The Agency of the Agent in Spectre: The Heroic Spy in the Age of Surveillance



Spies make ambivalent and paradoxical heroes because they have to perform their deeds secretly and often with deceit. The figure of the secret agent therefore highlights the precariousness of the heroic generally and for the specific cultural moment of the twenty-first century. Conversely, the question as to the heroism of secret agents sheds light on the cultural perception of spies and espionage in a given social and historical constellation. This article reads the James Bond film Spectre (2015) as a diagnosis of secret agency at a time when it appears to be superseded by non-human, machine- and data-based forms of surveillance. The film presents terror and protective surveillance as joint spectres that threaten democracy. It negotiates this ethical and affective dilemma by invoking the specifically human agency of popular culture’s most popular spy.


Keywords: accountability; democracy; Dr No; heroism; human agency; post-heroic society; Skyfall; Spectre; surveillance; terror; transparency; voyeurism.

  • Year: 2017
  • Volume: 1 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 5
  • DOI: 10.24877/jbs.7
  • Published on 25 May 2017
  • Peer Reviewed