Unlike me, be prepared. Amass an exhaustive starter pack of what you’ll need before you embark on watching The Morning Show.
This pack should include:
- Scads of snack food, the kind you shove in your mouth thoughtlessly through nervous eating.
- Fizzy drinks which will cleanse the palette for more snack food, and will segue into:
- Alcoholic beverages, preferably the kind you can pour into a sophisticated glass so you won’t feel left out of all the frenzied consumption (but it’s from elegant glasses) on your TV screen.
- Removal of all devices that can get you to the Internet, and as such, stop you from accessing shopping sites so you don’t attempt to find Jennifer Aniston’s wardrobe and/or redecorate your house to look like her apartment.
Because what you’re about to watch is going to put you through the fucking wringer. You will feel like you’re drowning, and then you’ll be wrung out, slack and lifeless and gasping for air, only to be thrown right back into the dirty water yet again in a desperate, but vain, attempt to get clean.
The Morning Show in brief (an effort at not too many spoilers) is a deep, fictional, dramatic dive into every aspect of what defines the #MeToo movement in a workplace setting. From the man who did it, to the woman who turned a blind eye to it, to the coworkers who put up with it, to the corporate bigwigs who covered it up, to the woman who wants to expose it…
To the woman who was destroyed by it.
That’s as far as I can get with spoiler free. The rest you read at your own peril.
First, I’ll tell you that I love Jennifer Aniston. I just do. I love her style and what I can tell of her personality, and I think she has oodles of class. She’s a person of fascination who has had every piece of her life dissected for the last three decades and she’s kept her chin up and her life private (or as private as she can) and carried on.
I also think she’s an exceptionally talented comedic actress.
But I am very sorry to say (but very happy to learn) that I had no clue she could carry a role of such extreme complexities and gravitas as Alex Levy in The Morning Show. It is my opinion that the entire show—which also has such exemplary talent as Reese Witherspoon, Billy Cudrup and Steve Carell—hinges on Aniston.
And she kills it.
I do not know whether to love her character or hate her (which is, by the way, the point). I know I feel compassion for her. And last, I get her down to my bones.
Her character, Alex, is a woman of my age, my generation, who, in doing nothing but having dreams and ambitions and working her ass off to reach them, is bearing the brunt of a situation that is not hers to own. She was expected to be the hero, the leader, when everyone forgets, years ago, when she was starting out, her opportunities were even less than are available today. To get where she is, she’s had to sacrifice, eat shit, get stabbed in the back and smile as she was slapped in the face. Everyone forgets that if she spoke up, she’d be cast out.
Everyone forgets she had no power.
Much more importantly, the power she has now is precarious at best, an illusion in reality, and she fights and scratches and plots and works to keep hold of the threads of it with every breath.
The sad truth is, to speak truth to power, you have to hold power. If you do not, except in very rare circumstances, your voice will go unheard, or you will be silenced. We women are splintered, we judge and we hold expectations of each other that none of us can live up to and we point fingers, and these things fragment our power.
But the bottom line in this show is: the man did it, and the woman is answering for it. At every turn, publicly, at work, in her family, and even inside herself. Somehow his behavior is her problem. He rambles around his huge, beautiful home, railing against how unfair it is his actions have consequences, and she’s out in the world, trying desperately to keep hold on what she earned because he put it in jeopardy.
In other words, she’s paying his consequences.
Perhaps the most important scene in this series comes in the beginning, when Alex sneaks into Mitch’s house and loses it on him.
She knows she’s expendable. She knows she’s no longer “the girl next door” her viewers can relate to. She knows she’s not supposed to be successful, because people don’t know what to do with successful women, and when I say “people,” it’s crucial to note that half of them are women.
Thus, she knows her time is limited. She knows he will get older and not only be expected to earn ridiculously good money, live luxuriously, and be successful and respected until he decides it’s over. Also, as the years roll by, he’ll only be seen as someone people can trust more and more. The intelligent, charismatic everyman turns into the intelligent, trustworthy father figure turns into the intelligent, trustworthy grandfather figure. And then he retires and plays golf or gets his own prime time TV show for a while to put a stamp on his legacy. After that, he’s out the door on his terms.
Alex knows she doesn’t have that. She has a shelf life, she’s already expired, and he is the only thing that’s keeping her going.
Why? Because the boys are running the shop, for one. They’re running the country, for another. And in all that, they get to control the narrative about what the public thinks, specifically about women like her, for the last.
So she has no hope. She only has what’s left of those threads she’s trying desperately to hold on to.
When Alex loses it with her daughter, good Lord above, I felt each word she screamed like a body blow. Little Miss Progressive Feminist judges the women of today by the ideals of today, completely forgetting that the women of yesterday paved the way for them to have those hopes for the future. They also have no true idea what’s about to hit them. Not knowing, they disempower those women who dreamed and strived and sacrificed and ate shit and got stabbed in the back and slapped in the face by alleging that they didn’t do enough and they’re still not doing enough when every step up was not on a ladder, it was climbing a fucking mountain. And frankly, it was and still is fucking exhausting.
When does it end, we women cutting each other off at the knees?
(As an aside, I was horrified, but unsurprised, when the Harvey Weinstein situation came about, and within a blink of an eye, people were asking Meryl Streep what she did about it, or more to the point, why she didn’t do anything. Like she was fully aware of his crimes, and it was her responsibility to hear the rumors that circulated and then call 60 Minutes. Like he didn’t take grave pains and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to shut people up. Not to mention women I talked with about it who asked why those women “just didn’t say something.” Or why other women didn’t speak out for them. Completely oblivious to the fact that they’re saying everything is somehow our shared feminine responsibility, even a man’s history of serial assault on women. It broke my heart. It pissed me off. And it still does. Both.)
I think it’s important to note, the end of season one is a victory only because Alex and Bradley told the story together. Bradley could not have done it behind Alex’s back, it would have fragmented the power of it. Alex couldn’t take the lead because her power was slipping, she wasn’t trusted, she’s no longer a woman people can relate to.
Together, they made fictional history, and the entire first season was leading up to that message. I just wish more of us would hear it. These two women are very different, they don’t get along, but they banded together, grasping at every loose string of power they could capture (and remember, they had two men helping them) to speak truth to power. And it rocked the (fictional) world.
Next, I’ll get into something that I sat in my darkened living room watching with such horror, I was honest to God chanting under my breath, “Don’t do it. Don’t. Please don’t do it. Don’t.”
But he did. Mitch did what he did to Hannah.
And then he kept doing it.
You have to watch nearly the entire season to get to the real horror of this, and they do not sugarcoat it. It’s traumatizing and nauseating and shocking, and it’s that last because it’s also completely not shocking at all.
I can’t even stand to type much about it. I can just say I hate that I’m grateful they filmed it the way they did. They showed that a predator is charming, and he uses the tools he’s amassed to snare and torture his prey, and that might not include him chasing her through the streets and beating her bloody. It’s mind games and power trips and twisting what you know into what they want you to know.
Last, I’m glad they gave the season enough time to tell this story fully. Time to give us the little nuances of Mitch’s personality (him offhandedly advising Alex to keep her mind off the Vegas shooting tragedy by saying “do some kegels,” and she doesn’t even blink because she’s so used to his comments like this, she’s immune to them). Time to remind us that, even in the middle of all of this very public stuff blowing up, women have families and relationships and histories to deal with. Histories that craft the people they are today and explain why they do the things they do. Time to share side stories, like Yanko and Claire’s, where co-workers may meet and genuinely fall in love, and what a minefield that is today.
And yes, I’m going to say it—me, the lover of our great and bountiful sisterhood.
I’m grateful they gave time to exploring women’s relationships and that we are not all meant to be sisters. To be friends. To get along. That we, too, will compete. That we, too, will go after what we want. That it isn’t all just holding back each other’s hair when we puke, there is shit we want out of life, and it isn’t about whether you have a penis or a vagina and banding together with your sistren to get it. Sometimes, you have to put yourself first. In fact, most of the time, you just should.
But even when we don’t get along, even when we’re competing, we can work together, and make each other better while doing it. And maybe, hopefully, we can learn to do it better. We can take care of each other along the way. If we can just fight for that foothold that isn’t in quicksand.
I’ve started the second season, and I’m not feeling the snappy, nearly unbearable tension of the first. I’m not understanding the motivations (though, The Red Shoes analogy was kick-fucking-ass). But I’m in deep now, so I’m not going to give up (and I adore Julianna Margulies too, so I’m keen to see what happens with Laura Peterson).
What I will say is that I hope a ton of people watch this so they can understand that #MeToo isn’t about a hashtag or the words “sexual assault” and “sexual harassment” without, if they haven’t experienced it themselves, understanding how very deep that goes. When that virus is injected into any situation, it’s a plague that infects everyone involved, some suffer worse than others, but everyone suffers.
I don’t have the answers, and warning, this show doesn’t either.
I’m just feeling the contradictory emotions of being both dismayed that it’s taken this long, and grateful to see a show that identifies the problem in even a remotely full way, taking one workplace situation, and teasing it out in all its putrid intricacy.
Because there will be no answers until we understand the fullness of the problem.
Until we face that putrid intricacy in all its manifestations.
Until we understand its an infestation, but it boils down to this:
A man took what he wanted from a woman, he felt entitled to do this.
And in doing it, in that moment, a moment which is a mere blink in his existence, he destroyed her entire life.
And that not only has consequences he should face.
It must stop.