I can never get mad at Aaron Sorkin. He brought me The West Wing, all 7 seasons that I can unapologetically say I have watched twice over. He brought me The Social Network, which I can apologetically say that I have watched maybe 7 times. And finally, he brought me Studio 60 on the Sunset strip, which I was never able to watch, because it was cancelled.
I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan, mostly because he writes stuff that I love, even though sometimes it is difficult to digest his snarky, elitist, incredibly fast paced dialogue. Do any real people actually talk like that to each other? While walking? I doubt it. But even still, watching Sorkin take a peek inside what the White House is actually like is a lot better than having to take a peak inside what Ozzy Osborne’s house is actually like.
What Aaron Sorkin does, especially when it comes to his political works, is recreate the leaders he wishes America had. He makes sure they get elected by people who don’t exist, gives them problems that do exist, and then solves those problems the way he wants them solved. If President Bartlet was faced with a problem, it was often the exact same problem that faced President Bush during the time The West Wing was being written; the only thing that changed was the solution.
I don’t want to put words in Sorkin’s mouth, but The West Wing was often times “What America would be like if stupid Republicans weren’t in charge”. Everything that Bartlet’s fictional White House represented was everything that Bush’s actual White House was not, or so it seemed.
Sorkin is a genius who has created his own world on television. But it isn't one that everyone wants to live in. This is demonstrated by the fact that Bush, who was portrayed in the program by Florida Governor Robert Ritchie actually won the election. In the West Wing, President Bartlet dismantled the Bush look-alike, talk-alike, think-alike in the debates, and went on to win re-election. It was the history that Aaron Sorkin wishes had actually happened.
In a 2002 interview with The New Yorker, Sorkin admitted that the Bartlet vs. Ritchie election race was supposed to mimic that of Bush vs. Gore. "It was frustrating watching Gore try so hard not to appear smart in the debates—why not just say 'Here's my fucking résumé, what do you got?' said Sorkin. Instead, Gore chose to walk up to George Bush in a creepy way and smirk during the debates. Sorkin’s writing was as much an indictment of as what he viewed as Al Gore’s failed opportunity as it was an indictment of Bush. In the real world, even if Gore had flapped his Yale grades right in George Bush’s face during the debates, it wouldn’t have done much, because they were actually worse than Bush’s at Yale.
What Sorkin has done is seen his best friend ask a beautiful girl on a date all to get embarrassingly rejected, and then make a movie about what WOULD have happened if his friend were more charming, and she ended up saying yes. Then, for effect, having them get married and live happily ever after. For conservatives, The West Wing was just good TV and smart writing, for liberals- it was the dream that never came true. It was the election that was never won, and the President they never had (until Obama).
Sorkin has a new project now, called “The Newsroom”, which features a modern day cable news show, and all the fixings that make it work. And as usual, Sorkin is painting a world that he wishes existed. This time, it is not a White House, but a TV show.
In the pilot, Sorkin was able to get in his fair share of political punches in, even if the audience didn’t feel the blood trickling down their cheeks. This speaks again to Sorkin’s brilliance, with his ability to make a point without actually explicitly making a point.
When the show’s lead character Will McAvoy is asked why he thinks America is the greatest country in the world, he dodges the question until he finally brings himself to admit that he doesn’t think America is the best country in the world. He then goes on to list the reasons why, which include the nation’s poor standing when it comes to literacy and life expectancy, amongst other things. He then rhymes off the things that America does lead in, which include incarceration rates, and “people who believe in angels”. In others words: screw you Christians! - sincerely, Aaron Sorkin.
One wonders whether a country that is overwhelmingly Christian, and at last polling 40% conservative, really enjoy being called a bunch of crazies? I guess we will wait and see. But the religious dig wasn’t the only political statement that gave viewers the impression that even Sorkin could not contain himself any longer.
The pilot revolved around the breaking news of the BP oil spill, which happened 2 years ago. Why not the series in the middle of the Vietnam War and have Will be Walter Cronkite just to call the whole thing a lost cause? I guess they picked it out of a hat, but they certainly did not hold back in their attacks on Halliburton corporation (which hasn’t been mentioned since the Cheney days) whom they partly blamed for the spill. The other half of the blame went to the government, not for forcing oil companies to drill in extremely dangerous places to protect precious land, but for not having enough regulators.
While it sounds like I am complaining, I’m really not. Sorkin has every right to create a show that portrays the world he wishes he lived in. In fact, I encourage it. The more people who take an interest in what goes on in a newsroom means there are less people taking an interest in what goes on in Snooki’s room…which depending on your point of view, may or may not be such a good thing.
If someone were to ask me if there had ever been a liberal who came close to making me switch allegiances and buy into the progressive worldview, I would say Aaron Sorkin. I have never met him, never debated him, and never discussed issues with him. He did it through his brilliance on screen. Somehow he made me like a fictional President who stood for everything that I was frustrated by, and made me want to be like this President’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Yes, Josh Lyman is still my idol. Who cares if he’s a Democrat!
I just wish there was someone as smart as Sorkin to create a show that gives voice to the other side that doesn’t think Christians are crazy, and doesn’t think that corporations are to blame for everything. This is the same other side that doesn’t think that smaller government means, as one of the characters put it in the pilot “every man for himself”. Nor do they think that Europe is as “free” as America is, especially when it is collapsing before our very eyes.
What if, instead of having a liberal rhyme off all of the reasons why America sucks, there was a show where a conservative rhymed off all the reasons why America was awesome? Well, we may not have a fictional one, but the Rush Limbaugh program comes awfully close, and I would wager that Rush has more people listening to his show than Sorkin, Maher, or John Stewart will ever have watching theirs.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anybody as brilliant as Mr. Sorkin on the conservative side to replicate his blueprint with a show that gives voice to the way that conservatives wish America was like. Maybe it’s because conservatives already like things the way they are, or because they’re too busy watching ESPN to write a show that makes people think. And that might me our side’s biggest vice, and their side’s greatest virtue.
But don’t worry Aaron, I’ll probably still watch, and then I’ll rant a little about how you are a commie, and then I’ll come back and watch again next week- because as with everything else you’ve written, its just too good to give up.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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