Culture Caucus Podcast: ‘Confirmation’ and the Truth About Docudramas

In the eighth episode of the Culture Caucus podcast, John Heilemann and Will Leitch discuss the obligations of docudramas: Do they have to stick to the historical record?

Last Saturday, the film Confirmation, a dramatic exploration of the infamous Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of 1991, debuted on HBO. The film received mostly positive reviews, and it served to conjure up all those ugly memories of 25 years ago, and force us to wonder if we'd learned anything since. The hearings were a flashpoint for issues of gender and race and the workplace—debates that we still haven't entirely pinned down today. Plus, it was fun to watch Greg Kinnear's Joe Biden impersonation.


In the eighth episode of the Culture Caucus podcast, we look at Confirmation and, more broadly, at the notion of docudramas. How much obligation do they have to stick to the historical record? Does it matter if they're factual if they tell a more emotional truth? And is their most important job simply to entertain, or to educate? Or neither? We discuss the film and also John's specific experience with the HBO adaptation of the book Game Change, which he wrote with our own Mark Halperin. What's it like seeing your words turned into cinema?

In the second half of the podcast, we talk to Jane Mayer, whose new book, Dark Money, is about the Koch brothers' influence in politics. She also co-wrote, with Jill Abramson, the book Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, about the Thomas hearings, and she discusses her thoughts on the film, how truthful it feels, and which sections she found to be a cop out.

Mayer is amazing, and it's worth downloading just to listen to her, even if you're sick of us. You can e-mail us at Come say howdy!

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.