A Spy Like Me

Last night, I looked through a catalog of action movies, and I noticed something interesting. There must have been a couple hundred movies listed, and in that, I found four where there was a heroine instead of a hero. Including Barbarella.

You see,  I was trying to come up with how many movies I knew of about spies, in particular, which starred women, rather than men. I had tried to list them earlier in the day and had about for titles, out of the hundreds of spy movies out there– and I don’t mean spy movies with women in them. Shit, that’s almost all of them. I mean spy movies with a female headliner.

I remember, of course, the TV classic remake,  Avengers, but Emma Peel is part of a duo with John Steed. There was  Mr. And Mrs. Smith, but again, Angelina headlined with Brad. The French La Femme Nikita and Brigit Fonda’s remake from the early 90s, about a woman shanghaied into working as a spy against her will. Feds was about two women, but they were federal, not international (and technically, they were just students, not actual agents). And, of course, there’s always my girl, Black Widow… Oh, wait.

Where the hell are my lady spies?!?!

Oh yeah. There’s also that recent release, the one Hollywood sold as “let’s make fun of the fat lady who thinks she can be a spy.” It just opened a couple of weekends ago– Melissa McCarthy in Spy.

I didn’t want to see it. I’m tired of the fat lady being the butt of all the jokes. I mean, I get it. You can’t be racist anymore. You can’t be sexist anymore. You can’t laugh at people who have special needs–those movies win Oscars now. All that’s left, it would seem, are fat people and clueless husbands. My life may suck, but at least I’m not a fat, lazy loser like that person. 

I changed my tune a couple weekends ago, when Honey and I were at a friend’s backyard barbeque. While we were mingling, one of the other guests started telling us about how Spy had been sold wrong, and that it was really funny, but not because you’re laughing at Melissa McCarthy. She’s actually in on the joke, rather than the butt of it. To boot, Jason Statham’s character is so over the top, you end up laughing at him, as he brags and brags about the impossible things he’s done in during his career, until McCarthy starts calling him on his bullshit.

After hearing this, I was sold. I mean, I’ve never really seen anything else starring McCarthy, because her other movies always struck me as being a little more physical than the humor I prefer. But if she was actually playing a fairly competent spy, and headlining the moving alone, I wanted to see it. So at the first free moment we had, Honey and I had a date, and we saw Spy in an almost empty theatre.

Spy is a spy movie, starring a woman, and it happens to also be a comedy. McCarthy’s character, Susan Cooper, has been stuck at a desk job since she joined the CIA, because, as her boss later puts it, she got “sniped” by a top agent, who recongized her ability and wanted her to just support him. But when her agent is killed on the job, Agent Cooper steps up to finish his job and get justice for her guy. She turns out to be able, intelligent, and, of course, funny. But make NO mistake about it, the humor from this movie comes from all of the characters, not just the “fat lady.” Susan Cooper kicks ass, and of course saves the day, because she’s the hero, but she saves the day by knowing her job and doing it well.

Ladies, gents, if you want to see more action movies with strong female leads, vote with your dollars, and go see Spy, because that’s what this movie is. (Maybe don’t bring the little kids, though. McCarthy’s got some pretty salty language in there.)

It’s too late to boost the sales on opening weekend, more’s the pity– and I blame the marketers who COMPLETELY MISSED THE MARK on this one. But you still have the ability to give this movie legs, especially if you’re going to theatres outside of the LA area. Be a part of the movement to show Hollywood that people will still see spy movies, even if they’re about women.



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