Separate but equal is a phrase often synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement. However, the phrase took on a very different meaning when it came to the Clarence Thomas hearings, in which a college professor, Anita Hill accused the future Supreme Court justice of sexual harassment. The hearings were so intense and popular that even SNL parodied them with a skit in which Chris Rock introduces himself as “long dong silver”.
Sexual harassment is no laughing matter. Having been in this situation with a former boss and a former colleague, I can testify that as a woman you are frightened. Frightened that you will be called a liar. Frightened that your reputation will be forever tarnished. Frightened that your own self-respect comes into question. Most of all, you are frightened that if you tell or speak up that the person you are accusing will come for you not just emotionally, but physically. No people sexual harassment is not laughing matter or a day at the beach.
Unfortunately, Hill found this out the hard way. Her reputation was tarnished, she lost job, friends and the respect of some her colleagues. What she did not lose was her dignity and self-respect. She gained thousands of admirers and ultimately became the face for those who were afraid providing them with the courage to no longer sit back and remain a victim. The number of women that became elected to political office after those hearings was staggering and now America finds herself in a position to actually elect a woman as President of the United States. Wow, how times have changed…sort of. We still have Clarence Thomas who I wouldn’t be surprised is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump. The thought of it all make me cringe.
HBO’s “Confirmation” takes us back to that time when Anita accused, Thomas denied and hearings were led by now Vice-President Joe Biden.
Kerry Washington as Anita Hill is spectacular and much more contained than her character on ABC’s “Scandal. ” Nailing the vocal nuance of Hill’s emotionally cracked voice, as well as, the grace, quiet fire and subtly when Hill finally does let her veneer armor crack. Washington may finally get that Emmy that has eluded her thanks to this polished performance.
As we know, Olivia Pope on Scandal is loosely based on Judy Smith, a “crisis management expert”. Interestingly enough, Smith was White House Press Secretary for the George H. Bush administration and played a rather large role in countering Hill’s claims of sexual harassment against Thomas in the media. This was a role Washington was born to inhabit.
Wendell Pierce, often known for being the cherubic comedic relief in many of his projects (Remember him in “Waiting to Exhale” or on the CBS sitcom “The Odd Couple?”), plays Thomas with an iciness reminiscent of the Supreme Court Justice seen during that time. Pierce might want to polish off his mantle for a little gold as well.
Director Rick Famuyiwa and writer Susannah Grant compliment and enhance each other’s strengths. Grant, known for writing numerous projects where women are at the forefront (Erin Brockovich, Pocahontas, Ever After, In Her Shoes), is the perfect off-screen partner for Fumuyiwa, who has written about the African-American experience from every vantage point ranging from the hip hop world to interracial marriage to coming of age stories (Dope, The Wood, Brown Sugar). Together, they make “Confirmation” very enjoyable and educational to watch for those who weren’t privy to watching this in real time.
As we now know, Thomas and Hill’s refusal to continue testimony brought the hearings to a screeching halt and allowed Thomas to be sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Anita Hill became popular on the lecture circuit and continues to inspire women all over the world.
If you don’t have HBO and are not able to catch “Confirmation” check out this documentary on Anita Hill and the review I wrote up on it…
Here is the trailer for CONFIRMATION