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Anorak | Spy Dames

Spy Dames

by | 1st, November 2005

‘PETER Ustinov used to speak about the time he was approached to be a spy. He met the spymaster at a Tube station. The spook took one look at Ustinov and declared that he had too memorable a face. The ideal spy is as forgettable as blancmange.

‘It was the Syrian with the suicide bomber in the library’

Being a spy is not for the vain. Do your work well and no-one other than your boss will ever notice. Do it too well and chances are you’ll never leave that job as a filing clerk in some unglamorous munitions factory or embassy.

The gap between what a spy does and how he’s portrayed in film is huge. Especially so if you get your dose of espionage from the Spooks TV series.

But people will believe what they see. And if the actors are good looking, the work exciting and the set shiny, viewers will believe it all the more.

There is a blurring between fact and fiction. So when two female characters on the show are violently offed, women are deterred from joining MI5.

To combat this, the Security Service is advertising in She and Cosmopolitan magazines. In between articles such as “Has a man ever gone ahead with sex, even though you said no?” (Cosmo) and “It is about that time of the year to wear white again” (She), women are being seduced into the world of espionage.

“We want to attract more females but the spooks programme may be having a bad effect because of the way some of the female characters have been killed off,” says a spokesman for the Security Service.

And it has been grim. In series one, a female trainee had her head plunged into a vat of boiling oil and was then shot dead. In the current series, female spy Fiona Carter has been shot dead by her ex-husband.

While this is clearly material for all manner of women’s magazine features (“My husband is a spy”; “How to treat oily skin”; “I can only orgasm when I’m shot”), woman are turned off by the thought of being murdered at work.

Perhaps it’s a shock for them. While men have the fantasy figure of James Bond achieving the dream of every priapic teenage boy in being good at cards, driving fast cars and pulling loadsa bird – even if he is a touch prissy about his drinking – women have Miss Marple.

Agatha Christie’s heroine is about as undercover as they come without being in a coffin; no-one spots the invisible old duffer with the razor sharp mind. And there’s Melita Norwood, exposed as the longest-serving Soviet spy in Britain in 1999 when she was 87 years old.

Far be it from us to accuse MI5 of failing to do its research, but wouldn’t it be better if it advertised for recruits in some other magazines, like the Saga holiday brochure, Cross Stitch Crazy and The Pastoral Review?

Small wonder only 27 per cent of current applicants are women, as the Times says. They just aren’t getting the message.

Unless MI5 isn’t telling us how a female spy operates. Advertising in Cosmo might just get MI5 what it wants – a Mata Hari of its own…’



Posted: 1st, November 2005 | In: Celebrities Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink