Have you seen the movie Disclosure? I watched it when I was a teenager. I would be lying if I told you I watched it for almost any reason than I really hoped there would be nudity. I was 13. I liked Michael Crichton and loved Jurassic Park, and still think the book is miles better than the movie, as fun as the movie is. I also recorded HBO presenting Rising Sun at some point, a book I plan to read soon, and well, guess what? It had nudity. So I really thought a movie about sexual harassment and looked a lot like a squinting man’s version of Basic Instinct. Alas dear reader, it had none.
Did you also know that this book and movie is mostly about corporate sabotage?! And that a non-insignificant portion of both involve our protagonist and antagonist meandering around a super goofy virtual reality environment, the sole purpose of which is file storage? Well now you know!
Anyway, the novel is about Tom Sanders waking up one morning, showing up to his tech company management job while running late, and not receiving a promotion he wasn’t promised, but that he had kind of decided he had a shot at. The company is being acquired by a large publishing firm and he’s been division chief for eight years. He’s told first thing Monday that he didn’t get the job, and that they’re bringing in Meredith Johnson to head up the new division. This is disappointing news only because it turns out he wanted it. Meredith Johnson is perfectly suitable for the job, and it’s only awkward because they used to date, and not because she’s a woman, something the novel repeatedly assures of. Of course there’s still plenty of sexism in the reactions of his various employees’ reactions.
After the initial company wide meeting, Meredith asks Tom to join him at the end of the day. The meeting begins normally with wine and a conversation about the problems a specific production line is having when Meredith steers the conversation toward “old times” and begins to flirt, then make moves, and kiss Tom. There’s some kissing and some resisting on Tom’s part, and right before they do have sex, Tom pulls back, thinking about his wife, and says he can’t. Meredith becomes enraged, and threatens him, and scratches him. He goes home, ends up getting into a fight with his wife, and goes to sleep feeling very bad, but hopeful that that’s the end of that. Of course, it isn’t. He shows up to work to find that Meredith has presented a charge of sexual harassment against Tom. As the novel progresses, it really really really feels like there might be more to it than that as he pursues his countersuit. And so on.
I hate to you all this everyone, but it turns out that Michael Crichton’s take on sexual harassment might be a little flawed. As it plays out the novel exists in a world in which there’s basically equity now. So while Tom himself is perfectly reasonably aggrieved, and he’s treated, shock!, as a woman who claims sexual harassment might be treated (not believed, asked about alcohol, how much did he say no?, that kind of thing), this still very much feels a lot more aligned with MRA nonsense than an actual take on harassment. That said, it’s a tightly-paced thriller, so dumb as it all is, it’s also compelling.