For many years Fox News has provided America with a twisted, controversial and evangelical right-wing voice. Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that one of the best-known cases of the early #MeToo movement came from the heart of Murdoch’s right-wing news operation. Here Bombshell focuses on the abuse of power and the blatant misogyny of the CEO (Roger Ailes) while also offering us a far more nuanced exploration of the newsroom culture Ailes and Murdoch created. Here the courageous lawsuit of Fox News presenter Gretchen Carlson sits centre stage, while director Jay Roach equally explores the inequalities of a workplace culture that thrived on division and segregation.
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Bombshell opens during the Presidential race of 2016, where Trump would receive the unanimous backing of Fox News. However, despite this, it was Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) who sparked outrage among Trump supporters when she openly challenged the presidential hopeful on his sexist attitudes. In response, Kelly would receive a torrent of abuse on social media, only further highlighting the misogyny of Trump’s campaign. At the same time, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) was preparing to ‘out’ the Fox CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), following years of sexual harassment that led to her eventual firing from the Fox News network. These two stories are told via the fictional character of Katya Pospisil (Margot Robbie), who exists purely to highlight the abuse of the young women in the employment of Fox News – women who too often felt they had no choice but to accept the toxic environment around them.
As events unfold and allegations of harassment and bullying are aired, Roach ties together the stories of all three women as the forced departure of Roger Ailes comes into view. However, while this real-life story of justice over harassment and abuse is undoubtedly welcome, there is also an elephant in the room; the toxicity of Fox News journalism. Here Fox employees were well aware of the sexism, racism and homophobia that sat at the heart of the channel they chose to work for, and here Bombshell feels conflicted and confused. While nobody could disagree with the bravery of Carlson’s lawsuit or the horrendous harassment and discrimination at the story’s heart, there is a disconnect between the accepting atmosphere, the fight for internal justice, and the sexist journalistic drive against other women (e.g. Hillary Clinton.)
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This is not to say that Bombshell doesn’t offer earnest performances and an important dissection of toxic workplace culture. But it also creates an uncomfortable dynamic that airbrushes away the acceptance of bigotry in the newsroom. Here Roach fails to fully dissect the multi-faceted discrimination held in the very bones of Fox News and the journalist views that continue to deny equality and rights to others systematically. Here Bombshell ultimately raises more questions than it answers as it leaves us somewhat confused in its final analysis of the toxic culture at Fox News.
Director: Jay Roach