The Sex Appeal of Spies

Are spies like us? Just watch this. And then, well ensconced in romance and nostalgia, consider that Ian Fleming said—or did he write?—that “men want a woman whom they can turn on and off like a light switch.” This essential, and fierce, masculinity—or is it chauvinism?—has defined the literary history of spy-craft right up until Lisbeth Salander (and, n.b., Salander doesn’t work for her government). Is this is something we want in the genre, something we expect in spy storylines, even today? When spy-craft is coupled with “romance” it seems there is to end to our appetite for it. Now, as the U.S. government prepares for the latest round of well-intentioned realpolitik, it is worth considering why artful espionage, and the presence of seduction, romance and narrative within in, still seduces us.

Witness Bond. Witness Anna Chapman. The Russians who lived here under pseudonyms lived “normal” lives. It is the disconnect between what we think we know and what may otherwise be true that forms the crux of seduction; in the end we might want to believe we know less than we know. Rather than feeling deceived, as a government might feel/behave, individuals with an ear for story will always want to think that this neighbor, or that colleague, might be living a more sensational life than what appears to be the case. This suburban lie is the comedic heart of current cultural sensations, like Big Love. For the extraordinary among us, the cliché goes, things are rather ordinary. For the ordinary, the belief holds that there is something more than what we see.

The Cold War provided a certain geo-political stability, a storyline that everyone accepted. White hats, black hats, Wise Men and Dominos. In post-Cold-War times we are constantly racing to re-possess the glamour of those days, a glamour that came not from knowing what was next, but from not knowing.

The prospect of A Spy Next Door is less a threat than a seduction. Ann Chapman and her colleagues are a reminder that we can let go our narrow condescension for things we think we know are true. All spies (alas) do not look and act like Bond, providing further rationale for everyone to hew to the Golden Rule.

It is worth watching this, if for no other reason than as an antidote to Anna Chapman. Simon’s lyrics alongside the classic Bond titles are ageless. They capture what we all want to feel all the time: challenged, protected, and in awe:

Nobody does it better

Makes me feel sad for the rest

Nobody does it half as good as you

Baby, you're the best

I wasn't looking but somehow you found me

It tried to hide from your love light

But like Heaven above me

The spy who loved me

Is keeping all my secrets safe tonight

And nobody does it better

Though sometimes I wish someone could

Nobody does it quite the way you do

Why'd you have to be so good?


LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Steven Pinker's 13 rules for writing better

The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 21: Steven Pinker speaks onstage during OZY Fest 2018 at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park on July 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Media)
Personal Growth
  • Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
  • When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
  • Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less