Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Sorkin Go Home Also

I love how sci-fi this shot seems. I blame the blue lighting, and Doctor Who.
I'm still enjoying The Newsroom more than a lot of people think that I should be, but to be blunt, last night's episode was pretty damn problematic. 

First of all, lampshading awful writing does not magically make that writing good. If you've written yourself into such a position that you need a miraculously implausible slice of good fortune to show up in order to escape, you done fucked up, son.  Pointing that fact out doesn't cure your problem, it just makes the condition seem one born of laziness rather than incompetence. Not that the former makes the latter impossible, of course.

Secondly - and here's the real problem - how the merry hell can anyone who wants to be considered an intelligent political left-of-centre thinker (and from both his scripts and from his commentary online, this is clearly something Sorkin wants a great deal) find themselves in a position where Occupy Wall Street requires less respect than Tim Russett? Tim freaking Russett. The guy who automatically assumed any government official we was talking to spoke off the record, so that they could feel he's their bestest friend, or some shit?

For all that Sorkin gets pilloried for being preachy - and I'm not going to say that's a totally ridiculous criticism - he's often at his best when he's punching upward. Ripping apart the modern Republican Party seems to me a perfectly sensible thing for a drama program to be doing. God knows we can't expect it from the US media.

(Brief interlude: I never got around to telling Chuck Todd to go fuck himself.  Todd?  Buddy?  Go fuck yourself.  Now.  Don't return to any form of life until you have. Dedicating your life to repeating what the rich and powerful have told you isn't journalism. It's getting yourself bought without even the decency to stay bought. Running the Republican press office must be functionally indistinguishable from bribing magpies).

Punching down, though? Fuck you, Sorkin.  I really don't have any interest in listening to a rich white guy writing dialogue for another rich white guy to tell those vastly less well off how they should model their protests so that all the rich white guys will pay attention.  If it were just Will himself, that wouldn't be quite so bad - I don't have any problem with characters espousing positions I disagree with, even if I suspect the writer is on their characters side.  But everyone gets in on this. Last episode Mackenzie was furious with Will for giving a pro-drone idiot the run of their airtime. This week he's an unbearable arse to a young woman who's greatest flaw seems to be that she's dedicating her life to an obviously correct cause that might outstrip her ability to deal with it, and everyone's laughing right along with him. Christ, the only time we've seen Maggie giggle post-Uganda, and it's because of how Will ripped someone apart for his own amusement.

Look. I'm not saying none of the show's criticisms are without merit - though unlike Sorkin's attacks on the GOP, nor are those criticisms difficult to find amongst the mainstream media.  There is certainly some truth to the suggestion that OWS' refusal to engage on anyone's terms but their own is making their job harder - you can argue that's a price worth paying, but if you're taking that route, take it and don't complain about the consequences. But the fact that OWS has goals that are so far-reaching and nebulous is a direct consequence of how entrenched the problem has become.  Telling OWS they need to stick to a single demand is no less ridiculous than insisting doctors choose a single medicine when they visit disaster zones.  The demands are expansive because they have to be.  The message Shelley is so clearly trying to get across - not that Sorkin ever quite lets her say it, because then the beat-down would have to be interrupted - is that OWS knows they can't get done what they want done on their own.  They need others to help out.  They're not willing to say who specifically they want to do it, they just want people to know it needs to be done.  Will's huffing and puffing is nothing more than him saying "I won't help you do this thing that needs doing unless you specifically ask me to, and tell people they should like me because of it."

(Again, that's actually entirely in character for Will.  It's the fact no-one seems interested in calling him on it that's the problem).

Mainly though, I keep coming back to just one line.  One moment where Will basically tells Shelley the problem here is that she's not taking things seriously enough.  The ridiculously wealthy white guy who spends his days getting paid millions to argue with people and his nights drinking Manhattans and fucking leggy blondes wants to tell a young woman who spends her days earning a pittance teaching at colleage and her nights shivering in a park to protest how screwed up her country has become that she's the one who needs to think more seriously about how best to help America.

"What system would you replace capitalism with?"  Jesus, just listen to yourself.  Protesting police brutality does not mean people want rid of organised crime control.  Protesting the engorged might of the US military does not mean people want to be defended by nothing more than fences and the ocean.  Will McAvoy spent last night constructing a strawman he could tear into, again and again, because that's easier than wondering whether a wealthy white guy with access to millions of viewers might be able to help out - "oh no, you want like seven different things. That's too many to think about; I'm going back to my penthouse apartment to sulk about how Emily Mortimer".

And when I say "Will McAvoy", you better believe I mean "Aaron Sorkin".  I've never understood why people give Sorkin so much grief for writing autobiographically - I couldn't possibly be less interested in where the man gets his plots and characters - but then it's never been this ugly before.  I'm willing to concede that this might be part of a longer story, and maybe Will will see the light whilst lighting his cigarettes with spare Ben Franklins.  Right now, though, the World According to Sorkin has never seemed so unchallenged, nor so unpleasant.

Update: I forgot to mention in all the OWS anger, but I was none too impressed with McAvoy's stance on the N*****head issue, either.   This time the wealthy white guy is telling liberals they shouldn't be holding Rick Perry responsible for someone else naming a cabin he uses, and that maybe liberals are scrambling too hard to escape "our shared history".  To which the obvious rejoinder is "what do you mean our shared history, white man?"  I cannot and wouldn't want to speak for all black liberals, obviously, but the ones I know argued Perry screwed up here, and I think I'll be listening to them on this issue, thank you very much.

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