It’s well known that art imitates life. But that’s not where it ends. It also imitates what we desire from life, even if we’ll never attain it. One of the few genres where that’s more apparent than anywhere else? The fantastical world of James Bond.
If most people were honest, they would confess something to each other. They would describe a version of themselves that doesn’t exist outside of their fervent imagination, and probably never will. A more suave, debonair version of themselves. A real “women want him, men want to be him” type. But this better you isn’t just the biggest personality in the room. They’re also about to save the world, and look damn good doing it.
The complex backstory
Spies usually come from rough pasts and broken homes, but that’s just used to garner sympathy they’re too tough to need or want. In their prime, they’re handsome, chiseled machines that can fight like an MMA heavyweight superstar, and shoot like a Navy SEAL. As long as they haven’t gone rogue yet, and maybe even afterwards, they have access to things of which we could only dream: explosive devices, top-notch weaponry, convincing fake passports, cash, luxury cars.
Spies get to travel to exotic locations (where they probably know how to get by in the local language) and engage in missions where the outcome really matters. They inspire hope in the compatriots and strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.
Spies donât break under torture
Unfortunately, one of the most fascinating aspects of spycraft is much less easily romanticized: torture. Some countries deny performing it, others revel in it, but most probably engage in it sooner or later. If a spy gets caught behind enemy lines, they’re probably not going to survive, let alone in one piece. But from the safety of our couches, we have nothing to lose if things go sideways. We have the luxury of wincing in sympathy as sharp bits are inserted where they don’t belong, and fragile parts are smashed with abandon.
Spies have 9 livesâ¦
The story wouldn’t be complete in most cases if it ended there, so the spy usually finds a way to escape before they’ve become too disfigured. Later on, it’s time for the explosive crescendo of climactic action. Emphasis on explosives. There are a lot of times that explosions on the big screen are grossly exaggerated, but who cares? A spy thriller can be mostly accurate without being a science lesson.
The spy genre allows us to live vicariously through a dyed in the wool badass without any of the risk or responsibility. We travel the world, scoring one night stands and keeping the Russians or the Chinese at bay for another month. Bottles of comically expensive single malt, a high-stakes round of black jack, and an Aston Martin. The life of a rich person, but without either the grueling effort of earning it or the privilege and fortune of being born into it. The creativity is seemingly limitless, and all we are asked to do is enjoy it.