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Between #MeToo second chance and cancel culture, Apple TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ finds its feet

The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, shows the power of a second chance in its latest season.

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The world has changed. If you are older, you’ll say it has become more woke, derogatorily. If you are younger, you’ll say it hasn’t changed enough. Apple TV’s The Morning Show manages to touch all the relevant chords when it comes to issues most of us have experienced or talked about recently — cancel culture, sexual misconduct, same-sex relationships, discrimination in the newsroom or at work. The show, with its star-studded cast, highlights the power of a second chance.

With a stellar line-up — Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Julianna Margulies, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass and Steve Carell — the American TV show, at times, fumbles as it tries to do it all but as the second season progresses, much like its characters, it finds its feet.

“The truth matters. Sometimes it’s the only weapon that we have against the powerful men who are trying to shut us up,” Bradley Jackson, played by Witherspoon, says in the show.

Also read: One year after India’s big #MeToo wave, a reality check

Cancel culture, the new ‘sport’

Ever since the #MeToo movement shook the world in 2014, cancel or call-out culture has gained momentum, seeking accountability from the people responsible for sexual harassment or assault.

Mitch Kessler, portrayed by America’s ‘Michael Scott Steve Carell, is fired and denounced publicly after allegations of sexual misconduct surface against the star anchor in the first season of the show. While the first season was a fictional depiction of how the #MeToo movement can send even the most prolific newsrooms into a tizzy, the second season attempts to understand the undertones of the damage caused by the storm.

What happens next? We all have heard of people being called out for their irresponsible and often unforgivable acts. But not many of us know what happens to the accused after the public condemnation. That’s what the latest season of The Morning Show attempts to deal with.

After being cancelled, Mitch stays in a swanky, luxurious property in Italy (not the kind of life any of us would imagine for a perpetrator). But life is not all hunky-dory for him. He stays alone with a dog. His wife and children do not speak to him anymore. Nobody takes his calls or checks in on him, except for a fellow sexual predator at his former workplace trying to rise against feminists of the world. Mitch is not interested. He doesn’t seem interested in anything. At one point, he is sitting alone in an ice-cream parlour, minding his own business, when a woman launches a verbal attack at him, recounting all his misdeeds in the US.

Later in the season, Kessler’s former co-anchor and an equally big name in the media business, Alex Levy, played by Jennifer Aniston, fears being cancelled too. For being silent, for not acting soon enough. After leaving the network abruptly at the end of the previous season, she returns, oblivious to the changing dynamics and reality of her workplace and the audience. But when she realises that she will be a major part of famed journalist Maggie Brenner’s expose book, all hell breaks loose. The self-obsession that helped her stay at the top of her game all these years spirals down into a mad rush to disassociate herself from the book.

Throughout the show, Levy’s constant fear of being outed and cancelled walks the audience through the anxieties one has to battle in this social media-influenced world. The Morning Show also portrays the cost of a second chance. Can you get a shot at redemption without accountability for your actions?

This new cancel-culture sport, as Aniston describes it, feels reckless when you are shown how heavily it weighs on a character like Levy. Unforgivable acts or bad judgement — the show does not absolve Kessler or Levy’s blame, but does question the morality of it all on a human level. Who decides what is enough?

Also read: Art, life and Bollywood’s role in violence against women

Women of The Morning Show

The Morning Show is headlined by a stellar cast of several women with Julianna Margulies’ Laura Peterson being the most impressive. In the newsroom of UBA (United Broadcast Association) where scandals, egos and corruption crowd every officer, Peterson seems like an advocate for all of us. She has no ulterior motive and speaks her mind. She matches up to Aniston’s Levy.

The journey Levy and Jackson embark on at the start of the season as competing anchors to how they reconcile their differences is a comment on female allyship — or the lack thereof — in office spaces.

Contrary to its title, The Morning Show is not so much about journalism or journalists as it is about the world after #MeToo. It does not answer the questions it raises itself but perhaps that is not the intention anyway. Should toxic men get a second chance and are apologies enough? As Paola Lambruschini, the documentarian Kessler meets after an angry woman accosted him while he ate his gelato, summed it up, “She doesn’t know what she wants from you. If you apologise, she will say it’s insincere. If you try to do good for the world, it’s self-serving. If you dare to live your life, ‘the gall.’ If you choose to die, then you’re taking the coward’s way out. You must live and suffer. But you mustn’t do it in front of us and you mustn’t try to learn from it.”

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