Can new movie Bombshell explode political apathy around sexual harassment?

Starring Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and an almost unrecognisable John Lithgoe, what can upcoming movie ‘Bombshell’ bring to our post-#metoo society?

The first trailer I saw told me very little about the movie, coming to it with no clue about its topic. Three women stand, silently, in a lift. They say very little, all holding on to what they’re clearly desperate to discuss. 

Tense doesn’t quite cover it – the atmosphere is almost palpable. You find yourself willing them to reveal even just a little of the secrets that plague them. The deafening silence symbolises the power of the pressure women are under to accept workplace sexism; the conspiracy of concealment and the taboo of speaking out. The second trailer, released yesterday (and embedded above), revealed just a little more.

Bombshell, due to be released in the US in December – and in the UK in January – tells the story of the accusations of sexual harassment against Fox News founder, Roger Ailes.

Ailes, hired by Australian magnate Rupert Murdoch, back in 1996, to run Fox News, died in May 2017. Production of the film started in earnest shortly after his demise from haemophilia-related illnesses, at the age of 77.

The allegations against Ailes meant he resigned in July 2016, just two years after the main tranche of accusations were published in Gabriel Sherman’s book, ‘The Loudest Voice in the Room’. Sherman was the first to come out against the powerful Ailes, followed two years lager, by Gretchen Carlson (portrayed in the movie by Kidman).

Margot Robbie, seen in the trailer pledging her loyalty to Fox News (and rather more to Ailes) is the only character introduced for dramatic effect, her story the exception to the rest of the film, which is based on real events. Whilst you never see evidence of any transgressions involving Ailes, the insinuations and implications behind the knowing looks and lustful expressions tell you what you need to know about what happened behind closed doors. 

Tipped for Oscar greatness, the film focuses on Theron as Megyn Kelly and Kidman as Gretchen Carlson who apparently turn out transformative performances, showing the devastation that sexual harassment wreaks on the lives of women in the workplace. 

Conducting a number of interviews with staffers who chose to disregard their legally-binding non-disclosure agreements, screenwriter Charles Randolph was even more keen to release it in a time where the USA is being governed by a man facing sex absue allegations from up to 25 women. “No woman, no matter what you think of her politics, deserved to be harassed”, he said, hinting at the strong political lean of the renowned right-wing, GOP supporting news channel.

Disgusting, criminal and lecherous: the accusations levied against Ailes and the culture at Fox News shown in the trailer are damning. Kidman’s Carlson, clutching a dossier of remarks from the male employees at the news channel is fearsome, her eyes flashing as she reels off some of the most egregious comments she was subjected to. 

Ailes may be dead now, but he certainly didn’t see much damage in life after these allegations came to light, pocketing a cool $40 million in his exit package and continuing to advise Murdoch until death. It’s not clear, either, that anyone in power – here or in the USA – really care too much anyway, looking at the poor coverage of both leaders’ alleged transgressions and the effect it’s had (or lack thereof) on poll ratings.

Who knows, maybe Bombshell’s the film to blow things wide open.

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