The Morning Show: How Business and Television Can Help Us See Possible Contributions to Peace

By Timothy L. Fort PhD, JD, Eveleigh Professor of Business Ethics and Professor of Business Law & Ethics, Kelley School of Business and Indiana University​

To date, this column has been devoted to films that provide a lens through which we might see the ways that various cultural artifacts, including business, music, sports and film, can help us see possible contributions to peace.  This month, I’m expanding beyond film to its screen cousin, television, with attention given to AppleTV’s The Morning Show. 

The Morning Show aired its first ten episodes in Fall, 2019 and quickly gained multiple nominations and awards in Hollywood’s award season.  The show centers on the kind of morning program popular in the U.S. and elsewhere that features a mix of news, interviews, weather, and special segments, usually including some goofy or cute ones. 

The Morning Show, however, is a fictionalized, behind-the-scenes look at a dark side of a workplace culture riven with sexual assault, harassment, cover-ups and complicity, especially with respect to the conduct of one of the anchors for the show.  While the anchor is fired in the first episode, the following nine flashback to the “why” he was fired, his own efforts to attempt to exonerate himself, and perhaps most interestingly, the complicity from the team, in the face of an investigation, to keep things quiet. 

This complicity includes the co-anchor, Alex Levy played by Jennifer Aniston, who along with others, has turned a blind eye to what has been going on.  (So I don’t do too much spoiler-alerting, I’ll refrain from describing what happened in the final episode of the season.)

Given the recent conviction of Harvey Weinstein, The Morning Show (along with a recent film, Bombshell) is timely and provides a good deal of color and context into sexually hostile work environments.  Thus, it makes for a good case of business ethics, but what does it have to do with peace?

In part, the connection has to do with the theory, of which I am associated along with others, that good ethical business conduct is an incremental contributor to peace.  Just as avoiding corruption, providing economic development and jobs, and following rule of law principles exemplify good, ethical business conduct, so too does avoiding sexual harassment and tolerating hostile workplaces. 

Arising from that argument and going further, studies by Terry Dworkin and Cindy Schipani show correlations between violent societies and those in which there are significant amounts of gender inequity and abusing treatment of women.  Thus, a work environment where there is sexual harassment and hostile culture contribute to a cultural ethos more permissive of violence than of one contributing to peace.  It is in both of these ways – generally ethical businesses and specifically with respect to exemplary treatment of women – that The Morning Show provides a grim picture of what to avoid and what it might require to take on such a culture.  And it is in that light, that The Morning Show provides another cultural touchstone for understanding how both business and film/television can shed a light on peace building.

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