Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sorkinisms


The Newsroom sucks.  I wish it didn't.  Aaron Sorkin is an arrogant genius, creating an alternate universe in the movies and TV shows he writes in which plucky, talkative, overworked, arrogant geniuses talk a lot to each other about how superior they are and the world would be if everyone listened to them and didn't act like idiots.  That blowhard arrogance, when Sorkin is great, becomes a sort of savvy, campy manifesto for workaholic professionals and political geeks.  In The Social Network and The American President, Sorkin's masterpieces, there are moments of pure bliss and the constant talking takes on the high-style rants and rhythms of old-school Hollywood:  "repartee" is the word.  At the center of both movies is a sense of outrage cushioned in the idea that everything will work out once people come to their senses and just do what Aaron Sorkin says. 

In both those movies, though, a slight but kind of creepy sexism runs through the dialog and situations.  Even though the ladies are competent (Annette Benning in The American President is a high-IQ lobbyist, and Mara Rooney in The Social Network is a high-IQ Harvard coed), they are at the service of the main characters:  a genius president and a genius entrepeneur respectively.  That sexism pales in comparison to the outright and weird-assed misogyny in The Newsroom.  Ostensibly about an anchorman who goes a tad bit crazy and starts telling "the truth," instead of what people want to hear, Newsroom is really a bad show because it feels underwritten and overwritten at the same time, and the very premise -- that once upon a time the media really did a good job and helped this country become a great nation! -- is kind of nostalgic and whiny and oversimplified to the point that everything about the show feels forced, even the set design.  Jeff Daniels plays the anchor-guy and every time he's on screen (which is a majority of the time) you just want to turn the channel.  He's grumpy and conceited and I bet his breath smells bad.  And he bloviates to the point no one really in their right mind should really give a shit what he says.  In short he's Keith Olberman. 

It's the misogyny, though, that really makes Newsroom horrible.  Almost all of the villains in the piece are "gossips." The very idea of "gossip" is feminized in the show's cosmology, and every character who is seen as worthless is morethanlikely either a right-winged moron, or a female "gossip," including all those immoral housewives on Bravo, and most of the ladies sitting in fancy, shiny Washington DC restaurants with pomegranite martinis and really long fingernails.  Sorkin is creating a completely black and white universe in this show -- the "us" are all the smart, smart-alecky, earnest guys in the newsroom, and the "them" are those bitches who gossip outside of it (Queen Bitch is played by Jane Fonda, God Love her, as the conservative owner of the network).  These gossipers pollute the media with their singsong doggerel.  Real newspeople are truth-tellers and well, guys.  Guys who are so pissed they stay late, drink hard, don't make good boyfriends, and risk getting fired because the truth-telling is so goddamn important it just might kill them.  

But these heroics are vacuous of course.  And the "us versus them" is just plain sad.  

The only bright spot:  Emily Mortimer as Daniels' executive producer.  Even with a role that makes her swing back and forth from competent, dirty-talking, one-of-the-boys producer to spurned and bumbling ex-lover, Mortimer brings a gravity and a patience to her role that makes her moments on screen close to authentic, even though she's having to speak a lot of Sorkinisms.  

I wish they'd give her a spin-off.  And yup -- please ask someone else to write it.