The Brothers
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The Brothers

Making Black Women the Sacrificial Lamb

The Black man been dead now it’s time to sacrifice the sistas — total, Morning Show spoiler

Critiquing the culture of silence.

Showing how we can use our voices to end years of misconduct and speak truth to power….just so long as that “we” is not US.

That’s the message that The Morning Show delivered to Apple+ and its viewers.

The same type of sacrifice was pointed out to me earlier this year, and, while I saw it, I thought it was merely par for the course.

But it’s more than that.

Since the Black has been neutered and rendered incompetent, the focus is now on tearing down the image of the stereotype of the “strong Black woman,” eliminating her agency, and making her a tool in the power play between the real combatants — the white man and white woman.

If you’re reading this, this shit is a spoiler…in every sense of the word.

But there were Black women.

And it was pointed out to me how poorly these women fared/were represented.

You had the psychiatrist (who didn’t listen), the mother on the bus who rebuked Arthur Fleck for joking with her child. You had the Black woman down the hall that Fleck fantasized about, and you had the prison psychiatrist at the end.

These women were supposed to either save and aid our protagonist, Fleck. Perhaps if they would just care, tap into their Mamie instincts, then Fleck wouldn’t have gone over the edge. Maybe if they gave a little more, there would be no Joker.

Typical shit? Sure. Within the confines of Hollywood movies, it’s pretty damn common to see the cities depopulated of all color. The world is a playground for white people and we are not invited.

I get it.

And it’s because of that common trope that I was able to sit back and enjoy Joker.

But that was two hours.

The Morning Show is ten plus hours of viewing where that message is hammered in pretty clearly — the Black woman is a plot point — not a character to be developed and understood.

Generally, I’ll wait til the end of a season, mark some time after the Saturday EPL matches are over, and let em rip.

But there are shows that I watch week to week. I watched Game of Thrones that way, I’m watching The Mandalorian in that fashion, and I also enjoyed watching The Morning Show every Friday over the past few months.

I usually avoid reviews because I don’t want them to color my experience. The only thing I knew about TMS was — Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell — I would have watched on the strength of that alone.

If you ain’t know, the show, in summary, is about the firing of a popular morning show host (Carell) after his sexual misconduct is exposed and the struggles that the show, it’s network and executives face in light of this revelation.

I spent many years working in television and it was pretty common to see a slew of young, highly educated women, darting through the studio with clipboards. They answered to the (usually) powerful men that were the Executive Producers and dealt with sexual advances the same way they dealt with craft services — it was a daily operation.

Ninety-nine point nine of these women were Ivy League educated white women. If there were any sistas, they were receptionist or studio supervisors, rarely any role of power.

If they were in power though, no one fucked with them. These Black women fought their way into these positions, rose through the ranks despite the heavy opposition and obstacles, and had a level of self-preservation seen in soldiers.

That’s why I was shocked by TMS’s first reveal.

Up until Episode 4, the “who” in the harassment case is unclear. The episode titled “That Woman” is where it finally comes to light.

As is expected, the “victim,” Ashley, is a young white woman who no longer works for the show. Improbably, she’s brought back to the show to discuss exactly what happened between her and the former Morning Show co-host Mitch Kessler.

She cries. She struggles. But she gets through with the interview. What a brave and strong woman.

Then comes the great reveal.

It wasn’t just Mitch’s sexual harassment that got him out the paint, nope. This dude Mitch Kessler was also having an ongoing affair with a Morning Show producer, Mia Jordan.

Remember those sistas up there that I just mentioned that had to claw themselves into their positions? The ones with survival skills like Navy Seals….them?

I’m supposed to believe that she would put that job on the line to sleep with this dude Kessler?

Hey, I know the world has changed and the dudes power, blah blah blah, but I find it hard to believe that a woman of that caliber would put herself in a position to be exposed like that.

Also, I’m supposed to believe that in a moment of feeling scorned, this same woman leaked the social misconduct angle to the New York Times?

Improbable but not impossible. I get it.

I also get how, a few episodes later, she loses her shit and gives a confessional speech to the entire production crew of The Morning Show. Everyone is prone to explosions on this show.

But after that moment, the Mia character fades to non-importance as the stature of another assaulted “victim” comes into view. The show then shifts gears to the next reveal — the fate of Hannah Shoenfeld.

Me? I read the name Hannah Shoenfeld and the absolute last person to come in mind is a women that looks like Gugulethu Sophia Mbatha-Raw.

Yeah, you don’t see race or whatever trope we’re throwing out but names have meaning. I’d be real interested to know Ms. Mbatha-Raw’s process for building the Hannah character; mostly because that name and the character’s position (junior booking agent) is typical of the clipboard wielding women I mentioned above.

Not taking the care to rename “Hannah” after casting to allow Ms. Mbatha-Raw a stronger foundation to build her character upon is an insult to the actor…but I digress.

The contrast between Ashley and Hannah is striking. Where Ashley was able to make it out of the environment, Hannah’s decision to stay was the embodiment of silence.

Ashley was brave enough to come forward and speak. Hannah, even when pressured insisted that she remain anonymous.

We’re spared the visuals of Ashley’s assault, the image of her being degraded kept from us. For Hanna, an entire flashback episode is introduced so we can see in uncomfortable, triggering detail how the position of power is used to manipulate the innocence of youth and ambition.

Due to the fact that the series begins with the firing of Mitch Kessler, his behavior is mostly spoken of, there are some moments of ass-hole-ry but we don’t get to see the environment that permeated The Morning Show set until Episode 8 titled, “Lonely at the Top.”

Carell does an excellent job of portraying the powerfully likable man that masks his inappropriateness with humor. We get the impression that everyone is accustomed to his ways.

We watch as Mitch swaps out his former conquest for his new prey as he has Hannah included on a breaking trip to Vegas (due to the shootings of October 2017 which is when this episode takes place).

After a failed attempt at bedding his co-host, Alex Levy (Aniston), Mitch prowls the Vegas strip until he stumbles across Hannah who’s visibly distraught.

Mitch’s humanity and tenderness puts Hannah at ease, disarmed, she heads to his hotel room. What happens next is the crux of the nuance behind the #metoo movement.

When Hannah stands to leave, Mitch moves in for a hug, which turns to wandering hands and ultimately some form of sexual relations. Despite being visibly bothered, Hannah never says no.

Back in New York, she passes Mitch in the hallway, he barely acknowledges her, and she marches straight to top executive Fred Micklen’s (Tom Irwin) office.

Hannah fights through tears and attempts to explain to Fred what’s happened in Vegas but before she can even utter the words, he cuts her off and tells her that she doesn’t have to say anything (later in a court testimony I’m sure he would say that he never was told anything and go to some creepy office cam to prove it).

Fred quickly turns the tables:

Hannah Shoenfeld…I’ve heard about you. I hear you’re doing some great work. Hannah Shoenfeld…I heard head booker might be your future.

Mbatha-Raw deserves an Emmy for being able to tow the line between anger, pain, and disbelief those few seconds before she says, “so this is how it happens.” Fred jumps in:

Absolutely. People do fantastic work and they get promoted. That is absolutely how it happens.

With that, Hannah is head booker, Fred has put out a fire (without incriminating himself — he never heard anything) and it’s the most painful two and a half minutes of the ten plus hours of programming.

Ashley was able to hold herself together. Sure she was hurt. She busted out in some tears. But she could manage. The next two episodes (Episode 9 & 10) sees Hannah unraveling.

And it startled me — Hannah, a Black woman, just took it. When Mitch asked for her support, she capitulated. When Mitch accused her of using the situation to advance her career, nothing.

Yeah, she snapped on a few people but only the good white women that are trying to “help” her.

All of it is too much for Hannah who’s found dead in her apartment of an apparent overdose.

Da fuck.

Up until this point, there’s a power struggle between Fred Micklen and his coalition with Alex Levy and the insurgent executive Cory Ellison/Mitch Kessler front that has Bradley Jackson as their front facing spokesperson.

But Hannah’s death compels Alex to jump ship and join Cory Ellison and gang in outing Fred for being complicit in covering up the many indiscretions of Mitch Kessler.

The return of Crispus Attucks in the form of a head booker — the first sacrifice. Sure, everyone else was wounded — -but they lived to fight another day and the other Black woman? After her tirade in Episode 7, Mia Jordan’s character fades away.

That’s to be expected. It’s beyond a trend — it’s the norm.

Seeing sistas like this though…had my antenna not been up from Joker, I may have missed it. Seeing the Hannah Shoenfeld character sprawled dead on her living room floor compelled me to fire up Medium and write this piece.

I understand that we don’t want to be typecast into stereotypical roles — we should be free to play the wide expanse of characters of each and every production, but when do we take a second to look beyond the small screen and at the big picture?

America doesn’t manufacture shit. But one thing America exports all over the earth is entertainment. From our movies that overperform in most foreign markets to our music that drives world culture, the perception of Black people is enforced by our portrayal in media. With so few Black characters in the first place, The Morning Show’s treatment of Black women gave me the Black folk/Horror Film feels; a few episodes in and you knew they were going to die — I just thought it would be figuratively.

My consumption of mainstream media hasn’t been what it once was, I haven’t analyzed the vast majority this year’s output, but I don’t believe in coincidences, especially when it comes to Hollywood — they are who invented typecasting, ain’t they? I’m just hoping that this is a two off and not the beginning of a trend in the portrayal of Black women.

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