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February 8, 2006
Garnier Strikes Back
I haven't said anything about the recent film "The Constant Gardener". Truth be told, I had no desire to call any more attention to it. True to John le Carre's source novel, the story involves a brutal, corrupt international pharmaceutical conspiracy, which destroys the lives of poor Africans and kills critics who get in its way. As someone who's worked in the industry, I found that pretty hard to take. The dress code at the drug companies doesn't mandate white robes, but they sure aren't any blacker than the ones for any other business.
I see, though, that Jean-Pierre Garnier of GSK finally was moved to say a few words about the film. (And no, he didn't call it the feel-good popcorn flick of the year). He wasn't as harsh as I would have been:
"None of the scenario elements and plots in this movie have any relation to reality. . .It is a nice piece of fiction, let's enjoy it. It's entertainment, but it's not what we are all about."
I can't imagine that he found it very entertaining. It's hard to enjoy yourself when you've just paid money to see the way you earn your living depicted as evil and destructive. Positive reviews of the film have mostly either ignored its politics (and concentrated on the Acting) or praised it for its "mature" "socially conscious" approach to teaching us all our lessons. Spare me.
I believe that it was Ben Stein who once said that only in Hollywood could you have a setup of a murdered drug dealer in a dangerous neighborhood, with the villian turning out to be a wealthy businessman from the suburbs. Portraying an industry, which is actually saving and trying to save millions of people from suffering, as an assortment of amoral killers is the same formula. It's isn't new, and it isn't shocking. It isn't brave, and it isn't true.
(Note: if you're a subscriber the The Atlantic Monthly, this column by Clive Crook on the depiction of capitalism in the movies is worth a look).
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