“Lawyer: Ready to go to war?”
Gretchen Carlson: Oh, yeah”
– lines from the movie Bombshell
By Nina Heyn- Your Culture Scout
Charlize Theron is not only a film star (Oscar for her portrayal of a serial killer in The Monster, accolades for her role as Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road) – she is also a prolific producer who brought to screen a script by Charles Randolph (The Big Short) about the fall of Roger Ailes, the man who created and ran Fox News for twenty years. The script became a movie called Bombshell, directed by Jay Roach (Trumbo, Austin Powers movies), and starring Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon as Fox employees, John Lithgow as Roger Ailes, and Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch. The script centers on Gretchen Carlson’s decision to sue Roger Ailes personally for sexual abuse and an unjustified dismissal from her position as a prominent Fox Network anchor. The lawsuit started an avalanche – other female Fox employees came forward with similar harassment accusations going back decades, and eventually Ailes was fired by Rupert Murdoch in 2016. The avalanche of women in other workplaces saying “enough is enough” has been growing since, and it resulted in such women’s rights milestones as the FBI investigation of Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement, and numerous departures of high-level executives in various industries who are now devoting more time to their families while enjoying their hastily arranged golden parachutes. But the event that broke the dam is Carlson’s taking on the invincible head of Fox News. That is the titular bombshell.
Here is a look at the official teaser trailer – just one scene where the three women are faced with a trip to the dreaded second floor office of the boss. There is really no dialogue. No words are need when anybody in the audience who remembers the Fox scandal would understand what is going on there.
If you strip away the fact that this is the Fox News – one of the most controversial US media outlets, and that A-list stars are portraying famous and equally controversial TV presenters, you are still left with the core of the story and the reason this movie is an important voice about societal changes. This is a voice about sexual pressures that women sometimes experience at work. Not all of the workplaces are as glamorous as an American TV station. Sometimes it could be a corner food stand in a remote village somewhere. Not all the workplaces would be as toxic as Fox News portrayed in the movie, but if a woman works long enough, somewhere in her lifetime it will happen. Most women on a planet have experienced some form of a sexual advance, a harassment, an aggression, a coercion, a suggestion, a humiliation, an innuendo, a retaliation, a threat, a tease, a discomfort, an attempt, a joke, a look or a touch – the list of relevant nouns can go on. At the same time, most women have also not retaliated. Instead they would run away, avoid, try to forget, endure, pretend it never happened, give up a promotion, decline a trip, leave room, leave job, leave town. Women have always known about those potential sexual pressures but in a majority of situations they also felt powerless to change it. Bombshell is telling a story of women who decided to change it.
The irony of the actual event is that the movement to take back some respect and to hold the guy in power accountable started with the most conservative environment of a right-wing organization. The news bombshell that came next was that of Harvey Weinstein being accused in the press of sexual abuse (over 80 women came forward to support the accusation). This time, both the accused and the accusers were as liberal and progressive as possible. All this proves that bad treatment of women is very democratic- no ideology, no specific country or social strata – women can get harassed or preyed upon everywhere. It’s just that the Fox one was more toxic and finally one woman said enough. Oscar voters are fond of socially engaged tales that rip the topics off headline news so Bombshell is on track towards nominations. Even if the movie fails to garner awards, it is still a milestone in voicing the (hopefully) changing attitude towards women in the workplace.
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