That teaser trailer of Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron from Bombshell, the forthcoming film about the sex scandal that exploded in 2016 around Roger Ailes, the late, disgraced CEO and chairman of Fox TV, is gripping for many reasons, not least the retina-scorching colour all newscasters must wear. But Jeez, Nicole’s hair.
Bombshell, we are lead to believe, and so it may prove, is An Important Movie about An Important Topic. Meryl Streep pretty much ordered Nicole Kidman to take the role of Gretchen Carlson, a front line, based-in-fact presenter who, along with her colleague Megyn Kelly (played by Theron), courageously took Ailes down for sexual harassment.
It’s all throbbingly topical. As are Nicole’s, Margot’s and Charlize’s ‘dos. I barely recognised Nicole under that pumped-up thatch which is such a faithful recreation of newscaster hair it borders on parody.
Distracting? Maybe Bombshell is more about hair than anyone involved with it has thus far realised. After all, the ‘dos of US newscasters, both male and female, are a case study in the semiotics of human behaviour. US news hair, especially on Fox TV, is political: a metaphor for Fox’s news delivery in its bombast, intolerance of nuance or backsliding and its don’t-give-a-flying-flamingo for the environment. Fox’s stalwart anchor Tucker Carlson looks as though his hairspray consumption alone may have blitzed several ozone layers.
Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson in 2016, when the film is set
There is no precise equivalent of Fox News Hair anywhere else in the world. Not in Russia, where News Hair tends towards Sexy Babe. Not in Italy where it veers into lap dancer Territory, particularly on all Berlusconi-owned channels. Certainly not in France, where French newscasters are impeccably tousled and superciliously low-maintenance. And definitely not in Britain, where blow-dries and implausibly tanned skin are generally viewed with suspicion by the serious news sources.
When you watch Laura Kuenssberg for instance, you’re more likely to be distracted by her attempting to keep that lip curl under control as she discusses Jacob Rees Mogg than by her hair. No offence to Kuenssberg, but she sometimes looks like a woman run ragged by her work schedule, although her immaculate manicures tell a different story - one of exemplary time management, perhaps.
In Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, Malcolm Gladwell’s latest bestseller, the social science reporter argues that Bernie Madoff (whom many thought a beacon of trust) and Amanda Knox (whom many presumed guilty) had , like Hitler, a fundamental “mismatch” between their behaviour, appearance and character which floored even those who are laser-like when it comes to distinguishing truthfulness from insincerity.
Those straightened, volumized, ribbon-curled within an inch of their lives US hairdos are meant to project an aura of unflappable, unruffle-able, 100 per cent under control invulnerability. But maybe what they really tell is the opposite. What time do those female newscasters have to get up to ensure their hair is camera ready? Doesn’t it ever fall out and make them cry? Don’t the bouffanted men ever feel a little bit foolish? That seemingly indestructible hairchitecture might just be the C21st version of Marie Antoinette’s status-laden three feet high wigs, all show and no real power.