Bombshell is one of the first movie that tried to overcome the COVID-19 emergency. In fact, the movie should have been released in Italian cinemas in late March, but given the mandatory closure of cinemas, 01 Distribution decided to distribute it via Amazon’s streaming platform, Prime Video, where the movie has been available for a few days.
Bomshell is the true story of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Roger Allies, CEO of Fox News. In 2016, Roger Allies was fired from his role thanks to the testimonies of anchorwoman Gretchen Carlson and many other journalists who highlighted the sexual harassment that these women had had to suffer from him over the years.
A topic still too actual, which cinema and television are beginning to highlight. But what’s the answer from us men to these issues? Partly worried. Because we feel judged. We see those attitudes as an attack on an entire category. Yet boys, Bombshell can be the right opportunity not to be part of the category, to stand out, to learn and be able to understand what is wrong in a certain way of “being a man” and that today no longer makes sense that it exists.
Boys will be boys
For example, Bombshell can teach to men how to behave (and not behave) when we are in a situation of power.
The scene that shows us Allies’ predatory attitude takes place inside his office. Kayla is a young producer who dreams of being able to work on the weather and, bravely, decides to go talk to her boss to make him understand how suitable he was for that role.
I know, this thing will already make many men turn up their noses. But how, a woman who alone enters a man’s office? “Don’t you know, boys will be boys?” So let’s reformulate the scene. Let’s say that instead of Kayla there had been a young Kaylo and that, bravely, he had decided to go talk to his boss to make him understand how suitable he was for that role. Here, how would we take this attitude? Would we say that Kaylo is a brave man, a man who knows what he wants and who is not afraid to show his worth or who is unwary to be alone in his boss’s office behind closed doors?
Why didn’t she say no?
Through flashbacks we understand that one of the actions that Allies often did when “proving” women for the network was to make them stand up (who knows if he also did it with men!) and make them a turn on themselves (the women wore skirt by his own request). But inside the office, Kayla discovers that the story was only half told. Because yes, Roger made women take a turn on themselves with the excuse that “television is a visual medium”, but what no one had said was that Roger asked to raise the skirt to “uncover legs”. And with the excuse of uncovering legs, she demanded that the skirt rise more and more until, in practice, she showed her underwear while he watched. And this thing, Kayla like many women before her, do it.
And here I imagine the note (from men): if for her was not ok, she could have said no, scream, run away, do something. Maybe it’s perfect to introduce the meaning of harassment.
For years, we have subjected the idea of harassment to two behaviors: violence and physicality. The idea that we made of the harassment is that an attitude in which something was asked violently, and if there was no condescension, this violence was transformed into something physical, constricting, was harassing. We have always imagined harassment with scenes of women screaming, wiggling, crying (thanks cinema and tv for teaching us this!). But it’s not.
Harassment has to do with a power imbalance situation. Even if the request is made politely or with a “plausible” apology (such as showing the legs) and without any form of “physical touch” by the person, the harassment is perpetuated because the person is subjected to a constriction psychological dictated by the imbalance of power.
In this case, the person in front is the head of the company, it’s the person who can determine her working future or even her working permanence. There is no level playing field to simply say no, to scream, to run away. It’s an abuse of authority. And the answer to abuse is not always defense.
Imagine how many times bosses have offended you in the past for doing a job wrong. They maybe say to you “idiots” or similar. How many times have you answered? How many times have you thought that answering would be disadvantageous to you? Here, now imagine this, but with actions and not just with words.
So what can we learn from Bombshell?
Beyond avoiding harassing attitudes (that is simply civil behaviour), we understand that creating a (working, familiar, friendly) environment where everyone can feel free to express the feelings of unease allows you to eliminate the imbalances of power. It allows people not only to feel free to be themselves, but to live (or work) better. Because they know they are in a protected environment, where they will be able to ask for help when they feel in a situation of difficulty if they feel discomfort
Isn’t this the world that we imagine could be useful to everyone?