Bombshell Showcases The Courage Of Women Who Spoke Up
There is a line in Jay Roach’s Bombshell which ousted daytime anchor Gretchen Carlsen says with a stoic nonchalance, that perfectly sums up the basis of the movie. It could, in fact, be tied back to the political dissent that is happening in our own backyard.
“The number one rule of corporate America is you don’t sue your boss.”
To give a little context, the legal industry in America was slated to bring in 266 billion dollars in revenue by 2018, while also being number one in incarcerations per capita. Contrary to this is the legal industry in India, which is at 1.3 billion dollars at the moment, with litigation forming about 25 percent of this revenue.
These are verifiable facts.
Bombshell is important for a lot of reasons. It brings women to the conversation, informs that conversation and almost makes up our mind for us. Almost, but not quite.
The same happens in Apple TV’s The Morning Show. In TMS, a fictional male co-anchor of a morning news show played brilliantly by Steve Carrell who doesn’t understand what he did wrong when he used and abused his position of power in the workplace with women. The show also explores the system of complicity and enablement of predatory behavior, trying to address these thorny issues without sounding preachy. For the uninitiated, Steve Carell’s character is loosely based on Fox News’s Billy O’Reilly and his NBC counterpart Matt Lauer, among others.
What makes Bombshell spectacular is simply this – You don’t sue your boss in corporate America and get away with it. You settle. You sign NDAs and non-competes. You swallow the daily humiliation and shame that comes with knowing you “allowed” something to happen to you because you were weak and vulnerable and in a powerless position against a person who signs your paychecks.
Survivors, for centuries and eons and civilizations, have put up with this quiet shameful indignity for reasons that are as mundane and pedestrian as buying groceries. For the sake of their family. For shame of society. To keep a job. For that paycheck.
But believe me when I tell you this – the number one reason survivors don’t talk about sexual harassment in the workplace and outside of it is fear. Fear of being shamed. Fear of being forced to relive a horrifying trauma. Fear of not being believed. Or worse, dismissed.
There is another quote in Bombshell where one of the young producers who works with Megyn Kelly asks her, “Why didn’t Gretchen speak up till after she was fired? Why now?”
At the height of the #MeToo wave that swept across India and all parts of the world, detractors ALL OVER attacked survivors who told their story with this one question – Why now? Why wait?
Bombshell does try and do an admirable job of trying to present three possible reasons for why the women at Fox handle this kind of predatory behavior by lead anchor of The O’Reilly Factor- Bill O’Reilly and Fox CEO Roger Ailes, who put not one or two but five US presidents in the White House.
I, personally, might not fully agree with these reasons because the truth is, sometimes when victims keep quiet and become survivors, they are part of the culpable system that protects such predatory behavior.
But, the other truth is this – We can’t walk in someone else’s shoes. We can’t know why they survived the trauma the way they did and why they didn’t speak out right then and there. And, we have no right, as a society to deny someone their right to healing, at whatever point they choose to talk about it. To whomever they wish to talk about it.
But let me get back to the main reason why Bombshell is important. Why the stories of Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlsen, Vinta Nanda, the unnamed Uber employee, the ones who accused Harvey Weinstein, and every single one of us who has ever been made to feel less, unsafe, sullied, filthy, sick, and sinful by a predator are historically and culturally important.
It’s because some of these people broke the number one rule in the corporate workplace. They sued their boss. They hit their boss in the wallet and bottomlines. They did so publicly and with full knowledge of the consequences of this one radical act. And they won.
Image Credit: YouTube screenshot
Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal is the bestselling author of more than 10 books. She is also an amateur poet and fierce feminist who loves naps and the city of her birth – Mumbai.