A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the TV movie Confirmation, which tells the story of the 1991 Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, deals with mature themes, including sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and behind-the-scenes politics. It contains explicit references to genitalia, crude sexual conversations, and so on, but these comments are offered in context. Cursing is also frequent. Families with teens can definitely have a conversation about this landmark case, its history, and whether the world has changed for women since then.
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What's the story?
The HBO original movie CONFIRMATION is an interpretation of the events surrounding the controversial and highly sensationalized 1991 Supreme Court nomination hearings for Judge Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce). When President George W. Bush put forward the conservative, African-American judge and former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) director to replace outgoing Justice Thurgood Marshall, the process is expected to be routine. But when Anita Hill (Kerry Washington), an African-American law professor at the University of Oklahoma, is approached by Senate investigator Ricki Seidman (Grace Gummer) and the media to discuss the sexual harassment she endured while working with him a decade before, both she and Thomas find themselves under national scrutiny as they testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee headed up by Senator Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear).
Is it any good?
This intense movie highlights the politically motivated chaos surrounding one of the most sharply contested appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court in American history. It also discusses the racial discussions of the time while focusing on underscoring the injustices endured by Anita Hill during that period. It credits her willingness to go public for pushing the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace, and the treatment of women who come forward to complain about it, into the national political spotlight. Finally, it points to the national backlash that ensued, which led to a substantial increase in the number and visibility of women elected to public office.
Viewers too young to remember may find it a little slow-going, although appearances by Eric Stonestreet, Jennifer Hudson, and other notable actors add to its appeal. However, chances are that folks who watched the events unfold over two decades ago will recognize the range of archived news stories and Senate hearing footage, which is successfully combined with reenactments of key events and fictionalized moments to tell the story. Regardless of what you may think about what actually transpired, the overall narrative offers the chance to reflect on how these events contribute to our overall understanding of what sexual harassment is and the patriarchal and political hurdles that women still have to overcome to be respected in the workplace today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what transpired during the Clarence Thomas nomination hearings. Why was simply nominating the now-Supreme Court judge so significant at the time? Would it have the same significance today? Would people react the same way to Anita Hill's testimony today? What messages did the overall experience send to the U.S. government and the nation?
Should TV and movies that reenact and interpret historical events be as accurate and objective as possible? Should people look to these productions as a legitimate way of understanding what actually happened and why it happened?
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