When sexual harassment occurs in a workplace environment, victims—often women—can be hesitant to come forward. Some are fearful that their jobs will be at stake. Others worry that nobody will believe them.
But in 2016, journalist Gretchen Carlson faced those fears: She kickstarted a sweeping internal investigation at Fox News when she accused Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.
The former anchor’s allegation? That she had been removed from the popular show Fox & Friends and pushed into a less desirable time slot for her refusal to exchange sexual favours with the CEO. And for her inability to “get along with the boys.”
Carlson’s claims created a maelstrom of events that encouraged other harassed victims at Fox to come forward. Eventually, fellow Fox anchor Megyn Kelly and at least 20 other women working at Fox added their own testimonies to bolster Carlson’s claims.
Bombshell shines a bright light on the courage required by Gretchen, Megyn and all the other women at Fox to report their toxic workplace environment.
When they first experience sexual harassment, Gretchen and Megyn both go through the proper channels to report Ailes’ inappropriate behaviour. They try to make the network more female-friendly by calling out misogynistic comments by their colleagues and promoting programmes and policies that aim to end the oversexualization of women.
Unfortunately, their efforts don’t go far. So when Gretchen senses that her time at Fox is coming to an end, she begins recording conversations with Ailes, conducting research into past cases of sexual harassment and, ultimately, turning all of her evidence over to the corporate and legal authorities when she files her lawsuit. She encourages other women to do the same.
When the time comes for Megyn to pick a side between Gretchen and Ailes, she initially refuses to speak up, not wanting to discredit Gretchen but not wanting to put her career on the line either. However, after discovering that Ailes has been harassing Kayla, a young anchor hopeful, she decides to tell her own story and supports Kayla as well, knowing that this will protect women in the future.
When Kayla admits to a friend that she gave in to Ailes’ advances because she feared for her career, she breaks down and admits to feeling filthy. However, that friend reassures Kayla and rightly redirects responsibility to the perpetrator of the harassment.
While conducting interviews for on-air talent, a man asks multiple women to stand and spin in a circle since they work for a “visual medium.” One woman is asked to hike up her skirt until he can see her underwear. Nearly all women working at Fox wear dresses with short hemlines; someone mentions that this is the reason why the news anchor desks are see-through.
We hear several discussions about various sex acts (including one act involving two men and another involving a 16-year-old girl) and sexual arousal. There are also several conversations about the oversexualization of women.
A woman is seen putting her undergarments back on (nothing critical is seen) after a sex act with another woman. While she states that she isn’t gay, the other woman admits that she is.
A man forcefully grabs and attempts to kiss a woman twice, but she shoves him away both times. When a man angrily gets into a woman’s face, her husband steps in and threatens him with physical violence.
Newscasters discuss Ivana Trump’s rape accusations against her ex-husband. An extremely paranoid Fox employee voices his belief that he is receiving death threats, frightening the people around him.
A news anchor reports on gun violence and takes a poll to see if constituents believe the ban on semi-automatic assault weapons should be reinstated. A woman mentions that her mom is training to be a security guard because she wants a job where she can carry a gun.
CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE
Because Bombshell addresses the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, a multitude of terms that might not normally be considered vulgar become incredibly derogatory in the context of this movie.
The f-word is heard nearly 40 times, and the s-word is heard about 15 times. There are also about 5 uses each of “p-ss,” “a--,” “d--n” and “h---,” two uses of “b--ch” and one use of “c--k.” Someone uses the term “BS” in place of the actual word. The word “bimbo” comes up in several conversations.
DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT
Several people drink alcohol at bars and restaurants throughout the movie. Two characters get drunk. Producers watch footage of a man smoking a cigarette. A woman is asked to go out for drinks.
OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
Throughout the movie, we witness a culture of misogyny at Fox News. The story here focuses on Roger Ailes propositioning women with promotions in exchange for “loyalty” (read: sexual favours). But women are also encouraged to dress and act a certain way while men are consistently defended for their inappropriate behaviour.
At one point, several women are shocked to discover the existence of a “harassment hotline” where they can report this type of misconduct in the workplace. However, Megyn points out that the hotline is a joke, since every phone in the building is monitored and recorded, and the entire organisation stands behind Ailes.
When Gretchen first comes forward, many refuse to believe her. Hundreds of Fox employees say the accusations are ridiculous and wear t-shirts in support of Ailes. In an attempt to protect himself, Ailes threatens the jobs of several people. He starts rumours to discredit the women who came against him and openly coerces his employees into boycotting these women.
Bombshell’s core message is one of empowerment. But the story it tells is a messy one—a narrative choice that pushes it firmly into NC16-rated territory. The film verbally and visually depicts many of the instances of sexual harassment at the centre of this story. Profanity is also an issue.
So while it may not be an easy film to watch, it seeks to bring a difficult-but-important issue into the spotlight—albeit in a gritty, NC16-rated way.
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This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.