Bombshell Parent Guide
Bombshell tackles the critically important issue of sexual harassment without putting any sex on the screen. But there's lots and lots of profanity.
Parent Movie Review
One afternoon when I was sixteen, I stopped in at the fast food restaurant where I worked to pick up my paycheck. The manager handed me the check and made a crude comment. I was young and naïve and didn’t fully understand his meaning, but I was very aware that it was sexual in nature. He laughed and the other guys in the office laughed and I turned red and walked out. I have long since forgotten the manager’s name and face, but I can still remember how I felt. Stupid. Vulnerable. Humiliated.
I used to say that I was one of the lucky ones because that’s the worst thing that happened to me – I’ve never been groped or propositioned or assaulted. But I no longer see any good fortune in being demeaned because of my sex. And I’m pretty sure the protagonists of Bombshell would agree with me. Just because they weren’t beaten and raped doesn’t mean they were lucky…
Bombshell is based on the real life 2016 sexual harassment scandal that brought down Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, played on screen by John Lithgow. The film begins with veteran broadcaster Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) watching her career collapse thanks to her determination to challenge Fox’s sexist corporate culture. With a lawsuit in mind, she starts assembling evidence of sexual harassment against Roger Ailes, noting events, recording conversations, and excerpting TV segments. When Carlson’s fired, she launches a lawsuit. And waits for other victims to come forward…
Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) has a difficult decision to make. Reeling after a very public tweet-storm from presidential candidate Donald Trump, Kelly doesn’t want to rock the boat. She also experienced sexual harassment from Roger Ailes, but the episode is in the past, and Kelly doesn’t want to jeopardize her job or those of the employees on her show. But as Kelly grapples with her conscience, a young evangelical journalist, Kayla Pospisil (a composite character played by Margot Robbie) comes into Ailes’ orbit. And history repeats itself.
Bombshell tackles a critically important social issue – sexual harassment – without putting any sex on the screen. There is no nudity and no explicit descriptions of sexual activity. (Although there are two partially clothed, post-coital scenes unrelated to Roger Ailes’ peccadilloes: one involves a husband and wife, the other two women.) There is, however, an abundance of profane, crude, vulgar, and sexual language. Bombshell contains over three dozen sexual expletives and other crude terms for sexual acts and over two dozen terms of deity, some of which are combined in phrases that will doubtless offend religious viewers. There are also scatological curses, anatomical terms, and mild swear words. The excessive amounts of profanity push this production into Restricted territory. And that’s unfortunate because this is a movie that raises critically important issues and could be used as a starting point for meaningful discussions with teenagers.
Viewers of every age will surely empathize with young Kayla Pospisil, flushed with shame, when Ailes tells her to raise her skirt so he can check out her legs. “Television is a visual medium” he says, staring greedily and breathing heavily, as her skirt rises above her underwear. And audiences will also nod along with Kayla when she accuses Megyn of betraying her and other victims by failing to come forward earlier about Ailes’ predatory behavior. Bombshell is very clear in condemning Ailes but it doesn’t shrink from pointing out that plenty of women enabled his continued abuses – from his secretary bringing women into his office, to his wife defending him, to Fox personalities such as Greta Van Susteren and Jeanine Pirro who attack Carlson, Kelly and the other women who come forward. This film isn’t just a cry against male sexual entitlement, it’s a call for female solidarity against harassment, assault and other forms of victimization. Hopefully, it’s a call that will be heard.Directed by Jay Roach. Starring Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron, and Nicole Kidman. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release December 20, 2019. Updated March 4, 2021
Watch the trailer for Bombshell
Rating & Content Info
Why is Bombshell rated R? Bombshell is rated R by the MPAA for sexual material and language throughout.
Violence: A woman has been sick; she is told she might have been poisoned. A character is coerced into a sexual act: nothing is shown on screen and there is no descriptive detail. A woman receives threatening mail, including death threats. Children are frightened when a man jumps a fence and tries to take photos of their home. A man threatens to punch another man. A main character alleges that the Obama administration wants to have him killed.
Sexual Content: A journalist argues about the legal status of marital rape; no detail. A woman is insulted by a presidential candidate who says she has “blood coming out of her wherever”. She is incredulous at the idea of “rage menstruation”. A husband and wife are shown in bed together, prior sexual activity is implied. Two women are shown in bed together; one of them is doing up her bra; sexual activity is implied. A woman shows TV clips where she is constantly treated as a sexual object. A man tells a woman that her promotion is dependent on allowing him into her hotel room; sexual favors are implied. She is fired for refusing. There is mention of an employer calling an employee and masturbating while talking to her. A vibrator is discussed. A man tells a woman who is trying to get a promotion to twirl around and compliments her on her body. He asks her to raise her dress up so he can examine her legs. She grimaces and he breathes heavily as her skirt rises until her underwear is visible. A woman recalls a man grabbing her breasts. Women are heard describing prior sexual assaults, including a woman describing a sexual act we can’t discuss on a family website. This sexual act is repeatedly mentioned in terms of a quid pro quo for promotions at the network. A woman calls a friend and cries when she tells her that she performed this act on their boss. An employer tells a woman he’d like to see her sexy bras. A man grabs a woman and tries to kiss her against her will. Women are frequently seen in tight dresses that reveal cleavage and lots of leg. Their legs and bodies are frequently discussed by men. One scene shows women in a change room, putting on shapewear and sticking cutlets (padding) into their bras.
Profanity: Over 100 uses of coarse and profane language, including over three dozen sexual expletives and other crude terms for sexual activity, over two dozen terms of deity (including a few occasions where sexual expletives are mixed with names of deity, which will offend religious viewers). There are also approximately a dozen anatomical terms and a variety of mild expletives.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A woman is given an anti-nauseant pill after vomiting. People drink casually in social situations. Two women drink in a bar and say that they’re drunk.
Page last updated March 4, 2021
Bombshell Parents' Guide
How accurate is Bombshell? Check these links to see where the director took editorial license.
Slate.com: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Bombshell.
Harper’s Bazaar: Your Cheat Sheet to the True Events in Bombshell.
For more information about the Roger Ailes sex scandal, check out the following link.
To learn more about Gretchen Carlson, you can click on these links.
Vanity Fair: Gretchen Carlson is On to the Next Fight
Sexual harassment is a serious problem in schools and the workplace. Have you ever been a target? Have you told anyone or sought help? Are you aware of your legal rights and the supports that are available to you?
Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Sexual Harassment and Assault at Work: Understanding the Costs
The New York Times: It’s Not That Men Don’t Know What Consent Is
Rain.org: Sexual Harassment
University of New Hampshire: Sexual Harassment: Helping a Friend
Leanin.org: Dealing with Sexual Harassment
Why do you think it took so long for Gretchen Carlson and the other women at Fox to come forward with their experiences? What do you think needs to be done to make workplaces and campuses safe for everyone?
Psychology Today: Why Don’t Victims of Sexual Harassment Come Forward Sooner?
The New York Times: Why Women Can Take Years to Come Forward with Sexual Assault Allegations
American Psychological Association: What it really takes to stop sexual harassment
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Prior to her lawsuit against Roger Ailes, Gretchen Carlson published a memoir ironically entitled Getting Real. She has since released Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back.
Megyn Kelly has also written a memoir. Entitled Settle for More, it covers her career at Fox News and her move to NBC as well as Donald Trump’s feud with her.
Gabriel Sherman wrote The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country, a detailed biography of Roger Ailes. Another biography of Ailes was written by Zev Chafets, Roger Ailes: Off Camera. For Ailes’ own perspective on television, you can read his book, You Are the Message: Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are.
For more about Ailes’ impact on his network, try The Fox Effect by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News wasn’t created solely by Roger Ailes. To learn more, read Neil Chenoweth’s Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Media Wizard.
For a very skeptical, highly comedic look at Fox News, you might be interested in Joe Muto’s An Atheist in the FOXhole. A liberal, Muto spent eight years at Fox, ultimately working as associate producer on The O’Reilly Factor.
The most recent home video release of Bombshell movie is March 10, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Are you interested in family friendly movies that can help you address issues of sexual harassment with teens? High Strung Free Dance is a clean movie about a dancer who gets entangled in a relationship with her choreographer. This film is a great way to bring up questions about workplace relationships, power differentials in relationships, and consent.
You might not have considered it as a #MeToo movie, but Phantom of the Opera raises all kinds of issues including sexual entitlement, stalking, and fear of saying no.
For a movie about the entanglement of personal wealth and media ownership, watch the classic film Citizen Kane. Directed by and starring Orson Welles, this is considered one of the greatest films ever made.
Politics and the press combine in The Post, in which Katherine Graham has to decide if her newspaper is going to publish the leaked Pentagon Papers.