Transcript: Wesley Morris: A Critic on Criticism | Jun 05, 2019

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer over a blue blouse.

A caption on screen reads "A critic's take on cultural criticism. Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says FILM, MUSIC, TELEVISION
REFLECT THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.
CRITICS HELP MAKE SENSE
OF WHAT WE SEE AND HEAR.
ONE OF THE KEENEST
OBSERVERS IS WESLEY MORRIS.
HE IS A PAST WINNER OF THE
PULITZER PRIZE FOR CRITICISM,
AND IS NOW CRITIC AT LARGE
FOR THE
NEW YORK TIMES
AND THE CO-HOST OF THE PODCAST,
STILL PROCESSING.
IN TORONTO, TO TAKE PART IN
A CONVERSATION AND A MASTERCLASS
AT THE KOFFLER CENTRE
OF THE ARTS,
WESLEY MORRIS JOINS US NOW
ON CULTURAL COMMENTARY
AND LOOKING AT ART
THROUGH A MORAL LENS.

Wesley is in his twenties, with short curly black hair and a full beard. He's wearing a brown and beige leather jacket and a striped white tee.

Nam says HI, HI.

Wesley says HI.

Nam laughs and says I SAID BEFORE
WE STARTED TAPING,
I'M SUPER EXCITED TO GET
THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO YOU.

Wesley says WELL, IT'S NICE TO BE HERE.

Nam says THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.
THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
YOU STUDIED FILM
AND LITERATURE AT YALE.

Wesley says I DID.

Nam says AND YOU HOST A PODCAST
WHERE YOU TALK ABOUT FILMS
AND THE BROADER CULTURE.

Wesley says UH-HUH.

Nam says UM, WHAT ROLE HAS FILM
PLAYED IN YOUR LIFE?

The caption changes to "Wesley Morris. The New York Times."
Then, it changes again to "Commenting on Culture."

Wesley says OH.
WELL, I MEAN, IT WAS A USEFUL
WAY TO START THINKING ABOUT...
WELL, OKAY, IT WAS...
(STAMMERING)
THE THING I WAS GONNA
SAY TO YOU JUST NOW IS
IT WAS A USEFUL WAY TO
THINK ABOUT THE WORLD,
BUT THAT'S A THING
YOU REALIZE AS AN ADULT.
AS A KID, YOU REALIZE THAT...
THAT THERE IS A WORLD
IN THESE MOVIES,
AND THE WORLDS ARE INTERESTING
AND YOU CAN LEARN
A LOT ABOUT PEOPLE
THROUGH THE MOVIES
AND, YOU KNOW, THROUGH ART...
OR, ABOUT ART
THROUGH MOVIES, TOO.
UM, BUT I DIDN'T REALLY
UNDERSTAND ANYTHING ABOUT, LIKE,
WRITING ABOUT MOVIES AS
A JOB OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.
I JUST, I LIKED THEM
'CAUSE MY MOTHER LIKED THEM
AND SHE PUT THEM ON A LOT.
WE WATCHED A LOT OF OLD MOVIES,
'CAUSE WE HAD A...
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT
HOW IT IS IN TORONTO,
THERE'S AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS,
AMC.

Nam says AMC, YEAH,

The caption changes to "Wesley Morris. Co-Host, 'Still processing.'"

Wesley says YOU GET THAT.
WELL, BACK IN THE DAY,
WHEN I WAS A KID,
IT WAS, LIKE, IT WAS
AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS,
AND THEY PLAYED
CLASSIC AMERICAN MOVIES,
WHEREAS NOW IT'S LIKE
THE WALKING DEAD.

Nam says RIGHT.

(BOTH LAUGHING)

Wesley says DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
THAT'S A CLASSIC NOW.
YOU COULD SEE
A GREER GARSON MOVIE
ON AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS,
AND, UM, I WATCHED
A LOT OF THOSE WITH MY MOM,
AND I JUST FELL IN LOVE WITH,
I FELL IN LOVE WITH HER
BEING IN LOVE WITH THE MOVIES,
AND THAT KIND OF
TRANSFERRED TO ME.

Nam says WELL, IT SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS
SOMETHING FOR YOU TO, I GUESS,
IT WAS A BONDING
EXPERIENCE FOR YOU BOTH,
EVEN THOUGH AT THE TIME
MAYBE YOU DIDN'T KNOW IT.

Wesley says I DIDN'T KNOW IT.

Nam says YEAH, BUT, YOU KNOW,
A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THAT
WHEN THEY WATCH FILMS,
LIKE YOU SAID ABOUT
GIVING YOU A PERSPECTIVE,
LIKE A DIFFERENT WORLD,
UM, SOME PEOPLE SAY
THAT WHEN YOU WATCH FILM
YOU KIND OF ESCAPE YOUR LIFE.
UM, WAS THAT, UH,
SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE FAIR
TO SAY ABOUT YOU GROWING UP, OR?

The caption changes to "Wesley Morris, @Wesley_Morris."

Wesley says YEAH, I NEVER THOUGHT
ABOUT IT THAT WAY.
I MEAN, I GUESS THAT MIGHT
HAVE BEEN WHAT I WAS DOING,
LIKE, MOVING INTO SOME, SOME
FILMMAKER'S WORLD OR SOMETHING,
BUT I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THAT
THAT WAS NECESSARILY HAPPENING.
I JUST KNEW THAT,
LIKE, FOR INSTANCE,
I LIKED
THE GOONIES
A LOT,
AND JUST...

Nam says THAT WAS SUCH A GOOD MOVIE.

Wesley says I KNOW, AND I JUST WANT TO,
I JUST WANTED TO BE
IN THAT WORLD
BECAUSE THOSE KIDS SEEMED LIKE
THEY WERE HAVING A GREAT TIME.

Nam says RIGHT.

Wesley says AND JOSH BROLIN.

(LAUGHING)

Nam says LET'S NOT GET STARTED
ABOUT WHO WAS ON MY, YOU KNOW,
MY WALLS AS A TEENAGER,
BUT IN TORONTO YOU DID
A WORKSHOP FOR CONTENT CREATORS.

Wesley says MM-HM.

Nam says UM, IS IT DIFFICULT
TO TEACH CRITICISM?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Wesley says UM, NO, I THINK THAT
THE THING THAT'S IMPORTANT
ABOUT TEACHING CRITICISM IS
JUST HAVING PEOPLE UNDERSTAND
THAT THE WORK IS...
THERE'S STUFF IN THE WORK
THAT YOU CAN EXTRACT
AND USE TO TELL A STORY, RIGHT?
AND YOU CAN USE A PARTICULAR
WORK OF ART OR CULTURE,
OR JUST A MOMENT IN TIME,
UM, TO EXPLAIN
THE WORLD IN SOME WAY,
AND I DON'T KNOW... I MEAN,
YOU KNOW, IT IS A TALENT,
AND THERE IS
SOME SKILL INVOLVED,
BUT THERE ARE SOME BASIC THINGS
THAT YOU CAN TEACH PEOPLE
TO THINK ABOUT.

Nam says LIKE WHAT?

Wesley says UM, WELL, THINKING ABOUT WHAT
YOU THINK THE WORK
IS TRYING TO DO.
LIKE, WHAT YOU... IF THE,
IF THE THING UNDER CONSIDERATION
COULD SPEAK, RIGHT?
IF THIS ALBUM COULD TELL YOU,
"THIS IS WHAT I LIKE TO..."
A BAD ALBUM ACTUALLY WILL
TELL YOU THIS, BUT IF THERE'S
AN ALBUM THAT, YOU KNOW,
IF IT COULD SPEAK
AND IT COULD SAY, LIKE,
"THIS IS WHAT I'M TRYING TO DO,
THIS IS WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY
ABOUT X, MYSELF, THE WORLD,
YOU KNOW, MUSIC, WHATEVER,"
YOU FIGURE THAT OUT
AND THEN YOU BASICALLY EVALUATE
WHETHER IT SUCCEEDS
AT DOING THE THING
IT SEEMS LIKE IT'S
TRYING TO DO, AND THEN
IF YOU ARE REALLY
FEELING BOLD OR...
I THINK IT'S JUST
A REQUIREMENT OF THE JOB,
BUT IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT A
LOT OF CRITICISM MANAGES TO DO,
YOU SORT OF SAY WHAT THE THING
IS ACTUALLY DOING. UM...

Nam says DO YOU NEED PERMISSION
TO DO THAT, TOO?
BECAUSE, UM,
IF I'M WATCHING SOMETHING
OR IF I'M LISTENING TO
SOMETHING,
I MIGHT LIKE IT,
I MIGHT NOT LIKE IT, UH,
BUT I DON'T KNOW HOW
MANY OF US, UM, CAN SAY,
"WELL, I DIDN'T LIKE THAT AND
THIS IS WHY I DIDN'T LIKE IT."
DO YOU NEED, LIKE, UH, SOME
PERMISSION TO NOT LIKE THINGS?

Wesley says NO! NO! NO, BUT THAT'S
PART OF THE PROBLEM, RIGHT?
I THINK THAT PEOPLE ARE AFRAID...
I THINK PEOPLE ARE MORE
AFRAID TO NOT LIKE SOMETHING
THAN THEY ARE TO LIKE SOMETHING.

Nam says ESPECIALLY IF EVERYBODY
ELSE LIKES IT, RIGHT?

Wesley says ESPECIALLY IF
EVERYBODY ELSE LIKES IT,
BECAUSE NOW, IN THIS...
DEPENDING ON WHERE THIS OPINION
IS EXPRESSED,
THIS NOT LIKING THE THING
THAT EVERYBODY ELSE LIKES,
PEOPLE WILL COME AFTER YOU AND,
YOU KNOW, THEY WILL DOX YOU.
LIKE, YOU KNOW.

Nam says THAT'S WHERE THEY PUT ALL
YOUR INFORMATION ONLINE, RIGHT?

Wesley says YEAH, THEY JUST PUT YOUR, LIKE,
HOUSE NUMBER ON THE INTERNET.
UM, AND SAY,
"GO AFTER THIS PERSON
BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T LIKE,
I DON'T KNOW,
THEY DIDN'T LIKE KENDRICK
LAMAR'S NEW RECORD.
THIS PERSON NEEDS TO BE
SHOWN HOW TO LIKE IT PROPERLY."
UM, I JUST THINK
THAT'S A PROBLEM,
AND I THINK THAT THAT IS
AN OUTGROWTH OF THIS OTHER THING
THAT HAS HAPPENED IN OUR...
AT LEAST IN THE US,
BUT I ALSO THINK IN ALL KINDS
OF OTHER PLACES WHERE YOU JUST
FEEL LIKE YOUR, YOUR...
THE POWERS THAT BE ARE NOT
RESPONSIVE TO THE PEOPLE
WHO PUT THEM IN THOSE PLACES,
AND SO, IT'S MUCH EASIER
TO GO TO A PLACE LIKE TWITTER
AND, AND SAY, AND YOU KNOW,
YOU PRACTICE YOUR OWN KIND OF
CRIMINAL JUSTICE OR YOUR OWN...
YOU PASS YOUR OWN LAWS
ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE CAN AND CAN'T,
OR SHOULD OR SHOULDN'T DO, UM.

Nam says SO, YOU'RE THINKING MORE
LIKE IT'S COMING FROM
A PLACE OF ANGER, RAGE?

Wesley says I THINK POWERLESSNESS.
UM, HELPLESSNESS,
AND I THINK SOME PLACE
LIKE TWITTER ACTUALLY IS
EMPOWERING IN ALL KINDS OF WAYS,
BUT I THINK IN...
I THINK SOME OF THE WAYS
IN WHICH IT'S EMPOWERING
ARE A FRONT TO
A KIND OF NUANCED
OR... OR ROBUST OR EVEN,
I MEAN, HONEST CRITICISM,
UM, WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU...
WHERE-WHERE AS AN ALTERNATIVE
PEOPLE FEEL LIKE...
OR AS A CONSEQUENCE YOU FEEL
LIKE YOU CAN'T SAY OR-OR-OR FEEL
THE WAY THAT YOU HONESTLY FEEL
ABOUT ANY NUMBER OF,
YOU KNOW, CULTURAL FIGURES
OR CULTURAL WORKS,
BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE GONNA BE
MAD AT YOU AND COME AFTER YOU.

Nam says DO YOU THINK IT'S IRONIC THAT
WE'RE ALSO LIVING IN A TIME
WHERE PEOPLE SEEM TO
BE VERY SELF-REFLECTIVE.
WHERE WE STEP BACK
AND LOOK AT OURSELVES AND SAY...
YOU KNOW, WE CRITICIZE
OURSELVES.
WE SAY, "I CAN WORK ON THIS,
I CAN WORK ON THAT,"
BUT WHEN IT COMES TO
SOMETHING LIKE ART,
WHERE IT'S KIND OF LIKE,
"NO. I SEE THE WAY THINGS ARE.
THAT'S HOW I SEE THEM."

Wesley says YEAH, WELL, I THINK THAT...
BUT I DON'T THINK THAT ANYBODY'S
DOING ANY SORT OF...
I DON'T THINK, LIKE,
COLLECTIVELY WE'RE DOING A LOT
OF SELF-REFLECTIVE THINKING.
RIGHT? I THINK A LOT OF IT
IS JUST REACTIONARY,
AND SOMETIMES THAT HAS A USE,
BUT I THINK WHEN
IT COMES TO ART,
I FEEL LIKE A LOT OF IT IS
A SUBSTITUTE FOR ACTUALLY
EXPERIENCING THE THING ITSELF,
BECAUSE THESE CONVERSATIONS GET
STARTED AND THE SNOWBALL STARTS
ROLLING DOWN THE MOUNTAINSIDE,
AND, YOU KNOW, BEFORE LONG
YOU'VE GOT THIS AVALANCHE,
AND PEOPLE ARE JUST, I MEAN...
THAT IS A HORRIBLE METAPHOR,
BECAUSE I WAS GOING TO BE LIKE,
"PEOPLE ARE JUMPING ON
INTO THE AVALANCHE."

Nam says NOBODY'S DOING THAT.

Wesley says NO, NO.
BUT, BUT PEOPLE DO WANT TO
HAVE A... TO BE PART OF THIS,
OF SOME KIND OF CONVERSATION
THAT SEEMS ON THAT...
ON ITS SURFACE IT SEEMS
MORALLY RIGHT, RIGHT?
IF-IF YOU DON'T LIKE...
I MEAN, I'M JUST THINKING OF
A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE, RIGHT?
IF YOU DON'T LIKE
A PAINTING THAT'S IN A MUSEUM,
AND YOU THINK
THE PAINTING IS AN AFFRONT TO
BLACK CULTURE OR BLACK PEOPLE
OR BLACK HISTORY,
IN PART BECAUSE IT WAS
PAINTED BY A WHITE ARTIST,
YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE PAINTING,
BUT YOU ARE KIND OF
PHILOSOPHICALLY ON BOARD WITH
THE NATURE OF THE COMPLAINT,
THEN IT'S SO EASY TO BE LIKE,
"YEAH, SHE SHOULD
NEVER PAINT AGAIN.
THIS WOMAN SHOULD NEVER BE ABLE
TO MAKE ANOTHER PAINTING."
UM, YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING
ABOUT THE PAINTING ITSELF,
THE ARTIST, HER OTHER WORK,
HOW IT FITS INTO THAT,
WHAT ELSE IS EVEN IN
THE SHOW IN WHICH THE PAINTING
IS BEING EXHIBITED.

Nam says THE INTENT.

Wesley says YOU JUST KNOW THAT THIS
PAINTING IS A PROBLEM FOR
ALL THESE OTHER PEOPLE,
AND THEREFORE...

Nam says IT'S A PROBLEM FOR YOU.

Wesley says YUP.

Nam says WELL, LAST YEAR YOU
WROTE THIS ESSAY CALLED
"THE MORALITY WARS,"
THAT, YOU KNOW, HAD A LOT OF
PEOPLE TALKING,
UM, AND IN IT YOU START,
UH, YOU TALK ABOUT THIS
CONVERSATION YOU HAD AT DINNER
ABOUT THE HBO SERIES
INSECURE,
STARRING ISSA RAE.
CAN YOU TELL US
ABOUT THAT STORY?

The caption changes to "The morality wars."

Wesley says I WAS AT DINNER WITH,
UH, SOME FRIENDS,
WELL, A FRIEND
AND SOME OF HIS FRIENDS,
AND UM, I THINK WE,
WE WERE TALKING ABOUT HBO SHOWS
AND IT TURNED INTO THIS...
AND IT TURNED INTO
A CONVERSATION ABOUT
INSECURE
AND I WAS IMMEDIATELY LIKE,
"I'M WAITING FOR THIS
SHOW TO TURN INTO THE THING
I THINK IT CAN BECOME,"
AND THIS PERSON WAS LIKE,
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN?"
AND I SAID, "I DON'T KNOW.
I'M JUST WAITING
FOR IT TO GET GOOD."
AND HE WAS LIKE,
"BUT IT'S ALREADY GOOD!"
AND I'M LIKE,
"I DON'T AGREE WITH YOU.
IT'S NOT GOOD YET,"
AND HIS... IT WAS BECOMING
CLEAR THAT HIS BELIEF IN ITS,
IN ITS ALREADY GOODNESS WAS
THE FACT THAT IT EXISTED, RIGHT?
THAT THIS BLACK WOMAN WAS BEING
GIVEN SOMETHING THAT VIRTUALLY
NO OTHER BLACK AMERICAN
WOMEN HAVE BEEN GIVEN
AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO.

Nam says AND IT'S BASED
ON HER LIFE.

Wesley says AND IT'S BASED ON HER LIFE,
AND IT'S WRITTEN... IT'S...
LIKE, SHE'S A PRODUCER ON IT,
SHE'S CREATED THE SHOW,
UM, SHE STARS IN IT.
I JUST WANTED IT TO DO MORE,
AND HE WAS SATISFIED
WITH WHERE IT WAS,
AND THE THING THAT
HE WANTED ME TO UNDERSTAND
WAS THAT I DIDN'T...
I COULD NOT NOT LIKE THIS THING
BECAUSE THERE WAS TOO MUCH
AT STAKE IN... IN HAVING PEOPLE
NOT LIKE IT BECAUSE
THE THING THAT MATTERS
IS THAT THERE'S
A BLACK WOMAN ON TV.

Nam says ON HBO.

Wesley says ON HBO IN A COMEDY,
SO I SHOULD SHUT UP.

Nam says WELL, IN THAT ESSAY,
YOU WRITE, UH...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "The new culture wars." The quote reads "THE CULTURE WARS BACK THEN ALWAYS SEEMED TO BE ABOUT KEEPING CULTURE FROM KIDS. NOW THE MORAL PANIC APPEARS TO FLOW IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. THE MORALIZERS ARE YOUNG PEOPLE,
NOT THEIR PARENTS."
Quoted from Wesley Morris, nytimes.com. October 3, 2018.

Nam says WHAT HAS THIS SHIFT IN DISCOURSE
MEANT FOR CRITICS LIKE YOURSELF?

The caption changes to "The morality wars."

Wesley says UM, I THINK IT MEANS
HAVING TO DEFEND A LOT...
IT CAN MEAN TWO THINGS.
I THINK IT CAN MEAN
ANY NUMBER OF THINGS,
BUT TWO THINGS OF THOSE
ANY NUMBER OF THOSE THINGS
INCLUDE NOT FEELING LIKE
YOU CAN BE HONEST
ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL
ABOUT A PARTICULAR WORK
BECAUSE PEOPLE,
WHAT I CALL IN THAT PIECE,
THE MORALIZERS WILL
COME AFTER YOU.
UM, BUT IT ALSO IS THE FEAR THAT
YOU ARE UNDER ATTACK FOR JUST
EXPRESSING AN OPINION
ABOUT A WORK OF ART.

Nam says AND JUST DOING YOUR JOB,
'CAUSE YOU'RE A CRITIC,
SO YOU HAVE TO...

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live."

Wesley says YEAH, BUT THAT PART,
PEOPLE DON'T... THAT...
NOBODY'S HERE FOR, LIKE,
IT'S YOUR JOB.
LIKE, THE-THE...
I THINK THAT THERE'S A WAY
THAT PEOPLE'S UNDERSTANDING
OF HOW A PROCESS IS
"SUPPOSED TO WORK,"
THAT DOESN'T...
I MEAN, YOU HAVE TO
KIND OF DISCLAIM OR,
OR HAVE PREFATORY
REMARK BEFORE ALMOST ANYTHING.
NOT, NOT ALL THE TIME,
BUT I THINK IT'S PEOPLE DON'T
REALLY UNDERSTAND THAT,
YOU KNOW, YOU'RE A CRITIC,
AND YOUR JOB IS TO
BASICALLY REVIEW SOMETHING,
AND LIKE, AT THIS
DINNER FOR INSTANCE,
I DON'T, I MEAN,
I DIDN'T TELL HIM THAT, LIKE,
I HAVE A RIGHT TO THIS
OPINION BECAUSE I'M A CRITIC.
I WAS LIKE, "I HAVE A RIGHT
TO THIS OPINION BECAUSE
"I'M A PERSON WHO, I'M PAYING
HBO TO GIVE ME A SHOW,
"AND THE SHOW SHOULD BE GOOD,
AND IF I DON'T THINK IT'S GOOD,
YOU AND I CAN SIT HERE
AND TALK ABOUT..."

Nam says WHY THAT IS.

Wesley says "WHY THAT IS,
OR LIKE WHY IT ISN'T,
"BUT YOU CAN'T TELL ME THAT
I CAN'T SAY WHAT I WANT TO SAY
OR HOW I FEEL BECAUSE..."

Nam says FOR THE CULTURE.

Wesley says BECAUSE WE'RE BOTH,
WE'RE TWO BLACK PEOPLE
AND THIS IS A BLACK WOMAN
AND THEREFORE I CAN'T CRITICIZE
HER FOR NOT BEING FUNNY ENOUGH.

Nam says WELL, WRITER,
SLATE
WRITER, INKOO KANG...

Wesley says OH, SURE...

Nam says HAD THIS TO SAY IN
SLATE
FOLLOWING YOUR ESSAY,
AND SHE WROTE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Defending the new discourse." The quote reads " There's no doubt that the internet has in many respects coarsened conversations about movies and TV shows -but there's also no doubt that it has enriched them immeasurably by allowing populations that previously had little access to those conversations to take part. As the line between criticism and conversation grows finer, it's imperative to acknowledge how discussions about representation have deepened criticism, not replaced it, as Morris alleges."
Quoted from Inkoo Kang, slate.com. October 5, 2018.

Nam says UM, HOW DOES A CRITIC LIKE
YOURSELF RESPOND TO CRITICISM?

Wesley says UH, BY ACCEPTING
THAT-THAT I'M OPEN TO IT.

(LAUGHING)

Nam says WHAT SHE SAID,
IS IT FAIR, WHAT SHE SAID?

Wesley says UM, WELL, I FEEL LIKE THAT
IT'S NOT UNFAIR, I THINK THAT...
BUT I'M NOT SAYING THAT...
IT ISN'T THAT-THAT...
I MEAN, THAT IS
A NICE TURN OF PHRASE,
I JUST DON'T THINK IT IS
EXACTLY ACCURATE IN TERMS
OF WHAT I WAS ARGUING, RIGHT?
I'M NOT SAYING THAT THIS
QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION
HAS ENTIRELY REPLACED CRITICISM,
I JUST DON'T KNOW THAT
IN A LOT OF CASES IT'S MADE
IT STRONGER BECAUSE WHAT YOU'RE
TALKING ABOUT ISN'T THE WORK
UNDER CONSIDERATION AS A WORK,
YOU'RE LOOKING AT IT IN TERMS
OF-OF-OF HOW SUCCESSFULLY
IT CHECKS THE BOXES THAT
THE HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT
OF THE STUDIO NEEDS TO
CHECK IN A LOT OF CASES,
OR THAT'S A SLIGHTLY CYNICAL WAY
OF PUTTING THE HAPPIER MORE
POSITIVE THING
WHICH IS THAT THERE ARE
PEOPLE BEING REPRESENTED
IN POPULAR CULTURE NOW WHO HAVE
NEVER BEEN REPRESENTED
BY ANY MOVIES
AND TELEVISION SHOWS, RIGHT?
AND THAT IS AN ACHIEVEMENT,
BUT I THINK THE ONLY WAY
FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT TO REALLY
HAVE LEGS
AND TO MATTER IS TO BE ABLE TO
TALK HONESTLY AND OPENLY
ABOUT WHAT WORKS
AND DOESN'T WORK ABOUT IT,
THE WAY YOU WOULD ANY OTHER
WORK OF POPULAR CULTURE.
YOU CAN'T, I MEAN, AT SOME POINT
YOU CAN'T TREAT
THIS-THIS SPECIAL WORK AS-AS
DEBILITATINGLY SPECIAL, RIGHT?
LIKE, IT HAS TO BE ABLE TO
WITHSTAND THE SAME CRITICISM
YOU'D GIVE TO LIKE, A BATMAN
MOVIE OR SOMETHING, RIGHT?
CRAZY RICH ASIANS
SHOULD BE ABLE TO BE A MOVIE
THAT PEOPLE SHOULD FEEL
COMFORTABLE SAYING THEY
DO NOT LIKE FOR
ANY NUMBER OF REASONS,
AND YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE
TO GO TO, LIKE, OPINION JAIL
FOR NOT THINKING THAT
IT'S BEING ASIAN IS ENOUGH.

Nam says WELL, SPEAKING OF OPINION JAIL,
UM, THERE'S A LOT OF
CONVERSATION ABOUT
CANCELLING CERTAIN ARTISTS
LIKE KANYE WEST, R KELLY...
UH, KEVIN HART.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN
TO CANCEL SOMEONE?

The caption changes to "You're cancelled!"

Wesley says I DON'T KNOW. THAT DEPENDS ON,
THAT DEPENDS ON WHO
THE ARTIST IS, RIGHT?
I THINK THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE
WHO IT'S EASY TO CANCEL,
OR TO, YOU KNOW, QUOTE "CANCEL,"
BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT...
IF YOU'RE R KELLY,
I DO THINK THAT SOMETHING LIKE
THE MUTE R KELLY CAMPAIGN WORKS
AND IS SUCCESSFUL IN THAT IT IS
A CALL TO TAKE HIS
MUSIC OFF THE TABLE
SO THAT YOU CAN TALK ABOUT THE
TRANSGRESSIONS THAT HE IS
ACCUSED OF HAVING COMMITTED
AGAINST THESE WOMEN AND GIRLS,
AND I THINK THAT THAT
WAS A REALLY SUCCESSFUL...
THAT IN COMBINATION
WITH THE DOCUMENTARY
THAT LIFETIME AIRED, I THINK
THAT THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL WAYS
OF REFOCUSING A CONVERSATION
THAT PEOPLE HAD BEEN
TRYING TO GET US TO HAVE FOR
A LONG TIME ABOUT THIS PERSON.
UM, SO THE CALL FOR TAKING
HIS MUSIC OFF THE TABLE
IS ACTUALLY SHREWD.
UM, BUT THAT ISN'T...
I DON'T KNOW, I DON'T KNOW
WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO
CANCEL KEVIN HART, RIGHT?
LIKE, HE...
HIS NOT HOSTING THE OSCARS, I
THINK,
IS MAYBE THE LINE THAT PEOPLE...

Nam says FOR KEVIN HART?

Wesley says RIGHT.

Nam says YUP.

Wesley says AND HE'S STILL GONNA MAKE
MOVIES, PEOPLE ARE STILL
GONNA GO SEE THEM.

Nam says THEY'RE STILL
GONNA MAKE MONEY.

Wesley says RIGHT.

Nam says SO, SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY,
"WELL, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM THEN?"

Wesley says UM, FOR THE CALLS
FOR CANCELLATION?

Nam says NO, I MEAN, FOR THE PEOPLE,
'CAUSE THEY'RE STILL GONNA
MAKE MONEY, THEY'RE STILL
GONNA GO ON WITH THEIR LIVES.

Wesley says WELL, I MEAN,
I THINK IT DEPENDS ON...
I MEAN, IN KEVIN HART'S CASE
HE JUST, HE WROTE SOME,
HE WROTE SOME HOMOPHOBIC
AND I THINK TRANSPHOBIC TWEETS,
AND...

Nam says AND HE APOLOGIZED FOR THEM.

Wesley says WELL, I MEAN.

Nam says WELL, HE WENT ON ELLEN.
BUT ANYWAY, I MEAN,
I ONLY HAVE LIKE, ONE MINUTE,
AND I WANT TO GET
ONE MORE QUESTION IN.
UH, UM, WHEN WE TALK
ABOUT CANCEL CULTURE,
UM, WHAT DO WE LOSE AS A SOCIETY
WHEN WE DO CANCEL
CERTAIN PEOPLE OUT?

Wesley says UH.
(ROLLING LIPS)
THAT'S A REALLY
INTERESTING QUESTION,
AND I DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW,
BECAUSE I...
I DON'T... WELL, ONE THING YOU
WOULD LOSE IS THE VOICE
OF THE PERSON WHO IS...
I MEAN, DEPENDING ON WHAT
THE THING THEY'RE CALLED ON
FOR BEING... LIKE, THE REASON
THEY'RE BEING ASKED
TO BE CANCELED,
I MEAN, THAT MATTERS.
I THINK THAT THE-THE ARTIST
HIM OR HERSELF MATTERS.
UM, BUT I DON'T...
YOU LOSE THE VOICE IN THE WORK
OF THAT PERSON.
I MEAN, I'M TRYING TO THINK
OF A MORE...
LIKE, LET'S SAY THAT...
WELL, I DON'T KNOW.
IT'S REALLY EASY, LIKE,
BILL COSBY.
THE... THE FALLOUT OF
THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST HIM
BASICALLY AMOUNTED
TO HAVING HIS ENTIRE,
AT LEAST THE TELEVISION WORK,
REMOVED FROM STREAMING SERVICES.
SO THESE COMPANIES
DECIDED FOR US
WHETHER OR NOT THIS IS
A PERSON WE WANTED TO CHOOSE
TO HAVE IN OUR LIVES,
AND I THINK THAT,
I DON'T KNOW,
THERE'S A PART OF ME THAT
REALLY WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE
BEEN FORCED TO MAKE THAT CHOICE
FOR MYSELF, UM, AS OPPOSED
TO HAVING NETFLIX OR,
YOU KNOW, HULU OR WHOEVER
TELL ME THAT IT'S GOOD FOR ME
THAT I DON'T HAVE
TO WATCH THIS PERSON.
WHEREAS I ACTUALLY THINK THAT
IN THE CASE OF
THE COSBY SHOW
THAT SHOW'S VALUE
AND ITS IMPORTANCE IS SO MUCH
BIGGER AND GREATER
AND-AND-AND MORE SIGNIFICANT
THAN BILLY COSBY. UM...

Nam says BECAUSE ALL THOSE ACTORS,
THE PEOPLE THAT WORKED
ON THE SHOW, BECAUSE THE SHOW'S
NOT BEING SHOWN ANYMORE.

Wesley says RIGHT, I MEAN,
IT HURTS THEM FINANCIALLY.

Nam says YES, BUT ALSO,
WHAT WE CAME TO BELIEVE WAS,
THEY SHOWED US A DIFFERENT
SIDE OF WHAT IT IS TO BE
A BLACK FAMILY,
A SUCCESSFUL BLACK FAMILY.
I THINK WE ALL GREW
UP WATCHING IT...

Wesley says YES...

Nam says AND I JUST NOTICED THAT ALL
THE PEOPLE THAT
I NAMED ARE BLACK.

Wesley says YES.

Nam says DO YOU, DO YOU THINK THAT, UH,
MORE BLACK PEOPLE ARE TARGETED
WHEN IT COMES TO CANCEL CULTURE?

(SIGHING)

Wesley says NO, BUT I DO THINK THAT A LOT OF
THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE ACCUSED OF THESE SORTS OF
THINGS HAPPEN TO BE BLACK.
I DON'T... I HAVE NOT REALLY
SUCCESSFULLY WORKED OUT
THE DEGREE TO WHICH
I'M UNCOMFORTABLE WITH...
'CAUSE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT,
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, LIKE,
IN SOME CASES CRIMINAL
BEHAVIOUR,
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
THE MORALITY OF PEOPLE
WHO MAKE ART THAT WE LOVE.
TO THE DEGREE THAT RACE MATTERS,
I THINK IT MATTERS ONLY
IF WHAT YOU'RE SEEING IS BLACK
PEOPLE BEING PERSECUTED AND...
WELL, SORRY, BLACK PEOPLE...
BLACK PEOPLE BEING PROSECUTED
MORE THAN WHITE PEOPLE.
UM, BUT I THINK THAT THE SAME
CALLS FOR THE CANCELLATION
OF VARIOUS WHITE ARTISTS
HAS BEEN AS STRONG,
I JUST THINK THAT IN
CERTAIN CASES LIKE BILL COSBY
AND R KELLY, UM, AND TO
SOME EXTENT MICHAEL JACKSON,
WHO IS DEAD AND YOU KNOW,
CAN'T REDEFEND HIMSELF,
I THINK THAT THOSE, THOSE CLAIMS
ARE JUST SO MUCH MORE SHOCKING
AND THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE
ACCUSING THESE PEOPLE
ARE SO HIGH THAT
IT'S HARD TO IGNORE THEM
AND THEY HAPPEN
TO BE BLACK PEOPLE,
BUT I THINK THE PROBLEM
AT THE ROOT OF ALL OF THESE,
ALL OF THESE TRANSGRESSIONS
IS CELEBRITY AND FAME,
AND THAT, I THINK, IS THE THING
THAT WE OUGHT TO
BE THINKING ABOUT
AS MUCH AS WE'RE
THINKING ABOUT RACE.

Nam says UM, FINALLY, IN YOUR VIEW,
HOW CAN WE SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER
WITHOUT SILENCING OTHERS?

Wesley says THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION.
DO YOU HAVE AN ANSWER?

Nam says NOPE, THAT'S WHY I'M ASKING YOU.
(LAUGHING)
YOU WON A PULITZER. HI!
(LAUGHING)

The caption changes to "tvo.org/theagenda; agendaconnect@tvo.org."

Wesley says UM.
I THINK IT'S JUST
SORT OF BEING HONEST.
I THINK IT'S JUST
UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU ARE NOT
THE ONLY PERSON WITH AN OPINION
ON ANY SUBJECT, RIGHT?
I THINK THAT UNDERSTANDING THAT
YOU'RE PART OF A CONVERSATION
AND DISCOURSE IS REALLY
IMPORTANT,
AND I THINK THAT HAVING PEOPLE
DISAGREE WITH YOU IS OKAY
AS LONG AS THE DISAGREEMENT
AND THE, THE SORT OF TERMS OF
THE ARGUMENT AND THE,
AND THE ARGUMENTS THEMSELVES
ARE ABOVE BOARD. I THINK THAT
IT IS PERFECTLY POSSIBLE,
AND ULTIMATELY NECESSARY,
TO SAY THAT,
YOU KNOW, X NUMBER PER...
X PERSON IN POWER,
OR X FAMOUS PERSON DESERVES
TO BE A CHECKED IN SOME WAY
FOR THEIR BEHAVIOUR OR FOR
THEIR MUSIC OR WHATEVER,
BUT I THINK THAT THE...
I THINK ADVOCATING FOR THAT
PERSON AND THEIR WORK
TO BE REMOVED FROM
THE FACE OF THE EARTH,
DEPENDING ON WHAT THE,
WHAT THE CRIME IS,
AND EVEN, EVEN IF YOU'RE
HARVEY WEINSTEIN OR BILL COSBY,
I JUST THINK THAT THERE'S A WAY
THAT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
AND, IN SOME WAYS,
LIFE, THEY WILL...
I MEAN, NOT ALWAYS, BUT I MEAN,
I THINK MORE
NOW THAN EVER BEFORE,
AT LEAST WHEN TO COMES
TO THESE SEX CRIMES,
IN THE US THE WAY THE POLICE
TREAT NON-FAMOUS PEOPLE,
UM, AND THE WAY THAT
THEY'RE HANDLED ULTIMATELY
IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING,
BUT I THINK THAT SOMETHING
HAS CHANGED IN AMERICAN MORAL
CULTURE
SO THAT THE PEOPLE ACCUSED OF...
AND IT'S MOSTLY MEN...
OF THESE, YOU KNOW, HEINOUS
CRIMES ARE... ARE DEALT WITH,
AND WE ARE RECKONING
WITH WHAT IT MEANS TO DO THAT.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU GET WHEN
YOU TAKE THE WORK OFF THE TABLE,
'CAUSE I THINK THE WORK IS
THE PLACE WHERE WE DO
THE RECKONING IN SOME WAYS,
NOT THE CHOICE TO...
TO DELETE THAT.

The caption changes to "Producer: Colin Ellis, @ColinEllis81."

Nam says THANK YOU SO MUCH, WESLEY.
I MEAN, I COULD TALK
TO YOU FOR AN HOUR.

Wesley says I COULD TALK TO YOU FOR AN HOUR!

Nam says I WISH I COULD.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING
ON THE SHOW. WE APPRECIATE IT.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Wesley says THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
I REALLY LIKED BEING HERE.

Watch: Wesley Morris: A Critic on Criticism