Bombshell 2019

The provocative real story of three whip-smart, ambitious, strong women who anchored one of America’s most powerful news networks — becoming headlines themselves when they risked everything to stand up to the man who made them famous. Bombshell is a 2019 American drama film directed by Jay Roach and written by Charles Randolph. Bombshell is based upon the accounts of the women at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

Bombshell 2019 Trailer

Exam Question:

Explain the way in which another media narrative that you have studied this year was read in a particular way by one audience at the time of its release.

6 marks

In 2019, the time of Bombshell’s release the #metoo movement was on higher rotation on social media platforms. Twitter and Facebook both highlighted the sexual harassment of women, suggesting the magnitude of the problem in corporate America. Hence why audience expectations were met when the casting was considered by Director Jay Roach. Audiences in 2019 were expecting to be confronted with scenes representing toxic masculinity and the ideological context of Gender to be read as disturbing.

Audiences in a contemporary landscape are empowered by the three leading ladies, Theron, Kidman and Robbie. This power trio acknowledges and aligns with the narrative’s central plot. Making them the, “Poster Girls” for sexual harassment in Corporate America. A modern day representation of the once recognised, Erin Brockovich.

The #meetoo movement was something 2019 audiences could align with and understand the social values around equity and equality in the workplace. Both women and men, at this time were openly discussing the importance of talking about and uncovering miss treatment of individuals, more importantly men in powerful positions. Bombshell was able to talk to audiences at a time when they were ready to learn about the disturbing things happening in workplaces around America.

Exam & SAC Question: 10 mark response

Media narratives implicitly or explicitly comment on, reflect on, develop, reject or ignore ideologies.

Analyse the ways in which a media narrative that you have studied this year is shaped by ideology. Use the characteristics and/or construction of your selected media narrative to support your response.

10 marks

Media narratives are shaped by ideological concepts underpinning the time period of the society the text was produced and distributed. Gender is often represented in narratives and this ideology has significantly evolved over time. Bombshell released in 2019 is a film text that explicitly reveals both toxic masculinity and female empowerment in Corporate America.

An important characteristic to the moving image is sound. This characteristic within this media form allows audiences to feel and sense the mood of both the characters, the setting, the ideological context and the themes propelled within the narrative. The sound, in particular the dialogue and narration was employed in Bombshell to reflect the power struggle and determination of the female characters in the text. The leading female protagonists were often projecting their point of view to the audience through their internal dialogue. Audience would hear what their brains were saying without their mouths moving. Their inner voice and thoughts. This clever use of Score was used as a reoccurring motif throughout the narrative to ensure the themes of empowerment and intellect were read by the audience.

Casting was considered in construction to ensure the narrative’s explicit ideology of gender had impact on the audience.  Using three of Hollywood’s most recognised actresses, Theron, Kidman and Robbie ensured that the representation of the ‘heroine’ was obvious right from start. Stamping out the idea of toxic masculinity in the workplace across Corporate America. Furthermore, considering the #metoo movement that underpinned the fabric of America in the time Bombshell was constructed.

Another social value making headlines around the time of construction was, ‘toxic masculinity’. The cultural consideration of how males are being represented in mainstream media was a factor in Jay Roach’s Direction in Bombshell. Audiences would here the motif of Instrumental Score when toxic masculinity was being represented in a scene. The violin, trombone and cello were dominate and reoccurring sounds heard by the audience in the opening, development and resolution of the narrative. This would allow the audience to feel a sense of imminent threat made by a male character in the scene.

Bombshell, like Erin Brockovich was a film text shaped by the ideological context of gender evolution in Corporate America. Both texts are constructed and distributed, factoring in the social values that were present in the fabric of the society that the texts were consumed and read.

Exam & SAC Question:

Discuss one ideological or institutional context that has had an effect on the production or distribution of one media narrative that you have studied this year.

4 marks

The ideological context of Gender was threaded through the narrative, Bombshell. The true story that shocked American viewers in 2019 revealed the toxic masculinity within the iconic, media empire, FOX Corporation. Given that the Forth Wave Feminism movement, circulated most of American States audiences were ready to consume and read this high-profile story. The #metoo campaign was also in higher rotation in 2019 on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Headlines were circling around the Harvey Weinstein accusations, creating buz and awareness of the gender debate in Corporate American, giving the film, Bombshell’s narrative further ideological context.

Exam Question:

Explain how two media codes and/or conventions work together to engage an audience in one media narrative that you have studied this year.

7 marks

Camera techniques alongside mise-en-scene worked together in the film text Bombshell (2019) to explicitly convey masculinity to the audience. Both techniques engaged the audience by ensuring the male characters were feared and the female characters were empowered. Distance, Placement and Shot Selection indicated to the audience that the men would have control and power over the women. This was almost represented in every scene using camera technique and mise-en-scene. Close-Ups, Panning and Zoom techniques engaged the audience by ensuring the men were read by the audience as powerful, creepy and intimidating. While costume as a component of mise-en-scene works to aid this representation of toxic masculinity.

Power business suits, often navy and grey in colour were consistently worn by the male characters. Antagonist, Fox CEO Roger Ailes was often seen walking with a cane or walking frame to reveal another layer of shade to his character. The camera would zoom and then pan upwards on the walking frame and cut across to his overweight body and promote his stiff legs that shuffled along to convince the audience of his limited manhood. Using this camera technique indicated his weakness, however by placing him in an expensive, power suit allows his character to intimidate his female staff.

Director Roach would ensure the position and placement of both genders were situated in an uncomfortable manner. This would be achieved by having mise-en-scene and camera techniques working together. Personal space was often represented to the audience, allowing them to feel uneasy about the power play between the two genders. A clever way to convey the ideological context of gender in Corporate America.

Credits & Titles

Credits and Titles are important Media Conventions in the moving image. In Bombshell (2019), Director Jay Roach uses Regina Spektor’s, One Little Soldier. Why and how is this connected to the narrative? Have a look at the lyrics and video clip and make the connection to the film’s plot.

Regina Spektor: One Little Soldier

The use of Symmetry as a Characteristic

Using Symmetry in Set Design

Symmetry in design refers to the arrangement of the elements on a page that are equal to each other on both sides. Symmetry in film is a very complex and counterintuitive technique. The question that most commonly arises is, ‘how can a frame that has perfect bilateral symmetry create such a sense of unease?’ Surely a frame that is ordered in dimensional ratios would create, at least psychologically speaking, an aura of natural equilibrium. Director Stanley Kubrick was well known for his use of Symmetry in Film. Kubrick understood that by using Symmetry as a technique it would allow his audience to have a distressing effect on their mind.

There are two types of Symmetry used in film: Axial Symmetry & Translational Symmetry.

Axial Symmetry = Objects mirroring each other. Creating a balance in the composition of the shot. Aesthetically pleasing for the audience. Creates an effect on the eye where the focus is on one subject.

Translational Symmetry = Where the subject or object is repeated in the frame to have the eye focus on multiple subjects at once.

Visual medium of storytelling: Using Semiotics ‘the study of signs’

Social norms: The standards by which behaviour is judged in a social group; the way the members of a group are expected to think, feel or act. Social norms determine to a large extent whether we feel that our attitudes are sound and our actions appropriate.

Social norms and expectations change and evolve depending on where you grew up and when you grew up. Therefore, social norms, behaviours, values and beliefs are highly considered in the construction and distribution of media texts.

Using SEMIOTICS (the study of signs) in media texts: Creators of media texts will adapt a formula, using semiotics to ensure the social norms help propel their narrative. This is the subconscious visual medium of storytelling we often receive as the audience.

An example of this is using Costume & Colour to provide audiences with a visual representation of social norms. Having girls wearing pink and boys wearing blue. Or Character & Setting. Having the female characters at home looking after the children and having the men set at their workplace. This however is an example of how social values have changed and depending on where and when your narrative is set may have these character roles in a reversed situation.

Exam Question:

Explain the way in which another media narrative that you have studied this year was read in a particular way by one audience at the time of its release. You must refer to a different text from the one you used in the previous question.

6 marks

Media Narrative: Bombshell

Jay Roache’s 2019 drama, ‘Bombshell’, despite its star-studded cast of critically acclaimed actors such as; Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie, performed poorly at the Box Office. With a budget of $32 million USD, the film only grossed $319,157 in its opening week. A surprisingly lower figure in comparison to other films produced by Lionsgate and other mainstream film distributors.

Part of the films initial Box Office failure can be contributed to the time in which the film was released, as it was distributed and consumed in theatres on December 19. Audiences would be less interested in seeing a confronting drama that depicts the sexual assault and misogynistic, real events of Fox News, during the holiday season.

In the United States the films R-Rating also prohibited potential audiences that did not meet the age limits and restrictions to view the text. However, despite Bombshell’s Box office failure, the film eventually grossed $61.4 million in the Box Office and was picked up by Streaming services after its release. It was clear to creators and producers that the film was better received by audiences at the start of the year and not during the Christmas, holiday season.

Narratives implicitly or explicitly comment on, reflect on, develop, or reject or ignore ideologies. Discuss the relationship between media narratives you studied and the ideological contexts in which they were produced and read by its intended audience. Your discussion must comment on the following; (10 marks)

  • The ideological context of production (social norms)
  • Code and conventions used to convey meaning
  • How the narrative was read by intended audience

Ideologies in society frame the nature, form and structure of media narratives. Gender is a common ideology presented in media texts that has evolved over time and is explicitly highlighted in films ‘Erin Brockovich’ (Steven Soderbergh, 2000) and ‘Bombshell’ (Jay Roach,2019).

In Soderbergh’s biographical legal drama, producing a feministic film in 2000’s was very different to Jay Roach’s drama in 2019. Society at the time were entering the third wave of feminism that began in the early 70’s. Women were fighting and contesting for individualism and diversity in search to redefine the gender roles in society. However, audiences at the time were not engaged by this issue, therefore Soderbergh embedded comedic elements, such as the way the audience interprets Erin when first introduced being represented as a ‘crazy lady’ and is destined to fail in the world of the film. In order to engage his audience, the film’s production was to be altered to shadow the underpinning of feministic ideologies in order to build a greater impact for later audiences. Whereas the production of ‘Bombshell’ varies. In 2019, a major factor of society was the beginning of the #Metoo movement. Victims of sexual harassment publicized allegations of sex crimes in workplaces in order to detest the acceptance of the sexual culture in various industries. As this movement, along with the topic of toxic masculinity were woven into the fabric of society, and audiences were willing and engaged by such topics, this gave Roach the ability to explicitly demonstrate a feministic ideology and deeply examining the struggles of women in American workplaces.

In producing Erin Brockovich, to develop a feministic ideology that depicts gender roles, Soderbergh employs the use of the character arc of George. This character when introduced to the audience contests audience expectations on the working dynamic in a relationship, and the care giving role for children by women. He is the one to be looking after Erin’s three children whilst she investigates into the case. By changing the role of men and women in the film, the audience is drawn into the narrative in the media product. Similarity in Bombshell, Roach focuses on the convention of casting to present the ideology to the audience. The three key roles are fulfilled by three of Hollywood’s most recognised actresses, Theron, Kidman, and Robbie to develop a strong representation of ‘heroine’ in the media narrative. This media code particularly impacts the way the audience interprets, reads, and engages with the film as they choose to champion and relate to the female characters.