Big naturals are more than just a body part. They’re an energy, a culture, a lens through which we consume and create the world around us. And while big-breastedness may be both spiritual and bodily, there is a material world and timeline of events that document how this culture came to be. As MEL‘s resident boob culture writer and a woman of breast-experience, I’ll be analyzing these objects and happenings, telling the stories of their origins and their impact on society. This is Big Moments in Big Naturals.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a film famous for a few key things. For one, it parodied the spy genre to the edge of extinction, making euphemisms like “shag” and phrases like “Oh, behave!” part of the mainstream American lexicon. It also transformed the already-beloved Mike Myers into an internationally recognized mega-star. But its most valuable contribution was something far more fearsome: Fembots with guns for boobs.
In the 1997 film, the Fembots are first introduced in silver, metallic bikinis, long white gloves, coiffed blonde hair and, at just the right moment, nipples that protrude to reveal themselves as gun barrels. When Powers first encounters them, they wear baby pink teddies trimmed with pastel faux fur.
Ironically, in both outfits, we’re presented only with the idea of breasts, as they’re entirely concealed by metal or fur. But in the scene below, their breasts reveal another trick: Not only can they shoot bullets, they can also release sleeping gas that knock(er)s Powers out. Quick to use his own sexuality as a weapon, he performs a striptease for the Fembots who, overhwlemed by his overpowering display of pure sex, short-circuit and die.
For the last three years, Google searches for Fembots have peaked every October. Surely, many of us had the brilliant idea to dress up as one for Halloween, but TikToks and viral videos have made the iconic characters the most popular they’ve ever been (at least since Google began tracking search data in 2004). More than that, though, Fembots have become the signifying image of breast-related espionage and weaponry for my generation. Without any background into the spy movie genre and the femme fatales that inspired the series, we’ve become obsessed with them — they’re our own, playful, iconic form of weaponized femininity.
But while the Fembots and their gun-breasts are one of the more outlandish aspects of Austin Powers, they’re not entirely original (not surprisingly for a spoof) — as Garage writer Emma Specter pointed out in 2018, the concept of shooting a man with your tits originated from the 1965 Italian sci-fi movie The Tenth Victim. Wearing a mask and metal bikini rigged with bullets, Bond actress Ursula Andress captivates a man with a sexy dance before unloading upon him with her boobs, an attack similar to the ones seen in Powers.
The Tenth Victim is intended to be fun, and, by all accounts, it knows it’s ridiculous. So by pulling the concept for Austin Powers, Myers wasn’t satirizing the film, but paying homage to it. Since then, others have done the same. Sofia Vergara wore a bra-gun in Machete Kills, and several singers like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have repeated the concept in music videos. But perhaps because The Tenth Victim is in Italian and from 1965, the Fembots of Austin Powers have held a much stronger place in our minds.
Still, for whatever reason, not much came of the actresses who played the Fembots, at least relative to Myers or the other women who’ve shot people with their tits. The lead Fembot, Cheryl Bartel, passed away in 2010. Barbara Ann Moore, Donna W. Scott and Cynthia LaMontagne each enjoyed a smattering of small roles in movies and TV, modeling gigs and, in Moore’s case, a career as a ballroom dancer. Cindy Margolis, was a popular model both before and after her appearance in the film, even earning a spot in 1999 as the “Most Downloaded Woman” in the Guinness Book of World Records, but has remained rather quiet in the last decade or so.
But despite the relative obscurity of the Fembots actresses, they did demonstrate an entirely new way in which breasts could be used as a literal weapon, and there are many real-life cases that have suggested the same. As my colleague Miles Klee wrote previously, hitting someone with your breasts, distracting someone with them or squirting someone with breast milk can all be classified as various levels of assault throughout the world.
It’s probably best, then, that breasts be used as weapons only in jest. That said, dressing up as a Fembot for Halloween feels like a manifestation of the desire many of us have to use our bodies — and the sexualization of them — to our benefit, maybe even for evil. Sure, boobs often have a power of persuasion, but in many ways, they’re used against us, too. So, wouldn’t it be convenient if we could have the best of both worlds — breasts that are both erotic and dangerous — and not only in the way of metaphor?
In the words of Austin Powers, “Yeah, baby, yeah!”