Suburban Super-Spy: Ethan Hunt as Middle Class Ideation

Curator's Note

I could be that guy, says Ideal Audience Man. I really could be.

Ideal Audience Man, let's call him Iam. To Marketing he's a White chap of the 25 to 54 cohort, and he sees himself as Ethan Hunt, of the Mission Impossible franchise, as embodied by Tom Cruise. Iam fantasizes over the other heroes of spectacle cinema, but he could never be them.

Iam can't be James Bond, not the present Daniel Craig Bond. 007 is badass, but his lifestyle hasn't any analog in Iam's day-to-day. Bond is too aloof, too refined, tastes too expensive, loves too beautiful. Iam doesn't own a tuxedo and couldn't pull one off with virile dignity as butterfly bandages held shut his facial wounds. Bond is, of course, not American, so will always be a little suspect.

Iam envys Dom Toretto, Vin Diesel's drag racing, master thief from the Fast & the Furious, but he doesn't admire him. Dom has massive horsepower and lives a life of adventure, but Dom's not the right kind of person. No matter where in the world Toretto travels, nor how many arms dealers or drug kingpins he takes down, Iam can't stomach the grease under Dom's nails, the shabbiness of his clothes, or the aftermarket modifications to his very fast and unseemly loud cars. Moreover, Toretto is a criminal who, like the latchkey kids Iam warns his own children about, drives others to criminality. Plus, all but one of the Toretto Gang are non-White, so their Americanism is always a little suspect.

Then, there is Ethan Hunt, the vanilla nougat center of the secret agent ranks. He's athletic, not swole, capable of violence, but prefers stealth and subterfuge. He is a patriotic agent of the federal bureaucracy that, while covert, is benevolent. Until it isn't, so Ethan Hunt goes rogue just long enough to restore order. Despite his high wire feats and physics defying perils, every aspect of his character telegraphs the shibboleths of milquetoast middle class virtue.

Iam knows he couldn't be James Bond and knows he wouldn't be Dom Toretto. But, he suspect that if things had worked out a little differently... if he'd bothered to get the riflery merit badge, taken jiujitsu, learned to pick locks, skydive, or speak Russian. Iam tells himself that he could be Ethan Hunt.

Maybe he even believes it. 

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