In We Mock What We Don't Understand, Anton Steinpilz and Rob Horning of The New Inquiry, look at the deep philosophical significance of Spies Like Us in the Cold War Era.
Spies Like Us isn't merely a sendup/enactment of Cold War deterrence logic. It also anticipates the zeitgeist of the neoliberal new world order that would install itself as the end of history after the Berlin Wall fell David Hasselhoff lookin' for freedom at the Berlin Wall. It dramatizes what Slavoj Žižek in In Defense of Lost Causes (2008) would describe as "the Fukuyama dream that liberal democracy had won, that the search was over, that the advent of a global, liberal world community was lurking just around the corner, that the obstacles to this ultra-Hollywoodesque happy ending were merely empirical and contingent (local pockets of resistance where the leaders had not yet grasped that their time was over)." Spies Like Us turns such pockets inside-out before the fact, ridiculing military hotheads not as mad but merely out of date while heralding consumerist common sense as SDI's antidote.
In Spies Like Us, communism is a joke, consumer desire is becoming universal, and the world is happily full of shirkers and impostors because nothing is worth the effort of genuine belief. The film shows the American pop-culture hegemony creeping in at the edges of the Iron Curtain, doing its leveling work: a Russian missile crew dances to the Bar-Kays' "Soulfinger"; a Doctor Zhivago poster hangs in a Soviet interrogation hut; KGB agents dress as iconic 1980s preppies.
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