In honor of starting in a new writers’ room for a spy show, I’m writing 31 blog posts about some of my favorite movies and TV shows within the genre. That’s 31 days filled with intrigue and conspiracy and white men angrily hanging up the phone as Jason Bourne gets away yet again.
At the end of the month, I’ll tell you which show I’m starting on (hint: it’ll be in one of these blog posts!)
Part of the reason I’m writing these is to dig in and analyze the reasons why I love this genre so much. As a kid, I blew through five seasons of ALIAS in a week and religiously re-watched La Femme Nikita until I memorized the words. I used to hop on Twitter and Tweet at writers of my favorite spy shows and share what I loved about their episodes — some of whom were nice enough to humor 15-year-old me and respond.
What I love about this genre in part is how female characters get their due. Women can be strong and unstoppable and morally complex in a way that I didn’t see in the action movies I grew up with, wielding feminine wiles and trickery just as effortlessly as their guns.
While men grow up with plenty of tough on-screen heroes, it’s harder for women to point to our equivalent of John McClane: women were either the victims or the wives or the over-sexualized villains. However, spy films helped to change that.
As I talked about extensively in episode #10 of writer Jorge Molina’s podcast Blind Spots, Yvonne Strahovski’s character Sarah in the NBC show CHUCK shaped my love for television. It’s one of the first female characters I remember who could kill a man with her bare hands, but also had complex storylines where she grappled with internal conflicts about her duty to her country versus her love for Chuck, and her own happiness versus her commitment to her job. Some of the best episodes delved into her troubled backstory, watching her go from the scrappy daughter of a con artist to falling into the ranks of the CIA and facing challenging ethical decisions.
It’s not just about representation on screen: this month is about celebrating the cinematic perfection of some good ol’ fashioned spycraft. You’ll definitely be reading dissertations from me on the masterpiece that is the original Bourne trilogy before this month is over.
Ready to look down the barrel of a gun with me? Let’s do this. Read all the posts here.