who imagines himself as a movie super agent
or a military Special Ops guy
on a top-secret mission and acts accordingly. Usually Played for Laughs
Distinct from "Tuxedo and Martini Played for Laughs
" in that Tuxedo and Martini
is more about James Bond
and the notion of the spy as the suave, evening-dressed, martini-ordering playboy. This trope is about a character who pretends to be a secret agent to assuage the tedium of their day-to-day existence and gets into no end of trouble when they encounter or blunder into the real thing (when combined with And You Thought It Was a Game
and Mistaken for Badass
). The character can actually work for an espionage agency, but as a paper-pusher, informant or some other unimportant thing rather than any kind of "superspy".
In a way, a Wannabe Secret Agent
is similar to a Conspiracy Theorist
in that both imagine themselves privy to secret knowledge that they believe puts them above the dreary everyday (though the former likes to play out his fantasy more than to discuss it).
May have some overlap with Miles Gloriosus
. Contrast Teen Superspy
, who is an actual child and
an actual super agent.
open/close all folders
- The Donald Duck comic "Secret Agent 006 1/2" has Donald working as a janitor at a special operations agency. He likes to fantasize about being an actual secret agent, and claims to be one before his girlfriend Daisy. Of course, they both end up on an actual mission.
Film — Animated
Film — Live-Action
- True Lies: Bill Paxton plays Simon, a used-car salesman who pretends he works for the CIA and tries to hit on Arnie's character's wife. Extra bonus irony points since Arnie's character is a real spy who pretends he's a computer salesman.
- Ronin: Sean Bean plays Spence, a Englishman who claims to be ex-SAS but is outed as utterly incompetent and nearly gets the team killed in the process.
- In The Man Who Knew Too Little, the protagonist believes he is only playing a secret agent, but due to a mix-up everything he encounters is very real (though he doesn't realize that).
Live Action TV
- The Lone Gunmen trio of The X-Files have their moments, such as when they discover that the Cigarette-Smoking Man apparently kidnapped Scully in episode "En Ami" and visit Mulder disguised as... themselves. As in, they wear each other's usual outfits to blend in with the crowd.
- In an episode of Bones the Victim of the Week was a paper-pusher for the CIA who wanted to be James Bond and discovered a diamond-smuggling operation. He carried a Walther PPK, drove an Aston Martin painted in a color called "Casino Royale," and used Universal Exports as his cover.
- Invoked in Castle: a company sells spy-themed fantasy vacations where normal people get to pretend that they are real spies performing secret missions. When one of the clients ends up as the Victim of the Week, Beckett and Castle are initially fooled into thinking that they are dealing with real spies. They arrest one of the pretend spies and he stays completely in character until he realized that he is in a real jail cell. At that point he starts crying.
- Conrad Verner throughout the Mass Effect trilogy pretends to be a Spectre (essentially a government-sanctioned Judge, Jury, and Executioner), inspired by Commander Shepard. His blunders, however, are Played for Drama or Black Comedy at best.
- Possibly Steven Heck from Alpha Protocol. He claims to work for a top-secret branch of the CIA but there's no evidence that he's ever worked for them at all. One character suggests that Heck has somehow deluded himself into thinking he's a CIA agent. Either way, he's very, very effective, contrasting with the usual portrayals of this trope.