Pictures of Anna Chapman, a 28 year-old woman who has been dubbed a Russian spy, are plastered all over the media, and no doubt will continue to appear until the latest version of an obsession with a lady spy plays itself out. What figures such as Mata Hari, Natasha or any of the Bond women signify in popular culture is a heady promise of illicit sex and the revelation of women’s true nature as treacherous and untrustworthy. Women in the spy racket are available to a host of male spank-bank fantasy and always make for profitable copy at the newsstand, especially when they are attractive. Ian Fleming’s highbrow porn revolved around Bond’s bid to bed as many lady spies before he killed or incarcerated them. It’s a convenient way of avoiding those commitment issues, afterall.
The lady spy narrative is so deeply embedded in culture that folks need only a whiff of intrigue in order to trot out the cloak and dagger clichés, all of which point to labeling Anna Chapman as a conniving, no count slut with a hidden agenda. Up until she was lured by counter agents with carrying an invalid passport, the young woman could be accused of little more than being an ambitious real estate agent with designs on becoming a lobbyist. When men exhibit ruthless business practices, they meet with approval and success and are catapulted to heroics as men to be emulated. This summer that awful “greed is good” character will be back in cinemas as one archetype of hardnosed men in business who audiences cheer. For women, the double standard remains that ambition is pathological and on par with criminality.
If you read around the comments left on posts about Chapman, the ugly side of the lady spy narrative becomes all too clear. They want her to be a repository for sexual fantasy and activity and then they want to kill her, just as in the Bond model of dealing with such nefarious women. This type of denouement was most graphically treated in Stephen Spielberg’s “Munich,” where the Israeli spies went to extra vindictive lengths to punish and kill a woman working as a spy. One component of misogyny holds that women use their sexuality as a weapon against men, to lure guys in with their vaginas, and then turn to the spider woman, the femme fatale, the deadly spy. Screw the bitch and then make her pay for the weak moment of lust.
As an attractive woman who was bold enough to promote herself, network, to try to be successful, Chapman’s automatically guilty. All the elements are malleable to fit the social script already in place.