It’s based on a true story: two former lovers, now highly-placed executives in the same company, had competed for the same job, which went to one of them. They had then met privately one evening, and the next day each accused the other of sexual harassment. The problem for the company was what to do – fire them both? Fire neither? Keep one and fire one? If so, which one?
This story was told to me by a lawyer in 1987 as a problem of corporate governance, but I thought the story was more interesting than that. Eventually I found another use for it.
I imagined that both men and women would benefit from a better understanding of what harassment felt like. So I reversed the usual roles, allowing both men and women to experience what the other side felt like. I think this procedure worked and it made a lot of people angry.
The book was harshly criticized by feminist commentators, who saw it as just another vilification of working women. But a careful reading of their complaints made it clear to me that many had not read the book. (It’s much easier to criticize a book you haven’t read.) They had, however, read each other’s columns.
At the same time I was being criticized by leading spokeswomen, I found that working business women often went out of their way to tell me they liked the book (and later, Barry Levinson’s excellent movie.) This reaction of actual working women was in sharp distinction to their supposed spokespeople.
Eventually I concluded that working women liked the story because it focused attention on a female character they found difficult to deal with-the unscrupulous corporate climber. They weren’t able to publicly criticize these climbers, because back in those days, working women thought they should stick together and not criticize each other. So they were pleased that a book did it for them.
A brutal struggle in the cutthroat computer industry; a shattering psychological game of cat and mouse; an accusation of sexual harassment that threatens to derail a brilliant career…this is the electrifying core of Disclosure.
At the center: Tom Sanders, an up-and-coming executive with DigiCom in Seattle, a man whose corporate future is certain. Until: after a closed-door meeting with his new boss — a woman who was his lover ten years before, a woman who has been promoted to the position he expected to have — he is accused of sexually harassing her. Now he finds himself trapped between what he knows to be true and what he knows others will assume to be the truth. And, as he uncovers an electronic trail into the company’s secrets, he begins to grasp just how cynical and manipulative an abuse of truth has actually occurred…
Michael Crichton was profiled by Diane Goldner in a USA Weekly magazine article in 1994, titled “Michael Crichton: The Plot Thickens”. Here is an excerpt:
“Crichton realizes his new novel, Disclosure, out this week, could ignite a maelstrom of debate.”
“The discourse on harassment,” he says, “seems to me as if it was conducted by 9-year-old virgins talking about some sexual act that none of them have ever had. But everyone’s a grown-up, everyone’s had sex, everyone knows all the feelings: the feelings of having overstepped yourself; the feelings of having done something wrong that you wished you hadn’t done; the feelings of having been talked into something; the feelings of having decided not to do something, then regretting it. Yet when the time comes to make the law, or the time comes to write the op-ed pieces, we’re all writing this kind of simple-minded, brain-dead stuff that doesn’t conform to the real world.”
Men, women, sex, power: Crichton always has had a deadly accurate eye for hot topics.”
In a Time magazine profile from 1994 called “Pop Fiction’s Prime Provocoteur”, writer Gregory Jaynes and Michael Crichton discuss the controversial issue at the center of Disclosure. Here is an excerpt:
“I can walk in the door and say what I see in the room and walk out. That’s what I do. I tell the truth. I believe very strongly in equality for women, and there’s only one way to get it. Egalitarian feminism says equality of opportunity and pay, period. That’s it. People say women have special problems. Well, men have special problems. I’m very tall. That’s a special problem.” Here Crichton is arguing, as his book does, against any “special protection” for women. “Equality is clear. No favoritism is clear. If you say, ‘No favoritism except here,’ then it’s not clear. I think everybody understands equal. It’s relatively easy to measure, as in exactly how far we’ve gotten and exactly how far we have to go. Protectionism is not clear. It’s possible to imagine there’s something even anti-American in it. Limiting free speech …”
You can read the whole article here if you have a subscription to Time magazine.
Disclosure was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for 5 weeks.
[On if he might direct another movie] Yes, but I don’t know when. I like directing, but I’ve been in a writing phase, the last few years. I considered directing Disclosure for a long time, and finally decided not to because I wanted to write another book.
|December 9, 1994
|2 hrs. 12 min.
|Based on the Novel By:
|Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland, Roma Maffia, Dennis Miller, Dylan Baker
“I know a lot about movies, and have made them myself, so I know what to expect. And actually, in general, I feel I have been pretty lucky with the movie versions of my books. I’m particularly happy with Jurassic Park and with Disclosure.”