Take a look at film and literature, and it’s pretty clear. We love spies. (We also love ninjas, but that’s a post for another day.)
We have Cold War spies (Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy; The Spy Who Came in From the Cold). Gadget spies (Ian Fleming’s James Bond franchise). Gritty spies (Robert Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy). There are humorous spies (Austin Powers). Heck, there are even kid spies (Spy Kids). Spies that combine action, humor, and romance (True Lies).
Several of these started in books. Others are film creations. But they illustrate the point: we love our spies.
But why is that? These people are not necessarily “good.” They live in the darkness. They aren’t afraid to lie, steal, or even kill to complete the mission. Well, maybe not the kids. Not many of them would make good spouses – or parents.
So why do we love them?
It’s hard to argue that we don’t. Ludlum and LeCarre are giants in the genre. All of the Bourne films have been blockbusters. James Bond has been thrilling audiences, and making women swoon, for six decades making it the longest running, and second-highest grossing, film franchise to date. Mike Meyers did three Austin Powers movies, and even action titan Ah-nuld got in the game.
Perhaps it’s the over-the-top nature of the genre that attracts us. Face it, most of us will not travel the globe, live mysterious lives, or seduce women (or men) in the way these fictional characters do.
Or maybe it’s escapism. For two hours (movie running time) or however long it takes us to read a book, we get to go places and do things vicariously that we’d never dream of doing in real life.
Or maybe it’s the gadgets. Honestly, sitting in an endless traffic jam, who hasn’t thought of Bond’s little Astin Martin, more than sufficiently equipped to clear the road and set us free.
Whatever it is, spies touch a nerve. Despite the occasional moral ambiguity, these wild men, and women, lead glamorous lives of danger, drama, and mystique. And we are more than happy to go along for the ride.
I feel the sudden urge for a martini. Shaken, not stirred, of course.
So readers, what about you? Do you love spies? Why or why not?