Bombshell: More than just a movie
Bombshell: More than just a movie
This Oscar-winning beauty icon is also cognisant of the fact that inappropriate and boundary-breaching sexual behaviour is not triggered by women’s appearance, nor related to socioeconomic status or nationality. This starkly compelling knowledge gave her the impetus to spearhead the film, Bombshell. Sadly, it’s a movie to which we can all relate.
Theron speaks passionately. “Sexual harassment isn’t specific to just one industry. This issue is something that affects women who are picking avocados, this affects women who work in a bank. And I think I saw the potential to tell this story from a perspective that all women, of all different nationalities or backgrounds, could relate to, such that we could share something and maybe have a conversation about bringing change. And so that was really the intent with Bombshell.”
The film, which stars Theron as former Fox anchorwoman Megyn Kelly, and Nicole Kidman as fellow anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson, illustrates the toxic culture at Fox News, created by former CEO Roger Ailes (played brilliantly by John Lithgow). But, as Theron says, the way in which Ailes behaved is emblematic of many situations in the workplace all over the world. “All women, no matter who they are or what they represent or where they work, should be able to go to work and be safe.”
Needless to say, not all workplace sexual predations are committed by men. Women are culpable when they act as accomplices, enablers, as did Judy Laterza, Roger Ailes’ secretary. “Yes, she knew what she was doing by bringing those women [to his office]. I’m particularly fascinated by the Ghislaine Maxwells of the world,” Theron says. (Maxwell is the daughter of disgraced publishing mogul Robert Maxwell. She allegedly recruited under-age girls for perhaps the most abhorrent of all men, Jeffrey Epstein). “She brought girls to Epstein,” nods Theron. “We can’t ignore [the reality] that women are just as complicated as men.”
Theron began her career in South Africa as a model. Now a force to be reckoned with, Theron radiates the image of a woman not to be messed with – in any realm – but that wasn’t always the case, and she hasn’t forgotten the days of feeling vulnerable.
“When I was a young model, there was definitely an atmosphere when I was working on shoots that, looking back, I felt was incredibly abusive. And ultimately, that’s a really shitty position to be in as a young girl.”
Although the male/female pay disparity has moderated in certain professions, we have a long way to go before something like a state of effective parity is reached. “Hillary Clinton said that there’s still advice given to women when they reach positions of power. They tell them, not to put up any photos of their family in their office. But if you are a man, put a lot of family photos up,” she laughs, shrugging her elegantly straight shoulders. “It’s the dichotomy of being a woman. You don’t want people to know that you have this other thing that might take your attention away, but as a man, it makes you look even more impressive that you can run this firm and have this entire family.”
Nicole Kidman says of Gretchen Carlson, the catalyst that took down Roger Ailes after she brought the first sexual harassment suit against him, “I think she just reached the point where she decided ‘No more’. What is the breaking point? It’s different for all of us. And she was the type of person who finally said, ‘I’m going to do something about this.’”
Incidentally, Carlson is also played by Kidman’s old pal, Naomi Watts, in the TV series The Loudest Voice, opposite Russell Crowe. “You know, Naomi and I never talked about it because our conversations tend to be about our children,” she chuckles. “We usually talk about real life, just the juggling of what we do and the travelling, and that tends to be what we discuss. Ours is a true friendship. I think the work stuff, for whatever reason, tends not to get discussed.”
Luckily for Kidman, she escaped such soul-wrenching situations other women have come to know as ‘just another day at the office’, the career-jeopardising dilemmas that haunt practically every work day. “I’ve had people confide in me about their experiences and I’ve certainly seen things, but I don’t share any of those experiences.”
It’s Margot Robbie’s character in the film, Kayla, a composite fictional character representing many women who worked at Fox at that time, who experiences sexual harassment and abuse of power at its worst.
“Like many women, Kayla didn’t feel she could come forward because she didn’t have the job security, the financial security [that Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly had]. I think speaking out for her was incredibly difficult, and I think there are still so many people who cannot or don’t feel like they can speak out for myriad reasons.”
Robbie hopes those women who feel unable to speak out will feel empowered after watching Bombshell. “I hope that those people who feel like they can’t come forward find some sort of solace or reckoning in watching that experience.” She shrugs. “Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. You can only hope.”
Theron wants to make clear that sexual harassment is not gender-specific, nor is it a ‘women versus men’ phenomenon. “I can’t stress this enough, we cannot fight this fight without men joining it. And there are so many men who have stepped forward. Every time we have screened this film, it’s incredible how many men have come up and said, ‘I could never even imagine that scene with John and Margot when they are in his office, that something like that could even happen, plausibly happen.’” She pauses. “I know so many men in my life who don’t want this for women, who don’t want this for their wives, their sisters, their daughters,” she says, passionately. “We are not alone in this fight.”
Click here to read MiNDFOOD’s review of Bombshell.