|To trust or not to trust? Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in|
To Catch a Thief
Copyright Paramount Pictures 1955
|If you were a spork...|
"Is this the residence of Asprey Manchester Charles, six feet tall, one hundred and eighty pounds? Isn't that cute... you're wearing the same too-tight vest in your picture. Do you always dress like you've been kicked out of a wedding?.... You really should check the donor box on your ID, you know.... It can be really hard for a family to make that kind of decision on their own." (Loc 349).
As each spies on the other, cleverly infiltrating each others' spaces, bent on "proving who had the upper hand" as they decide whether to join forces or keep their distance, the stakes continue to grow. And Poppy isn't the only one feeling that "the bigger consequences only increased her excitement" (Loc 1494). Heightened stakes lead to heightened feelings; as scientists have known since the 1970s, the physiological symptoms of anxiety or tension can easily be displaced, making those in danger feel as if they are sexually aroused by the person they are with when they experience the threat.* Scientists term this "misattribution of arousal," yet in the world of popular romance, such arousal far more often leads to lasting love than to disappointing sexual encounters.
Such a happy ending feels earned, rather than just genre-given, in the case of Confidence Tricks. The depth of characterization Morgan layers over the flatness of the typical caper yarn protagonists makes Poppy and Asprey's romance feel less like a plot-destined inevitability, and more like the meeting of two complimentary human beings. Like robbery and romance, good-time boy Asprey and clever con artist Poppy may appear to have little in common at first glance. Yet despite the book's unexpected (and not entirely satisfying) final twist climax, its sweet-tart denouement proves that a Poppy-Asprey partnership has lasting potential.
* See Dutton, D. G. & Aron, A. P. (1974). "Some Evidence for Heightened Sexual Attraction Under Conditions of High Anxiety." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30: 510-517.
To Catch a Thief: Paramount Pictures, via Catwalkyourself.com
Tamara Morgan, Confidence Tricks
"It wasn't very feminist of her, but Poppy would be the first to admit that a large portion of her success in any con situation was thanks to the innate reserve most men carried against harming a woman. It was a reserve composed of equal parts deference and disbelief. Deference to her vagina; disbelief that said vagina was anything but a handicap in life." (Loc 460)
I don't know—sounds feminist to me...