Bombshell is the first big #MeToo movie and it’s set to open at the cinema on January 16th. The movie takes a revealing look inside Fox News – the most-watched cable network in America. It’s a shocking expose which shows what happens when women blow the whistle on harassment in the workplace. As one of the main actors, Charlize Theron, explains – the film is the “origin story of where we find ourselves right now.”
Bombshell unravels the story of what happened in 2016 when a number of women who worked at Fox News exposed the company’s CEO, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment. Ailes (played by John Lithgow) had 20 years at Fox’s helm, driving this super-conservative media empire for its owner, Rupert Murdoch. As Ailes says in the movie: “The news is like a ship. Take your hands off the wheel and it pulls left.”
As well as the superb talents of Charlize Theron, the film also features our own Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie. Kate McKinnon also plays the role role of Jess Carr. All of the actors, including John Lithgow as Ailes, give excellent performances but it’s the presence of these strong women characters which make the film all the more compelling – literally a must-see.
Where does Bombshell fit in to the #MeToo movement?
The plan to make Bombshell was first announced in May 2017, following Ailes’ death from haemophilia. This was just prior to the widespread sexual-abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein in early October 2017 – allegations which mobilised the #MeToo movement.
In fairness, Bombshell does show how all three women Kelly, Carlson and Pospisal – are complicit in this sexual harassment scenario. They don’t have to agree to Ailes’s demands but they feel powerless to deal with the situation any other way. In this way, Bombshell explores the reasons why these women remained silent about Ailes behaviour and why they could see no other way of dealing with him.
Bombshell conveys how emotionally and professionally terrifying whistleblowing must be. When the whole sexual harassment scandal becomes public, one of the main questions is what will Kelly do? She has to pick a side – will she help take down Roger Ailes or will she remain complicit and silent? This tension keeps us on the edge of our seats as we wait to find out what happens.
Charlize Theron becomes Megyn Kelly
Theron is amazing as Megyn Kelly – known to be one of the most instantly recognisable voices on American TV. Theron nails Kelly’s voice and at the same time looks uncannily like the real-life Kelly with the help of some prosthetics on her nose and face.
Kelly was an institution at Fox News having worked there for 13 years. She’s known for her conservative views and the film shows one of her most controversial comments when she says: “And by the way for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”
It was common for Kelly to make these sort of comments and she’s been labelled racist, homophobic, Islamophobic and transphobic. The film shows Kelly and Ailes are supportive of each other’s politics but interestingly, when Donald Trump comes to Fox News during the 2015 election campaign, Kelly can’t help but challenge him about his sexist remarks during the first Republican primary debate, saying to him: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.”
Trump doesn’t take Kelly’s line of questioning too well and for days later he makes negative comments about her on Twitter and TV: “There was blood coming out of her eyes,” he complains to CNN’s Don Lemon. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”
As a result, Kelly is lynched in the media for her behaviour with Trump and in this case, Ailes stands up for her saying it’s all been “good television.”
After this set of events, Kelly – who’s often claimed she’s not a ‘feminist’ – finds herself being lauded for the stance she took. As the story unravels, we find she’s in a great deal of conflict about this as she comes to terms with being a woman in an extremely conservative environment.
Nicole Kidman’s character pulls the plug on Ailes
Nicole Kidman plays another Fox anchor, Gretchen Carlson, who doesn’t get as much support from Ailes. In one scene, Carlson decides to do a news segment with no make-up on and Ailes remands her saying: “Nobody wants to watch a middle-aged woman sweat her way through menopause.”
Carlson disagrees and soon she’s demoted to anchoring a show in a much worse time slot. It gets her thinking and later in the film, it’s Carlson who’s the first one to pull the plug on Ailes.
Meanwhile, Margot Robbie plays a character called Kayla Pospisil. This is a fictional character and she’s there to show us what some other women may have gone through when they were climbing their way up the ladder at Fox.
A devoted Fox News fan, Pospisal is determined to advance as far as she can and she finds her way to Ailes office secures a private interview with him in his office. Once there, she’s shocked to find he wants to look at more than her CV. Ailes asks her to stand in front of him and raise her skirt to show him her legs. “It’s a visual medium,” he explains as she looks back at him, horrified. She didn’t realise this was often the way women advanced at Fox News.
We watch as Pospisal goes through her own learning process and works out how she really feels about working in the media. It’s a great journey to go on. Bombshell is riveting stuff – don’t miss it.