What Aaron Sorkin taught me

I’m a huge political junkie, if you can’t tell. Normally I spend a lot of time during an election year, even the mid term elections, glued to the news, reading every paper I can get, and just stuffing myself as full of election information as I can.

This year, I’m not really thrilled with the candidate my party has chosen. I wanted Bernie Sanders, and it’s looking like he’s not going to get the nomination. (Sigh) So, it’s kind of depressing to watch the news. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still paying attention. It’s just that right now it’s evoking a lot of emotions in me, like anger and confusion. It’s shaping out to be a race to the bottom, and that’s the last thing we need right now.

So, to sooth my political addict mind when I can’t handle the current news anymore, I watch West Wing and Newsroom, two shows by Aaron Sorkin. And, I just have to share this with all of you, he’s probably one of the best tv writers of all time.

His characters

Aaron Sorkin’s characters are some of my favorite. His bad guys are relateable, and complex. More than once, I’ve heard someone argue that someone wasn’t a bad guy at all, or totally was a bad guy when I didn’t think s/he was. A good example is the Vice President from West Wing. I thought for sure he was a good guy, because of how he stood up for Leo and how he knew the president has MS but didn’t say anything. My husband was convinced that he was a bad guy, because he seemed to be working against the President. But that makes perfect sense if he didn’t think Bartlett was going to run for a second term!

The thing I took away from this, is that no one is just evil. Everyone’s got a motivation, and some of the nicest people can do the most heartless things if properly motivated. Someone you think is an asshole, other people might see as a really decent person.

Along the same line, some of his characters, his good characters, make dumb decisions. Maggie Jordon from Newsroom constantly makes shitty choice after shitty choice. I feel that her every action proves that she cares for no one but herself. Lots of people like her, I’m not one of them.

His dialog

I can’t get through an episode of West Wing without thinking, “Hell yes, you are so right! You tell that -insert the big bad for the episode-!”

Dialog rings true for these characters, and each person’s speech is unique to them. You don’t have many lines that could have come out of just anyone’s mouth. And, because he did such a good job with his characters, you can tell that this was the line for this person.

More than that, the dialog is honest. It’s often things we might have wanted to say ourselves. It’s sometimes arguments to something we have said. More than once, it’s made me rethink my opinion on something. Sorkin’s dialog is persuasive without being pushy. It’s eloquent. It expects that you are smart enough to understand what he’s saying. Just, do me a favor. Watch the first speech on the first episode of Newsroom. See if it doesn’t stir up some emotions in you.

His opinion of intelligence

I want to go back to something, there. What I said about ‘It expects that you are smart enough to understand what he’s saying.’ That kind of sums up both of these shows, though. They expect you to be smart.

Not a lot of shows expect that of us. In fact, most shows expect just the opposite. Short attention spans, an emphases on conformity and comfort. The thought that people don’t want anything new, or unexpected, (to paraphrase Futurama). Don’t talk about the taboo topics, don’t make people mad. Don’t expect people to understand complex storylines, even multiple story lines in one episode. Overall, there’s a sense of, “You’re smart enough to get this, so I’m not going to talk down to you.”

If you get a chance, all of West Wing is on Netflix, and all of Newsroom is on Amazon. Check it out, you won’t regret it.

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