By Neha Kirpal
Based on real-life events, the newly released Hollywood drama Bombshell begins with a reference to the 2016 lawsuit filed by Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson against the company’s CEO Roger Ailes, alleging him of sexually harassing her.
While the entire office is shocked and abuzz with the news, what gradually unfolds is a series of testimonies and allegations related to the same by several other women colleagues. When the ripple effect becomes a revolution of sorts, Ailes ultimately loses his job.
Bombshell is a show of strength by women in which they stand up for and support one other rather than slut-shame, ridicule and judge each other. The three leading ladies—Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie—play their roles to perfection.
Loosely based on Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly’s 2016 autobiography Settle for More about these real-life events, the film goes on to prove that the #MeToo movement which only recently gathered steam in India has deep roots in the US’s patriarchal society where over the years incidents of sexual harassment have become extremely commonplace.
While concepts such as the ‘casting couch’ are nothing new in showbiz—whether in Hollywood or Bollywood—this landmark case marked an important milestone in the global #MeToo movement, leading a string of women to boldly speak up against similar injustices done to them.
Interestingly, the film also features Kelly questioning then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump about how he has treated women on several occasions. This in itself is a bold step for a woman anchor to have taken in a news channel that is largely Republican.
Apparently, Trump trolled her repeatedly for days after the incident—and the film shows snapshots of his real tweets and archival television footage. The fact that it made for “good TV” (and which Indian viewer wouldn’t agree that controversy breeds higher TRPs—think Arnab Goswami!) was Kelly’s sole saving grace.
The story is a familiar one in India as well, where certain news channels and publications stick to a pro-Modi stance, and consciously steer away from anti-Establishment shows and discussions.
Another startling truth that came out from the film was that no matter how developed or underdeveloped a country is, the plight of its women and issues related to men’s mindsets and behaviours towards them, especially in workplaces, remains largely the same.
Roger Ailes, who died one year after losing his Fox News job following a head injury, was also the subject of a seven-part series starring Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice, which chronicles his rise and fall.
Unfortunately, unlike in the US, in India the #MeToo movement which shook the entire country in 2018, has mostly stalled as of 2020. This is possibly due to various cultural or other reasons such as women’s silence, shame in reporting incidents to the authorities and the fear of losing one’s job.
Moreover, there have also been many cases of the accused going scot-free and even filing defamation cases against the accuser. For instance, former Union minister MJ Akbar sued journalist Priya Ramani for criminal defamation and Tamil director Susi Ganesan filed a case against screenwriter and filmmaker Leena Manimekalai.
Even well-known actors and directors in the spotlight such as Alok Nath, Nana Patekar, Rajkumar Hirani and Vikas Bahl have been largely cleared of all charges of sexual assault against them.
Further, in India, the voices of rural women, domestic workers and other socially backward classes have found no resonance amidst all the clamour and confusion of a largely elitist, big-city movement such as this one.
Bombshell highlights the fact that the movement to call out sexual predators at workplaces can only succeed if women are in solidarity with one another, and if the men in their lives believe and support them through the challenge of standing up.
Syndicated to CNBCTV18