Talking TV – Don’t Miss This!

 

I realise I’ve been telling everyone about a new series called Morning Wars. It’s an American drama about abuse of power and sexual assault in the workplace. It’s set on a TV morning talk show in the wake of the #MeToo movement and it’s had a profound effect on my thinking. It  hit home for me in a way I wasn’t expecting. 

 

This might seem strange coming from a Community worker, considering I work with the trauma and impact of abuse on women and children every day. But this was different. Why? Because this isn’t a domestic scenario : it’s set in a workplace. And also a big part of the story is focused on the abuser and the subtlety of manipulation. 

 

The story opens when the Mitch character (Steve Carell)  is fired because he has been accused of sexual assault. It cleverly depicts him as the victim. His female co-host (Jennifer Aniston) trusts him and his story (we think!) The show develops into an amalgamation of emotion, deceit and betrayal.

 

Mitch is portrayed as such a likeable character (in my defense Steve Carell is likeable).  I believed him and almost felt sorry for him, just as his colleagues did. (Spoiler alert! But when the full story is revealed I felt as shocked and disgusted as Jennifer!)

 

I see these power dynamics so often in the families that we work with  but to see this manipulation and abuse happen in a workplace was a reminder of the many avenues abuse of power permeates. It both fascinated me and made my skin crawl to see how I developed empathy toward Mitch. It was a reminder that so often in life, and on screen, we believe in these types of Mitch characters – they are friendly, easy going and often charismatic and most of all successful and powerful. These characters exist everywhere, whether it is in the home or at work, or even in parliament house – as we’ve recently learnt from Brittany Higgins experience.

 

Authority over others gives these characters both power and we assume, certain privileges. “Privileges” that so often translate into insecurity for women in the workplace, while cementing an unequal status quo. In one scene, I understood what it would feel like, to feel as if there is no way ‘out’ and if there was one, you just missed it! In this scene it was as if the culture of the workplace silenced her, and her predator had entrapped her. By watching these power dynamics play out on TV, through characters that I came to know and warm to, I went on a rollercoaster with them. And in the end I came to understand that even though it is messy, such a culture can never be normalized. 

 

The Morning Wars Show and its clever writing is a great reminder of how sensitive and complicated abusive relationships are. It showed how we all hope that we can play a part at affecting culture on an individual level. TV sparks thoughts, conversations and ways of being, which bleed into the day to day to initiate a status quo that is equal, safe and just. 

 

We need to start normalizing a better culture of support and security in every aspect of our lives.

 

Written with Alison, Community Worker & Group Worker

 

To read more on the story about Brittany Higgins 

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