All the CIA ladies

the human spies are women

Having recently finished my prep for the Academy Awards — I have already watched all of the Best Picture nominees, which covers a lot of other categories as well — I did notice the divide between the two trends of favorites — American slavery versus the CIA. While I did have a hard time deciding between Argo, Django Unchained, Amour, Silver Linings and Zero Dark Thirty, in the end, what I truly hear my heart singing is Argo fuck yourself.

That, however, is just a practically unrelated introduction to the matter of CIA ladies. If teenage vampires and the revamping of Snow White (and as of later, Grimm princesses in general) have been ruling the world of television and cinema for a few years now, the women at the Company have been given their fair share amount of spotlight without me particularly noticing it until now: Homeland, of course, Covert Affairs, Zero Dark Thirty.

I guess there has been no relevant tale of female spies since Mata Hari, who is, by the way, not a fictional character (but perhaps I’m just not knowledgeable on this particular subject, female spies, and it is just I who have not heard of the others). That of course until now that we have Claire Danes, Jessica Chastain and in a lighter mood, Piper Perabo representing for us the true personal hardship that is endured by the good covert people gathering intelligence for America at the Agency.

Argo — like I said, my favorite movie this year (except for Intouchables, which in fact was my favorite movie this year, but it’s just not running for the Oscars) — is a (true, or almost) tale of bravery and patriotism, spiced up with a delicious dose of nonsense and of course, success, and I do love a happy ending. The main character played by Ben Affleck is a flawless man — in fact, his flaws are those of others, such as his wife, who has left him for not being able to cope with the secrecy that came with his job. His thoughts and actions are all mission and country, plus he’s the coolest CIA agent ever, with some amazing Hollywood connections. This, I repeat, is the portrayal of a real man, not a James Bond or a Jack Ryan (though he does remind me of the latter).

The CIA ladies, however, are problematic. Annie Walker from Covert Affairs is the one with the least problems — she falls in love with some very wrong dudes (such as an FSB spy or a rogue ex-CIA agent) and sees her relationship with her sister become a very difficult one from the moment she joins the Agency. Carrie Mathison from Homeland is on the verge of lunacy, having bipolar and borderline personality disorder and falling in love with even more wrong dudes such as an American (cough British) soldier turned by the TV series’ resident Bin Laden. Maya from Zero Dark Thirty has no love life — no personal life at all — and no particular issues with promoting torture. As the years go by and she sees many of her friends die in the hands of Muslim terrorists, the quest for Bin Laden (the real one in this case) becomes a personal matter to her.

What they all have in common is that they have deep personal issues (even if due to the complete absence of a personal life) and that they follow their instincts almost irrationally, or at least that is how their colleagues often perceive their initiatives. Brilliance is eventually conceded to those women, but always at the great cost of being on the verge of losing all credibility. On the other hand, the male spies we have come to know are creatures of distinct rationality and perceived audacity, not lunacy (we should perhaps nod to the construction of the new kind of fucked-up James Bond, who is, however, at least how I understand it, on a carefully crafted path to becoming the good old proper one), who do not have any particular concern about their family and friends that are worthy to be portrayed for longer than five minutes per episode, if that much.

Basically, the women were chosen to portray frailty — an angle rather absent from the espionage thematic until our recent times. The question remains — what lies behind the media choosing the female to represent the human side to anything? Something of which to be aware.

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