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Wannabe Secret Agent

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A Manchild 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). Both character types are portrayed as common amongst The Mentally Disturbed, and as a result both often feature in plots revolving around The Schizophrenia Conspiracy.

May have some overlap with Miles Gloriosus. Contrast Teen Superspy, who is an actual child and an actual super agent.



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     Comic Books  
  • 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  
  • Burn After Reading: Two bumbling gym rats, one played by Brad Pitt, discover a manuscript for the written memoir of a former intelligence agency employee, and, falsely believing it to contain classified information, try to sell it to the Russian government. A whole ton of Cringe Comedy ensues.
  • 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.
  • Rōnin: 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).
  • InSpies Like Us, Austin Millbarge is a basement-dwelling codebreaker at the Pentagon who aspires to escape his under-respected job to become a secret agent. Emmett Fitz-Hume, a wisecracking, pencil-pushing son of an envoy, takes the foreign service exam under peer pressure. Both of them fail (Fitz-Hume openly attempts to cheat, while Millbarge is woefully unprepared because his supervisor withheld notice of the test till the day before). Needing expendable agents to act as decoys to draw attention away from a more capable team, the DIAnote  decides to enlist the two, promote them to be Foreign Service Operatives, put them through minimal training, and then send them on an undefined mission into Soviet Central Asia.
  • In The Spy Who Dumped Me the two protagonists get caught in a spy story (the eponymous spy is an ex-boyfriend) with Kate being more than delighted to have some sparks in her life. She ends up begging the MI6 boss (played by Gillian Anderson) to let her join the agency. At the end of the film she obliges.

  • The children's novel Our Man Weston by Gordon Korman, involves a teenager (and his long-suffering twin brother, who keeps getting blamed for his antics) who becomes convinced there's an international spy ring in a hotel next to an air force base. There is a spy there as it happens, but our bumbling hero completely fails to uncover him.

     Live Action TV  
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: Jethro Bodine opens up a "double-naught" spy branch-office. Hilarity Ensues.
  • 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 realizes he is in a real jail cell. At that point he starts crying.
  • Similar to the above, an episode of CSI: NY involved a role-playing game where the participants go undercover as spies. (In this case, their code names were Boris and Natasha.) The Victim of the Week was a rich kid that was enjoying himself too much and pissed off the wrong guys, getting kidnapped as a result. His new girlfriend was the first to die in the episode, pointing a fake gun at some "enemy agents" when they cornered the two in an alley (which made one shoot her in self-defense), and as a result her murder baffled the investigators for a little while.

  • In season two of Red vs. Blue, Griff and Donut are send to do recon on the Blue base to try and retrieve Lopez. Donut thinks of it like spy work and acts like this to the point of annoying Griff into sending him away.

     Video Game  
  • 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 is just a lunatic who 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.
  • Irene from Missing Stars is first introduced accidentally having fallen out of a tree. She claims to have been doing "basic recon." Irene is curious and likes eaves-dropping on others around the school; she even has a laser microphone.

     Real Life 
  • In a rather bizarre case, 23-year-old William Kampiles swiped a top-secret satellite manual, sold it to the Soviet Union for 3,000 dollars, and then confessed what he had done to the CIA in the mistaken belief that they would employ him as a double agent. He spent 18 years in prison.


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