I like spies. I like spy novels. I like spy movies. I grew up with James Bond, Jack Ryan, Mission: Impossible, The Saint, and Man from U.N.C.L.E.— not to mention all the TV shows, books and movies that follow individual spy stories, like the classic Our Man in Havana, featuring Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara (1959).
I love the conflict that is inherent in these good versus evil tales, because the spies themselves so often are conflicted in their own motivation. James Bond is cold and calculated one minute as he’s defending queen and country, and then warm and charming the next while wooing the curvy Russian assassin sent to end him. The Impossible Missions Force members all know that they will hung out to dry by their own countrymen if they are caught, yet they constantly do the right thing, whatever that may be. Simon Templar is a selfish thief that somehow finds the greater reward in helping good triumph over evil. And Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo (natural enemies) must join forces to save the world. The spies themselves are complex and interesting even without the stormy situations.
I happen to know (from my own secret sources) that the real lives of spies are usually not as exciting or adventurous as the movies depict. And though they may have some pretty cool tech at their disposal, they don’t have all the Q-Branch gadgets or a sporty car that converts into a helicopter or submarine at the touch of a button. But it’s fun to imagine, and that’s why spy movies, books, and television series always seem to be popular.
For true fans, the gadgets, cars, and signature quotes will always be en vogue. We will always treasure our Man from U.N.C.L.E. coloring books. And we will always stand in line to see the movies.