Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, despite the fact Anita Hill came forward and accused him of repeatedly sexually harassing her. After spending the last few years since he was confirmed keeping a very low profile, Clarence Thomas is back in the spotlight. This time, all eyes are on the Supreme Court justice thanks to HBO and its dramatization of his appointment to the court in Confirmation.
The program debuted on HBO Saturday night, and stars Kerry Washington as Anita Hill and Wendell Pierce as Clarence Thomas. As the Business Insider points out, Confirmation is a biopic that is going to overcome some of the flaws that tend to come with these kinds of presentations, but the publication says it goes beyond the pageantry of the hearings involving Hill and Clarence Thomas and shows us what they were doing while all eyes in the nation were on them.
HBO isn’t just showing what happened with Clarence Thomas, either. The biopic shows how Washington changed after Congress turned back the nomination of Robert Bork. Confirmation also centers on a discussion of race in the United States, well before Barack Obama was sitting in the White House. Some claimed Thomas was named to the court only because he was replacing the black Thurgood Marshall. Others felt as though Thomas was an insult to the black community because he was a conservative version of Marshall, who was hostile to his legacy.
Confirmation looks at all of these things while attempting to put together an entertaining program. As Time magazine points out, Confirmation centers on the he said, she said of the hearings that introduced us to Clarence Thomas in a way that will be forever remembered.
“For witnesses to this spectacle, whether there in the Senate Caucus Room or at home in their living rooms, deciding who was telling the truth was all but impossible.”
Time reports Jill Smolowe wrote at the time. HBO’s Confirmation also centers on Hill’s assertions that she didn’t want to come forward earlier because she understood allegations against Thomas might actually turn her into the villain, instead of a victim. There were other women who were rumored to have filed allegations against the Clarence Thomas but they refused to come forward when his nomination went public.
Back in 1991, Clarence Thomas was said to be a victim of the Democrats trying to stop a deeply conservative nominee. In Confirmation, it’s shown that Anita Hill herself was a law professor who was actually on the same political side as Thomas. The show also underlines she didn’t want the allegations to get out, and that was one of the reasons he hadn’t said anything despite the fact the sexual harassment she alleged happened 10 years before the confirmation hearings.
Confirmation also shows that despite all the talk all the allegations against Clarence Thomas, his ability to avoid being taken down by Hill wasn’t really the point. In 1991, sexual harassment in the workplace was still a relatively new thing, as far as actually being talked about. Suddenly, people all over America saw even the Supreme Court had to have the discussion that still made people quite uncomfortable. HBO is careful not to pick a side, as Business Insider points out. One could assume Thomas’s other accusers meant there was smoke and fire there, but HBO doesn’t touch that. Instead, the show looks at how salacious this story was despite the fact that there wasn’t any actual sex involved. Now that the drama has aired, it’s a safe bet Clarence Thomas will have to face the spotlight one more time.
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