Upon hearing that “spy” would be our class theme this semester, I must admit that I was both intrigued and intimidated by the possibilities. While not being a fan of the genre itself, I’ve enjoyed some dated spy films while noting spy films within the last decades which have taken the opportunity to go against spy story tropes with refreshing and humorous results. Recent films like ‘Spy’ and ‘Kingsman’ have both inventively deconstructed tropes of the genre by either balancing the significance of characters between males and females equally or by modernizing the gadgetry used in the classic stories. I certainly enjoy a good episode of the spy-workplace comedy ‘Archer’, as well. I’ve personally favored the spy trope of the female secondary villain-ess, a nuanced version of the double agent trope, which was the inspiration for the character Mirage from Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’.
I find characters with a grey moral code, or a personal compass defined neither by singularly narcissistic nor humanitarian values, to be fascinatingly realistic portrayals of human beings within stories and the spy genre in particular. They portray a realism and an unpredictability that is refreshing to me in stories which are all too often simplified narratives of good versus evil. These kinds of characters, often female, can significantly alter the outcome of spy stories with their floating loyalties, which is also unique in contrast with the trope of the Bond girl, or the spy’s often-insignificant love interest. I don’t believe anyone can inherently be summarized as either good or bad, instead viewing us as shifting our balance of moral and immoral human tendencies with each new choice we make. That’s why this trope, while possibly insignificant at first glance, is a favorite of mine.
Incorporating spy tropes and ideas into our creative process sounds challenging to do successfully, but nonetheless an interesting challenge. It could be an interesting framing device for long-term projects, like radio shows discussing spy gadgetry or infamous spy missions, though I’m at a bit of a loss for how effectively the theme could be consistently incorporated in shorter weekly and stand-alone assignments. However, I think the results could still be incredible.