‘Bombshell’ Pulls Back the Curtain on Misogyny, Wows Critics

Bombshell begins by breaking the fourth wall, with Charlize Theron’s eerily on-point Megyn Kelly introducing us to the Fox News building floor by floor. So begins the sense that we get to peek behind the curtain. It also gives the sense that all of this is true, right? I mean, they must have had tons of sources and interviews to take us through every floor, here’s Megyn Kelly introducing us to the anchors when the cameras aren’t rolling!  She’s pulling no punches, and her loyalty is to the truth, not to her employer.

This is some masterful manipulation by screenwriter Charles Randolph, whose film The Big Short temporarily suspended my long-cherished ideological mission to eat the rich, softening it to eat some of the rich. Yes, within about 15 minutes, this film made me forget that Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson are both propagandists responsible for racist, classist, anti-feminist pandering to Republican Boomers, in a direct effort to add fuel to the fire of the culture wars and get out the ANGRY vote. For the next hour and a half, let’s pretend that Megyn Kelly is some kind of journalist.

And let’s also pretend that we can separate these talking heads from the network that made them famous. After all, it was Ailes who created the message and the toxic culture of misogyny behind the scenes. In this film, even the Murdoch family comes across as interested in participating in an internal investigation of harassment, even interested in protecting its female employees in any small part, and not just the Murdoch’s media empire. It’s the right way to tell an absolute bombshell of a story, and it feels true, probably because, at its core, the fiction resonates with the stories of millions of American women.

The story’s not really about liberal or conservative politics. It’s about the fact that the ritual objectification of women, regardless of class, race or political affiliation, is built into the workplace.

The story’s not really about liberal or conservative politics. It’s about the fact that the ritual objectification of women, regardless of class, race or political affiliation, is built into the workplace. In fact, the more capable and qualified we are, the more we are required to submit to men’s sexual comments, men talking down to us or talking over us, in front of groups of our peers or even our subordinates, men trying half as hard and going twice as far. We get denied promotions for not dressing in an appealing way, for not simpering or shimmying or showing a little leg.

Whatever Gretchen Carlson’s politics may be, she got it right in real life and in the film when she stood up for herself on Fox and Friends, when she went on air with no makeup to make a point about the sexualization of girls, when she sued for sexual harassment, and now, as she campaigns to eliminate non-disclosure clauses for workplace harassment suits.

The film is resonating with women. Last weekend it opened on four screens in New York and LA and is off to the races with one of the best per-screen averages in 2019. Total, it made $312,000. It goes nationwide this weekend, and I for one, am super excited to hear about how it will be received in middle America, especially from Megyn Kelly fans like my own mother.

There are definitely aspects that are going to be a hard sell to that crowd, including an evangelical Christian Millenial played by Margot Robbie. Her’s is a composite character drawn from interviews of harassment survivors at Fox who, for fear of reprisal or because of their NDAs, stayed anonymous. Robbie’s Kayla is a closeted lesbian or bisexual who rejects being labeled as such. She eagerly jumps into bed with her coworker, a fellow researcher on the O’Reilly show, played by Kate McKinnon.

Kate McKinnon plays Jess Carr, a lesbian and a Democrat who’s flying under the radar working as a journalist and writer on the O’Reilly show. She lights up the screen, as she always does, and the chemistry, sexual and otherwise, between her and Robbie’s character produced some of Bombshell’s most memorable moments.

Later in the film, she’s targeted for harassment by Ailes. A sexual appetite is one thing, being the object of someone else’s sexual appetite is another, and neither should be a temptation for good Christian girls, as any survivor of the church (yours truly among them) will tell you. And yet the church, like the corporate world, is the perfect environment for men in power to leverage their authority to isolate, groom, and rape women.

The #MeToo reckoning facing the church may be slow to come out, but it will, and it will be led by a generation of conservative women who may not identify as feminists, but will for sure recognize themselves the same way Carlson and Kelly have. And in times as divided as ours, I hope leftist women will be ready to reach across the aisle to join their fight.

In Bombshell, there is a constant tension between women in solidarity with other women, women who side with men, and women who look the other way. It’s one of the most important messages of the film and told with shocking nuance for a movie written and directed by men.

In Bombshell, there is a constant tension between women in solidarity with other women, women who side with men, and women who look the other way. It’s one of the most important messages of the film and told with shocking nuance for a movie written and directed by men.

Kate McKinnon plays Jess Carr, a lesbian and a Democrat who’s flying under the radar working as a journalist and writer on the O’Reilly show. She lights up the screen, as she always does, and the chemistry, sexual and otherwise, between her and Robbie’s character produced some of Bombshell’s most memorable moments.

Margot Robbie as ‘Kayla Pospisil’ and Kate McKinnon as ‘Jess Carr’ in BOMBSHELL. Photo Credit: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle.

But Jess knows what will happen to Kayla, what is happening to Kayla, once she’s under Ailes’ eye. And she can’t face it without jeopardizing her job. Now that she’s worked for Faux News, the journalism gigs available to her are realistically nonexistent. The struggle between her and Kayla, her too-late attempt to hold Kayla’s pain actually had me sobbing in the theater. For lesbian women, this film offers a whole other dimension of authenticity and resonance.

The struggle between her and Kayla, her too-late attempt to hold Kayla’s pain actually had me sobbing in the theater. For lesbian women, this film offers a whole other dimension of authenticity and resonance.

Bombshell is out nationwide this weekend. I highly recommend it, and I’d even recommend taking your Republican mother, that is if you’re ready for a tense but very important conversation about how we as women are going to step into our power and lead the way out of this patriarchal hellscape.