Hear the abbreviation MI6, and it’s hard not think of James Bond. He’s by far the British intelligence agency’s most recognizable double-0, even if he is fictional, and the world’s most famous spy. He’s also, it turns out, not the type of agent MI6 wants to recruit in the 21st century. In fact, if a recently released recruitment video is to be believed, the secret intelligence service is looking for officers less adept at disarming a ticking time bomb and more skilled at talking down a toddler about to throw a tantrum ⏤ although, admittedly, both of those are very similar.
In what appears to be an attempt to distance itself from the Bond franchise, MI6’s first-ever recruitment commercial is a simple 30-second spot that opens on a shark tank at an aquarium. The male narrator says, “We are intelligence officers. But we don’t do what you think. It’s not keeping up in the shark tank. It’s picking up on the cues that really matter.” And which cues is it vital that an international spy be able to pick up exactly, according to MI6? The social, emotional, and nonverbal ones, of course.
It appears that MI6 is trying to get a certain message across with their new advertisement: brains and emotional intelligence, not brawn, beauty, or the ability to win at Baccarat, are what MI6 values in their spies.
It’s also notable that the two people featured in the video are not only a mother and a son but also both people of color. Obviously, there’s little precedent for parents being spies (the Rosenbergs being the most famous example) and there are very rarely, if ever, any female characters in the Bond movies with any sense of true agency. The women are almost always relegated to secretary or ‘Bond Girl’ status.
But in this ad, MI6 says they want just that ⏤ moms and dads. Maybe? They at least want people who may be parents, or who have parental instincts. Who other than a parent is adept at reading emotional cues, at understanding what people want or need even if they can’t communicate it, of understanding when someone may be lying. After all, parents have one of the hardest jobs in the world already: anticipating the needs and wants and desires of little children. After that, spying would be a breeze. Who knows, maybe the next class of ’00s’ will be plucked from the parenting ranks. Maybe parents are the next James Bond? But, like, the new James Bond. James Bond who just got back from parental leave and who drives below the speed limit.