Within the late four days, I saw both films on HBO channels. In both films, we see female characters striving to prove themselves while constantly under the strict male gaze and while often being the only woman in a room full of men.
This will change as Kay finds her voice, grows some brass ovaries and reports on an irresponsible president instead of concentrating on celebrity lifestyle reports.
Ben knows Kay has this strength in her. In their restaurant meeting, she's passive and he's dominant. You'd think he was the boss. He's a green light. She's a yellow light. He keeps going. She halts. She progresses at a reduced speed. He challenges, irritates and motivates her to be the publisher, to make the hard decisions, to be the leader. He tells her how much she has at stake. He tells her the truth.
In Spielberg's THE POST, Ben Bradlee is to Kay Graham what Dr. Lecter is to Clarice Starling in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. He irritates and motivates Clarice Starling. He tells her the truth. He knows what she has at stake.
Both men respect the intelligence and accelerate the drive of a woman who can overcome a bad force in a big house. For Clarice, it's a killer in a shabby house of horrors. For Mrs. Graham, it's a president in the White House violating the Constitution of the United States. Both men, Ben Bradlee and Dr. Lecter, help a woman distinguish herself.
I understood and connected to Meryl Streep at Kay Graham. When Ben Bradlee tells his wife that Kay has decided to publish, even though the government may threaten her with jail time, the wife calls Kay "brave." Ben scoffs at the word. But, his loving wife reminds him that he's a man, a man of privilege. If he's fired, he can easily get another job. But Kay is the first woman in a job that she never planned to have.
As a black person in America and in a few workplaces, I've had to prove himself and very often work twice as hard to make half as much as a white guy with a smaller resume, I understood the invisibility that Kay felt early in THE POST. I know what it was like to not feel good enough, to not feel that my opinion mattered, to feel that executives were looking past me. When that's been your reality for a long time, it takes some newfound muscle and speed to break that barrier. I saw THE POST in a New York City theater. When Kay finds her voice and, faced with a bunch of mansplaining businessmen in her dining room at night, shuts them up by declaring, "My decision stands, and I'm going to bed," I wasn't the only one who cheered and broke out into applause. The whole audience did.
Check your HBO listings or check them out on DVD. I highly recommended the feminist sisterhood in both Steven Spielberg's THE POST and Jonathan Demme's THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. And if I owned a retro movie theater, I'd put two films about the same newspaper on a double bill -- THE POST and the story that followed, Alan Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. The same newspaper, the same editor and publisher, the same U.S. president.