond films when I was at least 8 years old. Maybe even younger. I don’t remember exactly, but the super suave British spy left an indelible mark on my childhood. Some kids wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Spider-Man or Batman. I wanted to be James Bond. And Indiana Jones, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Can you really blame me? Agent 007 can save the world from the forces of evil while enjoying all the benefits that come from being a charming and sophisticated gentleman. He can defeat agents of SPECTRE while enjoying a vodka martini (a drink I obviously did not know much about as a youngling) and making love to a beautiful woman. Even as a small child I knew that was a special perk, despite being prepubescent and not fully understanding what sex was all about.
However, my eyes opened further when I was introduced to a certain Bond girl (or rather, Bond villain) in Xenia Onatopp. It took me a while to understand the meaning behind her innuendo-laden name. But that didn’t matter. The character is featured in 1995’s GoldenEye, a fantastic Bond film that reinvigorated the franchise after the lukewarm reception to 1989’s Licence to Kill (notice I used the proper British spelling). I personally loved the second installment of Timothy Dalton’s tenure as 007, but that’s just me. Not everyone agrees. That’s fine.
But Xenia Onatopp, played by the gorgeous Dutch actress Famke Janssen, completely altered my reality. I felt my paradigm shift…even though I had no idea what that concept even meant (I still don’t). She wasn’t just a beautiful Bond girl. Nor was she just a typical megalomaniac Bond villain bent on world domination. She was…different. Exceptional. Dynamic. Memorable. Eye-popping. Charismatic.
Oh, yeah. Unbelievably sexy. Without question, Famke Janssen’s magnificent performance as Xenia will forever be remembered as one of the most unforgettable cinematic characters to ever grace the silver screen. Remember, she’s not just a remarkable Bond character. She’s an extraordinary movie character PERIOD. I also spent way too much time playing GoldenEye on Nintendo 64, so perhaps that added to her appeal. But Xenia Onatopp left an impact on my psyche. She definitely had a hand in formulating my love for female bodybuilders. Real life FBBs obviously pushed me over the edge, but Miss Onatopp planted a seed in my adolescent mind that bore beautiful fruit later on.
My parents didn’t let me watch GoldenEye when it was first released in movie theaters, so I saw it later in 1996 when I was nine years old. Remember the good old days of VHS cassette tapes? Yeah, of course you do! That’s how I first experienced Famke Janssen’s beautiful face and sexy Russian accent. I was quite impressed with Pierce Brosnan as the James Bond of the 90s, but I wanted to watch it over and over again purely because of Miss Janssen. Can you blame me?
No, of course you can’t.
It should be obvious why Xenia Onatopp captured my attention. She’s a beautiful and badass villainess who kills her opponents by seducing them, luring them into a sensual trap, and slaying them by choking them to death with her strong legs. Very lethal! Not only is she effective as an assassin, but she enjoys herself in the process. What’s the point of living if you can’t feel alive?
Whether she’s killing a Canadian naval admiral or attempting to do the same to James Bond in a hotel sauna, Xenia explodes on the screen. Your eyes cannot leave her whenever she’s in the frame. For an impressionable nine year old boy, her captivating presence worked its magic ten-fold. I hadn’t yet hit puberty, but I knew she was special for a reason I couldn’t quite explain. Her power enthralled me. The way she eliminated her enemies erupted an electric feeling inside me that made my heartbeat race a million miles per minute. I was aroused by her in a way only a prepubescent boy still in his latency stage could be.
As a Bond girl/Bond villain, Xenia is one of the few women who could match Bond’s physical prowess. She isn’t as muscular as a bodybuilder, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a movie, which means you have to use your imagination. Trust me, my imagination went into overdrive when it came to her!
As I got older and I started to re-watch the movie several times over, what struck me most was the realization that Xenia isn’t necessarily an evil person. Yes, she did the bidding of General Ourumov and Alec Trevelyan, but I never got the impression that she was super enthusiastic about their goals. Stealing a satellite weapon that fires an electromagnetic pulse toward a hapless target so that it can be used to rob London of a mountain-load currency? That’s fine, but wouldn’t it be better if I could also enjoy orgasmic-loaded murder sprees at the same time? That was Xenia’s self-indulgent outlook on life.
As a character, she was a perfect specimen for young hormone-raging boys like me. Strong, beautiful, sexy, and not afraid to have fun while killing people. How awesome is that? The rebel in me loved that she could play by her own rules (I somehow doubt her superiors specifically sanctioned her sexually-charged assassination techniques) and enjoy the ride while it lasted. It came to an end, of course (“she always did enjoy a good squeeze”). But what a glorious ride it was, huh?
Later Famke Janssen would continue her fame in the X-Men movies. But no matter how many additional film and television appearances she would make, her role in GoldenEye continues to be her signature piece of work. I don’t know what she’s up to today, but Ms. Janssen will always be my top celebrity crush. Right next to Monica Bellucci and Rena Mero, Famke forever claims a special place in my heart. No matter how old I get (and how old she gets), my whole body might start to convulse in uncontrollable tremors if I were to ever see her in person.
Obviously, the character is a chief reason why I love female bodybuilders so much. Like I said before, Xenia is not an exceedingly muscular woman, but for the sake of enjoying the movie, I suspended my disbelief momentarily and subconsciously thought of her as the strongest woman in the world. As a boy, I secretly fantasized about what it would be like to be wrapped around her strong legs and for her to squeeze as hard as she possibly could. My neck would crack for sure. Breathing would become increasingly more difficult. I might pass out or even meet my Maker right then and there. Either way, I’d be one happy camper. I didn’t know it explicitly at the time, but as a young boy I started to develop my exquisite taste for strong women.
Oddly enough, I don’t get too excited about the prospects of being crushed by a muscular woman. I’ve written before that wrestling, beat downs, and other BDSM-related activities don’t appeal to me all that much. I have nothing against these fetishes, but they just aren’t my cup of tea. I don’t judge anyone who is into that sort of thing, of course. But it’s not for me. So it’s a bit strange why my first foray into the world of muscular women would include a fictional character who kills men with her pure brute strength. Rather odd, indeed.
Maybe I don’t entirely understand myself. Perhaps I do in fact fetishize being trampled upon by a woman but I just don’t know it yet. Or maybe I’m not actually into that and it’s by happy accident that my universe turned upside down the moment I discovered Miss Onatopp and her sexually wicked ways.
Outside of my own narrow perspective, Xenia Onatopp probably isn’t a character the general public will remember all that much, Bond aficionados notwithstanding. What makes her stand out above most cinematic villains is how hypersexual she is during every waking moment of her life. Violence gives her an erotic thrill. Whether she’s shooting up a room full of Russian computer programmers or asphyxiating unsuspecting male victims with her powerful legs, committing violent acts turns her on. In her own sick mind, violence may be the only thing that truly turns her on.
The world of cinema is definitely not shy from mixing sex with violence, but GoldenEye introduced us to a character who took it to the next level: Murder isn’t just an activity that gives her an orgasm; murder is the only activity that gives her an orgasm.
In books, movies and TV shows, we’re accustomed to seeing villains commit crimes for more or less “traditional” reasons: greed, vengeance, ego, hunger for power, etc. Xenia, and to an extent Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, commits acts of violence because it thrills her. I never got the impression that she ever felt any passion for Alec Trevelyan’s personal vendetta against M-16. She went along with it because it gave her an excuse to assassinate powerful men, attack innocent civilians, cook up mayhem and be a “bad girl.”
Symbolically, Xenia throws up her proverbial middle finger at society and then proceeds to masturbate with it just because she feels like it. She’ll stick it to the human race and climax over and over again while they helplessly watch – just for the hell of it.
In that respect, it’s rather refreshing to see a villain commit crimes not as a means to an end but as an end unto itself. Xenia ushered in a new class of criminal; one who isn’t after anything tangible like money, power, or fame, but instead steals because she thinks it’s good sport. Alfred Pennyworth may have said something similar to Bruce Wayne, but that’s beside the point. From a storytelling perspective, Xenia exists outside of the plot. She was definitely working with the bad guys, but she really had her own agenda. She wanted to have fun. If collaborating with the Janus crime syndicate could provide her with the enough excuses to have fun, so be it.
Obviously, I do not advocate for anyone to follow Ms. Onatopp’s example and kill people for the heck of it. But her character undeniably left an impression on me. My love for female bodybuilders is the most palpable. But it’s not because of the fantasy of being crushed, squeezed and incapacitated by a strong sexy woman. That doesn’t appeal to me nearly as much as you’d think. Instead, I was drawn to her because she did what she did for reasons that are her own and hers alone. She never had to justify herself. She didn’t squeeze men to death because she wanted to prove that she could do it. She did it because she enjoyed it.
In a perverted kind of way, Xenia is one of the greatest feminist characters modern cinema has churned out in recent decades. She exists purely for her own sake. She doesn’t hate men or hold a grudge against them; she uses them for her own pleasure. Xenia is a hedonist in every sense of the word. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Whether she’s conspiring with evil forces to plot an international terrorist attack or she’s screeching in delight from an earth-shattering orgasm seconds after killing a man, everything she did could be summarized in one simple line:
The pleasure was all hers.