James Bond. Agent 007. The suave, erudite hero who time and time again has single-handedly foiled the most evil of plots and saved the world from impending doom, all whilst finding the time to knock back a drink or ten – fun fact, studies show that his weekly alcohol unit consumption averages over four times the recommended limit – and work his charm on the token Bond girl, whom no one could blame for being so attracted to his charming thirst for danger and dry martinis. This guy surely represents the glamour and thrill of life in the secret service; he is the epitome of that classic old-English archetype one associates with Her Majesty’s Secret Service, a deeply elitist society of recruits from Oxbridge who are summoned to secret locations in the dead of night to be rewarded for their good genes with a career in espionage. But is there truth behind the myth or is this portrayal of MI6 merely a tired stereotype?
With the latest Bond film, ‘Spectre’, breaking box office records, our main man is evidently not getting any less popular. Coinciding with its release, however, is MI6’s launch of its latest recruitment campaign, and the UK’s real-life Secret Service is quick to highlight that they are not looking for James Bond-esque candidates.
The new campaign emphasises a revision of old stereotypes about what it truly takes to work for the organisation, which is looking to recruit people who can show a range of emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills that go beyond their educational background or social status. It is thought that this new approach will encourage a wider range of applicants from all social backgrounds; an approach that has been championed by many companies and higher education establishments. UCAS, for example, are reportedly to start implementing an anonymous application system in order to tackle racial bias, with major companies like Deloitte and HSBC also considering “name-blind” recruitment. MI6 claims that their new campaign, too, addresses social bias and could see a new generation of agents who will truly represent the diverse values within our modern society.
So would James Bond actually cut it as a secret agent in real life? As a drunken loner with a highly addictive personality, many have speculated that it is highly likely that his application would indeed be rejected. But ultimately, we can’t forget that Bond is a work of fiction. We may well indulge in his adventures on screen, admiring his courage, quick-wittedness and penchant for fast cars, but it is important to distinguish real life from what Bond represents – a fantasy.