The Steven Spielberg-directed film, “The Post” is a very good film.
It is about an era in America when journalists were an intrepid tribe loyal to representing “facts” and “truths” with as much objectivity as they could.
The New York Times and The Washington Post are the heroes of the film, as they were the heroes of 1966 and thereafter, when both papers attempted to publish classified documents, The Pentagon Papers, leaked by the State Department military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg. The documents exposed the United States’ 30-year involvement in the Vietnam conflict.
However, the historical context notwithstanding, “The Post” is less about a vanished era of courageous journalism in the United States, and more about Katherine Graham, the Post‘s publisher.
Katherine Graham was the first female publisher of a major American newspaper; this historical nugget assumes a central place in the film. The narrative of her life is like the narrative of everywoman, minus the wealth, in a man’s world. The film begins at a moment when the Washington Post is in a crisis; it’s losing money in the market and investors are not happy with the Post‘s performance. But what investors are really not happy with is the specter of a woman at the helm of affairs.
The Post was owned by Graham’s father, who passed on the leadership mantle to her husband. Graham tells her daughter that at that point she thought that was the way things were–a man running the business. If Graham had a male sibling, the paper may have passed on to him.
The film emphasizes, in subtle shades of anti-patriarchal grays, that women can, if given an opportunity, make decisions, run businesses and demonstrate exemplary leadership. The Post’s old guard comprises of men who believe that the family should loosen its control over the paper, meaning thereby that Katherine Graham should stand in the back burner of its daily operations so the trusted old boys club could take control. Dithering and frazzled at first, Graham finally finds her own voice in the film when she takes an enormous risk of incarceration and beyond to preside over the paper’s publication of the Pentagon Papers.
The film in totality is about an intrepid woman; this is evidenced by the scene when Graham is shown to walk out of the Supreme Court, and women, young and old look up to her in awe and admiration. It is no coincidence that she walks amidst a throng of women. She is illuminated as a female role model.
I think the film should have been named “Kay” (Katherine Graham’s nickname) instead of “The Post” as it resonates well with the current cultural imperatives of the #MeToo moment.