Suzanne Fields
"The Ides of March," the slick new movie with George Clooney as an unethical presidential candidate, is a morality tale for our time. It lacks tragic dimensions, it's melodramatic without complexity of character, and it has a neatly constructed plot that has no emotional depth, sliding over the surfaces of the political world as we have come to know it, up close and personal.

But it entertains as an engaging tale about the dirty tricks of politics. Entertainment, after all, is what politics has become.

The title, if it means anything, is simplistically ironic, since there is no Caesar to beware of, and no political men deeply troubled over the abuse of power beyond their own resumes and getting their man elected. If Ryan Gossling, who plays a press secretary for the candidate, has the "lean and hungry look" of Cassius, it's merely a likeness in body image, not in intellectual profundity. His disappointment in his candidate's morals will hardly register with an audience that came of age with a popular president parsing the meaning of "is," and that witnessed a liberal candidate with good hair professing undying love for a wife who suffered from cancer while he fathered a child with someone else.

The movie's smooth-talking hypocritical Clooney character is as familiar today as the political operatives who surround him whose cynicism grows in proportion to the success of the candidates they support.

The tragic victim of the movie is Molly, age 20, a seduced intern (played by Evan Rachel Wood) for whom abortion is more of a deal-breaker than a moral decision. She is crushed, less by power than by her own glib choices and the men who take advantage of them. She's simply not mature enough to understand. But that makes her representative of her sex at 20 in 2011.

If there's moral insight here, it lies in the sexual relations as depicted not only among men in power, but in the attitudes of the women who work for them. More important than the cliches and the commonplace is the tragic dimension of a bright young woman as she is trivialized by powerful men. She accepts her trivialization as something as normal as the air she breathes. So much for women's liberation.

The movie, in fact, reflects the sexual mores of those who grew up after the "second sex" won equality with the first, when women were told they could cultivate the same sexual attitudes as men. The young girl who becomes pregnant in a power seduction acts as though she's entirely in control of her body, but ultimately she's as much a victim as a 19th century heroine in a Thomas Hardy novel, pregnant by the baron of the house in which she's a maid. Nature will not be mocked.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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