Why James Bond Would Have Made a Terrible Spy in Real Life

It takes more than a perfectly tailored tuxedo and cutting one-liners to make an effective secret agent.

Pierce Brosnan as James BondPhoto: Danjaq/EON/UA/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

The terrible truth about James Bond

James Bond may have more than 60 years of experience saving the world from notorious villains, but he’d have a tough time getting a job in MI6 today, says Alex Younger, chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, in the Guardian. Apparently, there’s more to being an SIS officer than expensive cars, martinis and tuxedos. (It’s no wonder why James Bond is the role Burt Reynolds regretted turning down the most.)

Even if Bond’s appreciation for the finer things in life were qualification enough, his recklessness on the job would likely cut his career short. “The violence, mayhem, and death that seem to follow Bond wherever he goes are certainly one thing that would have gotten him early retirement from any reputable intelligence service long ago,” says Alexis Albion, the International Spy Museum‘s lead curator. “Also, his tendency to use his own name, lack of communication with headquarters, wanton waste of government resources, lack of discretion in his sexual dalliances… the list goes on.” In other words, James Bond would make a terrible spy.

Think about it. It’s hard to be effective at espionage when everybody knows who you are. Agent 007 is the most famous spy in the world, yet he rarely wears a disguise and almost always uses his real name. Even if “Bond, James Bond” is actually a code name, why use it over and over again?

There’s also Bond’s inability to stay under the radar. Real-life spies go out of their way not to draw attention to themselves. Bond, meanwhile, is a magnet for attention. Just look at the types of luxury vehicles he drives: Aston Martins, Audis, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces. They’re way too eye-catching, and probably too fast; Bond’s need for speed is yet another problem. To quote Q in GoldenEye, “Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic laws.” (Check out the 12 greatest spy movies of all time.)

Then there’s the simple fact that Bond is an alcoholic. British researchers report that 007’s weekly alcohol consumption is over four times the recommended limit for an adult male. They also suspect that Bond suffers from alcohol-induced hand tremors as a result of all that drinking. That could explain his preference that his vodka martinis be “shaken, not stirred,” when, in fact, they should be stirred, not shaken.

Finally, 007 has a pretty terrible track record of getting captured by his enemies. Alec Trevelyan—aka Janus, from GoldenEye—even captured him twice! And how many times do you have to drink a poisoned beverage to learn that you shouldn’t consume anything given to you by your enemy? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool Bond twice, shame on 007.

Next, here’s every James Bond movie ranked—from worst to best.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest