For many years Fox News has provided America with a twisted, often controversial and evangelical right wing voice. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that one of best known cases of the early #MeToo movement, came from the heart of Murdoch’s right wing news operation. Focussing on the abuse of corporate power, and the misogyny of a CEO (Roger Ailes) who wielded that power without a moral compass. However, wider than just the story of one mans loathsome and power hungry behaviour. Bombshell offers us a far more nuanced exploration of the news room culture both Alies and Murdoch created. One that also plays to the scandals behind Murdochs news empire here in the UK.
And while the focus of director Jay Roach remains the courageous lawsuit of Fox News presenter Gretchen Carlson. There are also wider themes at play in exploring the corporate culture of Fox News. Including the support it offered to Trump in his presidential campaign. And the wider inequalities of a workplace culture that thrived on division and segregation.
Bombshell is not the first adaptation of the Alies story. With the disappointing TV drama The Loudest Voice with Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe premiering in September 2019. However, with Roach’s film we are offered a far more nuanced discussion on the cultural atmosphere of Fox News. One that not only allowed sexual harassment to thrive and become openly accepted. But also embraced a workplace culture of fear, ensuring staff were subject to control. However, in trying to widen the discussion Roach and writer Charles Randolph get somewhat lost in the confused culture of Fox News and its staff.
Bombshell opens during the Presidential race of 2016. One where Trump received the unanimous backing of Fox News for president. However, despite this backing, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) sparked outrage among Trump supporters by openly challenging the presidential hopeful on his sexist attitudes. With Kelly receiving a torrent of abuse on social media as a result. Only highlighting the mysogny that sat at the heart of Trumps campaign. Meanwhile, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) was preparing too ‘out’ the Fox CEO Roger Alies (John Lithgow). After years of sexual harassment that directly affected her career and eventual firing from the Fox News network. While the fictional character Katya Pospisil (Margot Robbie) exists to highlight the abuse of young women in employment of Fox News. Women who often saw their only route to workplace success being the acceptance of a toxic environment of fear and control.
As events unfold and the open secrets of harassment and bullying are aired. All three women’s stories converge in the eventual sacking of Roger Alies as CEO of Fox News. However, this real life story of justice in challenging sexual harrassment, is also dovetailed with the reality of Fox News journalism. And the fact that many of the women at the corporations heart knew, and often embraced the culturally toxic atmosphere of the station. And it is here that Bombshell it as its most interesting and ultimately confused. While nobody could disagree with bravery of Carlson’s lawsuit or the horrendous harassment and discrimination at the stories heart. There is a disconnect between the accepted and encouraged atmosphere of a News channel that frequently supported sexism, and the fight for internal justice.
Equally we find the inherent racism and homophobia of Fox News and its presenters touched upon, but ultimately glossed over. As is the channels support for Trump and the misogyny of his campaign against Hillary Clinton. This is not to say that Bombshell doesn’t offer earnest performances and an important dissection of a toxic workplace culture. But it also ultimately creates an uncomfortable dynamic. One that nods toward wider inequality but also fails to fully dissect the multi faceted face of Fox News’ oppression and discrimination. And while the bravery of the real women at the heart of the story did temporarily ensure women rights took centre stage. It could be argued that this ultimately did little to change the culture of the News Channel. Where right wing views continue to systematically deny equality to others.
Therefore, while embracing the rights of women to work free from disgusting inequality, harassment and abuse. Bombshell ultimately raises more questions that it answers. Questions over the complicity of those who work in organisations that preach division and hate. And the role of staff play in supporting this culture. While also highlighting the importance of challenging all forms of workplace discrimination in creating a positive enivronment. These are questions that Bombshell bravely attempts to reflect, but ultimately never finds it voice in exploring. Leaving the viewer somewhat confused in its final analysis of the toxic culture at Fox News. And its wider public role in continuing to preach sexist, racist and homophobic content. While equally never truly allowing its narrative to explore the growing evangelical right wing ethos of a society that feeds on this divisive content.
Director: Jay Roach
Nicole Kidman also appears in Boy Erased and The Goldfinch
Margot Robbie also appears in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Mary Queen of Scots
John Lithgow also appears in Pet Sematary
Malcolm McDowell also appears in A Clockwork Orange
Liv Hewson also appears in Let it Snow