from Comedy to the CIA

Don’t Ask an Ex CIA Officer…

If you’re ever at a party, or a coffee shop or a grocery store and bump into a woman who reveals that she used to work for the CIA, please don’t ask her if she’s just like Homeland’s Carrie.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of female CIA officers portrayed in television and film. And sadly, most are not accurate. To be clear, Carrie is NOT a good CIA officer. She’s a mentally-unstable-emotionally-volatile-morally damaged-Daddy-issued-boundaryless-operative who would never be hired, let alone retain employment at the Agency.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Homeland, it’s good escapist fare and admittedly I have a borderline inappropriate musical theater nerd crush on Mandy Patinkin. My challenge with Homeland, is that with the show’s popularity, Carrie has somehow become a female CIA officer archetype.

I GET IT. The CIA is a secretive place and Americans glean their knowledge of the Agency from TV and film. That’s why I’m telling you, 99.99999% of CIA female officers are not like Carrie.

The CIA is FAR from perfect (so far that at times you may need a compass, GPS and a map to find the perfect in it). But the Agency does do a decent job recruiting good, capable, dedicated women. In fact, I’ll go on record to say that most females make better Case Officers than men, if only for their innate intuitiveness and ability to empathize. Female officers have to work harder and smarter at the CIA to stand out in this very “old school” agency. As a result, female officers are some of the most skilled, intelligent and savvy operatives in the Agency’s cadre. It does an absolute disservice to ask…or even to make the comparison to Carrie.

As I hop off my soapbox, I leave you with the moral to my story: Enjoy Homeland. Applaud Claire Danes’ immensely entertaining and brilliantly acted portrayal of a deeply flawed human being. But please, don’t ask any former or current female CIA officers if “they’re just like Carrie” and I won’t ask the next doctor I meet if “he’s just like Hannibal Lecter.”

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