I've been watching more than my usual share of movies lately -- a function both of feeling brain dead after a particularly busy and stressful couple weeks at work, and the fact that MrsDarwin (rounding the corner from first to second trimester) often crashes right after the kids do, leaving me with nearly bachelor levels of free time late at night. Last night I made an attempt at The Constant Gardener, though in the end I dropped it after a bit over half an hour. I was in the mood for something much more noir like, not the earnestly quiet improbability of recent John le Carre. (Now if someone would start making movies of Alan Furst novels, I'd be all over it.) I could take a story about Big Pharma running illegal human testing rings in the third world and killing beautiful young activists who see through their plans in a silly action movie sufficiently punctuated by explosions and chases , but it's rather uninvolving in a movie that takes itself deadly seriously.
But what struck me in particular was that Constant Gardener had the same inciting incident as a more entertaining movie I watched earlier this week, Iron Man. In both movies, the hero is a front man (either the quietly earnest Ralph Fiennes or the wildly amusing Robert Downey Jr.) for evil organizations without really knowing it, and his path towards eventual heroism begins when an attractive and earnestly progressive female reporter confronts him, asks uncomfortable questions, accuses him of apologizing for an evil organization, and then is next seen taking her clothes off with him in bed.
Tony Stark in Iron Man is protected by his loyal personal assistant Pepper Potts the next morning when she (in her own words) "takes out the trash" and so the Christine Everhart character is restricted to showing up at key intervals to ask Stark probing questions and move the plot forward.
Justin Quayle, on the other hand, has no such protector, and the quiet and polite Englishman soon finds himself in a sudden marriage-of-convenience with Tessa, the young activist who (after landing in bed with him after confronting him about the Iraq war in a press conference he was giving for another diplomat) demands that he take her with him to Africa where his next assignment is.
Two instances, of course, do not make a trend. I'm trying to think of other examples in which movie writers decided the best way to raise the consciousness of their male hero was to throw an idealistic female reporter at him, leading to salvation through one night stand. Thank You For Smoking would count, except that the anti-hero never turns around, he just gets out of his current difficulties and carries on.
Do we have a trend here? Perhaps this is the inverse of my long standing assumption that more traditional mores are likely to win out in the end because they perpetuate and are perpetuated by stable families: Progressive ideas are destined to win out because hot female proponents will sleep with anyone who doesn't agree with them. Then, after we spend the next two hours of screen time fighting big corporations, the world will be a better place. (This does seem rather rough on the men who already agree with progressive ideals, though. Do they get any time?)