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July 2, 2012 5:33 PM   Subscribe


 
show-bossing Jonathan Franzen of screenwriting would take himself

OH GOD THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING YES THAT IS A PERFECT CONNECTION.
posted by The Whelk at 5:36 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


How to get under Aaron Sorkin's skin.

Everything I have ever read, heard, or seen about or by Aaron Sorkin has led me to believe that this is the very easiest thing in the world to do.
posted by enn at 5:54 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I get irritated - for reasons that I can't explain - with reporters and writers who work themselves into a story. Made it hard to pay attention to the story.
posted by Thistledown at 5:59 PM on July 2, 2012


Hahaha, oh man. I have never heard of Sarah Nicole Prickett before but this one of the most slyly bald-faced fuck-yous I have ever read. Glorious.
posted by kavasa at 5:59 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't every show by Aaron Sorkin about how to get under Aaron Sorkin's skin?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:00 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Awwwww. Sorkin is a lovable fuddy duddy of letters.
posted by Bwithh at 6:00 PM on July 2, 2012


That was better and more thoughtfully written than its subject had any right to... she took "write something nice" to heart!
posted by gilrain at 6:01 PM on July 2, 2012


Yeah, writing yourself into a news story is normally a bad move but in this case I think she pulled it off. I loved this. Fuck you very much indeed, Mr. Sorkin. :-)
posted by Scientist at 6:04 PM on July 2, 2012


Thistledown: Made it hard to pay attention to the story.

In my view, it was a short, creative non-fiction piece about Aaron Sorkin, centered by the incident of her brief interview with him. I give it full marks. It doesn't seem to have been meant as a review of The Newsroom, or an interview with Sorkin, so what other story were you expecting her to tell?
posted by gilrain at 6:04 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fairness to Sorkin, Sarah Nicole Prickett is incredibly annoying.
posted by gonna get a dog at 6:22 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


When he asks if she watched the show a second time because she didn't understand it, she assumes he means "because she is stupid" when he could, in fact, mean, "because I failed". I ask the same question of anyone who tells me they read something of mine twice and that's exactly what I mean; every writer I know would.

So huge is the hubris in thinking anyone smart enough to write about this show for a national newspaper might not be yet smart enough to understand it

Wow. Talk about pot and kettle. Some of the dumbest people I've ever met write for national Canadian newspapers. Does she not spend any time in the lunch room? Or reading daily newspapers?

Sorkin can also say, as he does to me, that he is interested only in telling great stories, but those stories tell me he wants to draw the picture.

What? He's a storyteller. Of course he's interested in drawing the picture. What does this even imply?

I’m not sure how he’s forgotten that I am writing for a newspaper;

I'd wager it was when he started thinking of you as "Internet Girl"--that is, when you suggested Gawker would make a good tv show.

“I have a New York Times subscription and an HBO subscription. Any other advice?”

Get off your high horse and learn how to conduct a proper interview. (To start with, people are reading the article to find out what Sorkin thinks, not you. That's why his name's in the headline.)
posted by dobbs at 6:26 PM on July 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


That discussion between Maureen Ryan and Jace Lacob about the sexism inherent in 'The Newsroom' so far, linked at Hey Internet Girl, is really good.
posted by mediareport at 6:29 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why people expected this to be a straight interview. The title is "How to get under Aaron Sorkin’s skin (and also, how to high-five properly)"; you could infer it's going to be a little off-the-wall.
posted by gilrain at 6:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh please, her skewering of his masturbatory ouvre was perfect.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


dobbs: my first question starts, “I watched the pilot twice ... ” But I don't get to the question part because Sorkin looks as if he wants to say something. I invite him to do so, and he asks, “Because you liked it so much the first time, or because you didn't understand it the first time?”

She's assuming nothing. Sorkin is the one who suggests that she might have watched it twice because she didn't understand it.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:36 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get off your high horse and learn how to conduct a proper interview.

I work in journalism, and I'm really not sure what you mean by a "proper interview." Does it involve some notion of being robotically objective and avoiding sharing anything of yourself with the interview subject? Or...?
posted by limeonaire at 6:39 PM on July 2, 2012


Somehow I had the idea that Sorkin was much older and I just checked wikipedia which tells me that he's a whole 51 years old. He comes across as a curmudgeonly guy in his sixties.
posted by octothorpe at 6:40 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, so that's why I have never had any interest in watching his shows. 'Cause he's a douche.
posted by New England Cultist at 6:43 PM on July 2, 2012


Any credit I might have given Sorkin for being misunderstood is spent in the last three paragraphs of the piece. In those, he manages to come off as dismissive, sexist, ageist, and whatever flavor of luddite includes TV watching as A-OK.

Between this article and the Sorkin repetition video from the other day, I get the impression that Newsroom is going to have to do a lot of work if it wants to step out of the shadow of Sorkin himself. It's not doing anything to set itself apart from his previous work. It's just "Studio 60" with a newscast instead of a SNL-clone to perfrom.
posted by maryr at 6:54 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]



Sorkin can also say, as he does to me, that he is interested only in telling great stories, but those stories tell me he wants to draw the picture.
What? He's a storyteller. Of course he's interested in drawing the picture. What does this even imply?
In context of the article, she's saying The Newsroom isn't postmodern, but rather, it's modernist, in the sense that it's trying to say how the world Ought to be rather then trying to deconstruct and analyze it.

See:
Recently, in the L.A. Review of Books, rock critic/legend Greil Marcus railed against postmodernism: “Give me modernism. Modernism says the world has to be changed and we’re going to draw a picture of what it ought to look like.”

Sorkin could have said that. Sorkin can also say, as he does to me, that he is interested only in telling great stories, but those stories tell me he wants to draw the picture. In his work, and especially in The Newsroom, truth is the electric blue vein in the soft, nebulous flab of postmodern American culture. He believes that with a needle-sharp script you can find that truth, and that if he finds it, audiences will believe it too.
posted by delmoi at 6:56 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


She's assuming nothing. Sorkin is the one who suggests that she might have watched it twice because she didn't understand it.

Yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's suggesting that she is stupid. dobbs's point, I think, is that he might have been afraid she didn't understand it because he has failed and produced a confusing or muddled pilot. Even given Sorkin's arrogance (in the rest of the interview, and in general), I think it's likely that that is what he meant by his question and that she misunderstood his implication.
posted by enn at 7:15 PM on July 2, 2012


Oh, so that's why I have never had any interest in watching his shows. 'Cause he's a douche.
Well, the author of the article thought he was a douche and certainly illustrated that viewpoint. But I pretty much thought he was a douche anyway.
I get irritated - for reasons that I can't explain - with reporters and writers who work themselves into a story. Made it hard to pay attention to the story.
There wasn't much of a story, she managed to get a few questions as he was leaving the press room at HBO, he answered one and made a few (somewhat condescending jokes). I didn't get that at first, I thought this was a sit down/scheduled interview. He probably didn't realize she was writing for Canada's largest newspaper, eh.
posted by delmoi at 7:24 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


She's assuming nothing. Sorkin is the one who suggests that she might have watched it twice because she didn't understand it.

It's the why she (possibly) didn't understand it that she's assuming. She's assuming he suggested she (possibly) didn't understand it because she's not smart enough. I'm suggesting that he could have meant she watched it twice because she (possibly) didn't understand it because he fucked up the telling, which seems a far more likely assumption (on his part) than her assumption--based on any writer I've ever met. (However, I've never met Sorkin so don't know what he meant--I'm merely suggesting that as the interviewer, it would have been smarter of her to have examined that angle (or at least acknowledged it) than just assuming he was being condescending and then running the rest of the interview as if he was).

Does it involve some notion of being robotically objective and avoiding sharing anything of yourself with the interview subject?

That'd be a good start. But if you have to break those guidelines then at least have a reason better than, "Because, damnit, people need to hear what I've got to say!", as this writer has done. Lets not pretend that she peppered the piece with her opinions. There is barely anything in the piece that Sorkin actually said. I gave it a cursory count and found exactly four actual quotes from him, and only two from during the interview. The rest is her personal bloviation and biased assumptions. In fact, numerous times, like in the part delmoi quoted, she uses someone else's words (or her own) to sum up "Sorkin's" POV and then judges him for the things he didn't actually say. And this: "With one look into the steel arrogance behind Sorkin’s eyes, I am sure he considers his life’s tragedy that, in 50 years, there will be no Sorkin to write about him." Give me a fucking break.
posted by dobbs at 7:25 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I pretty much expect that turning The Globe and Mail into a Gawkerish celebrity insider outrage rag probably is a good way to get under his skin.
posted by Winnemac at 7:29 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


McAvoy's statistical tidal wave was pure Sorkinism. It reminded me of the death of Mrs Landingham.

Charlie answers the phone and (exaggerating somewhat) says Ms Landingham was driving through the intersection of Elm Lane and Oak Blvd when she was broadsided by a 2003 light blue 4 door Toyota Camry going 47 MPH.

I remember thinking, "Doesn't he get tired of writing stuff like that?"
posted by wrapper at 7:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, pretty much what dobbs said. She was clearly searching for negative intent in everything he had to say. I'm pretty sure that Sorkin could have sat their in silence and she still would have written her nasty little take-down.

I'm definitely not a Sorkin fanboy but surely I'm not the only one who thinks this backlash is getting a little ridiculous?
posted by smithsmith at 7:37 PM on July 2, 2012


* there not their
posted by smithsmith at 7:37 PM on July 2, 2012


She read through the leaked Newsroom script months before the show came out. I assumed that she was probably a fan of his work.
posted by maryr at 7:40 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's more likely that her attitude towards Sorkin is the same as mine -- hate-watching. Oodles and oodles of hate-watching. I don't think there's ever been a better show to hate-watch than Studio 60. Not Smash, not Glee, none of 'em.

The Newsroom sounds right up my alley, precisely because it sounds so horribly not up my alley (or perhaps I should say, it's close enough to being up my alley that it suffers from uncanny alley syndrome.)
posted by workingdankoch at 7:46 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I tend to agree with most of what Ryan and Lacob say in that piece linked above, and will repeat what I said last week, that Sorkin sucks at writing women at the beginning of any of his shows' runs. He's giving pratfalls to both men and women, though, so I won't level that at him here (and that bit with unveiling the whiteboard only to accidentally knock it over in the process was actually funny and naturally-played, which I can respect in an episode as problematic as last night's.

He's got a major issue that no one is talking about yet in that he seems to be trying to fit the pacing of other HBO shows, which doesn't work for what has made his writing successful in the past. Game of Thrones is about palace intrigue. The Sopranos was about tension-inducing suburban ennui. Six Feet Under was carried on a tone of ethereal and somber mysteries of the unknowable in contrast to the people who work within and around those mysteries. All of those allow for scenes stretching out to five minutes or more and can still hold momentum. They are more naturalistic and ponderous (or in GoT's case, set in a high fantasy genre which expects that level of gravitas.)

The Newsroom, on the other hand, is supposed to have Sorkin's brand of snappy, loopy writing. That can work (as it has before) if the scenes are tight enough and the overall construction well-designed enough to keep us moving forward, but currently the scenes of this dialogue drag on endlessly, repeating themselves in ways not clever or musical but just irritating and self-conscious. In that scene between MacKenzie and Sloane I didn't even bother to catch what it was all about, because it went around and around the whole "we all think Will cheated on you" / "no, he didn't, but I can't say what really happened" nonsense, which was dire enough of a subplot on it's own, but hammering it into the ground drowed out any subplot which might have been interesting there.

Speaking of, that whole plotline (with the email, good god the email), along with the Maggie-Jim-Don triangle bullshit, made me realize just how passionate apathy can be. Not only do I not care about either of these stories, but I adamantly, viciously, angrily don't care. Allison Pill is a good actress, and doing her best here, and signs of life showed through with her drunk at the bar, but these storylines are dragging shit down.

And grrr... Okay, spoilers and whatnot...

So the point of the episode is that they do a bad show. Like, a really, really bad show. Unprofessionally bad. I like that, as an idea. I'm not sure that Episode 2 was the place for it, but I don't know where all of this is going yet.

And like last week, the actual ON AIR segment was probably the strongest element. It was painfully uncomfortable to watch, and that was by design. The problem is the ridiculousness that brought us there.

First, the news-gathering organization learns about an Arizona bill named SB 1070, which has passed through the house and senate, and now is about the be signed by Governor Jan Brewer. No idea how they learned about this - maybe by watching CNN or something, but they don't seem to have heard about it until that day. Whatever. They discuss at length questions such as who they will be willing to qualify as experts for the story, how the story is best framed, and whether the story actually has two sides, which are kind of 101 in terms of complaining about current news journalism but maybe we need to start at the ground level here, so whatever.

So they decide that they need to have Governor Brewer on, because they need to have someone qualified defend the legislation. This after a bunch of the young (of course) staff toss out ideas for wingnuts that could come on, and being told that they don't do that here anymore, which is fine.

(on a side note here, they throw in a small, kind of snide reference to The Daily Show with one of the staffers saying that there was a great crazy militia dude on Stewart last night, and them saying that's exactly what they don't want. At first I thought that Sorkin just didn't understand that TDS doesn't do that, before I realized that there might in fact be a correspondent bit exactly as they are describing. Still, first, if that's true, then it would still seem that News Night is being scooped by Comedy Central on the subject, and secondly, if you're making a show that's all about fixing the inherent problems in tv journalism and how they distort the stories as told to Americans, you don't have to acknowledge TDS and Colbert in your fictional universe. But if you do, don't pretend that they haven't been making your arguments for years before you got to them, and more eloquently and relevantly. Moving on...)

So Maggie is set to do the pre-interview with someone from Brewer's staff. Jim doesn't think she's ready to do this unsupervised. After showing that, while she has a valid opinion on SB 1070, she is nowhere near ready to frame that in a good way for a pre-interview, Jim lets her do it, and she screws it up. Not because of the inexperience we just saw on display, but because the Brewer staffer is an old boyfriend of hers and she couldn't resist getting a joke in about him not lasting long in sex, which is bolstered by a very tedious story of her having to hide under his dormroom bed while he fucked an ex-girlfriend, and... gah!

So anyway, she didn't tell Jim about the personal history because he knew that she wouldn't get to do the pre-interview if he knew, and she doesn't get fired over this (or the more immediate screw-up) even though this means that every news outlet gets a spot with Brewer except ACN.

So now, no Brewer, which means they either have to drop the segment (because otherwise everyone will say they were one-sided about it) or else bring on the wingnuts, who have no business being on camera. In the middle of all this, there's the atrociously stupid bit about the damn email, so Will is pissed at MacKenzie and not obeying her during the broadcast, which leads to the wingnuts saying stupid-ass stuff, Will trying to coax them, and then force them, into a coherent argument, which doesn't work, until everything just falls apart.

Question: Why the sweet fuck was Brewer the only person they could possibly find who would count as "qualified" to talk about this, to the point where they would have to go directly from her to the wingnuts? Didn't this bill have sponsors? Do state senators hate the exposure that a national newscast gets them?

And the answer is depressingly clear: Sorkin's conceit already has him backed into a corner where he has to report on non-fictional stories and non-fictional public figures, but can't really get away with having them played by actors. So of course Jan Brewer was going to cancel, and Sorkin couldn't invent an Arizona congressman to have on the show, because that would offend his vision of "getting the story right," and also this way allowed him to have a bunch of strawmen up there.

It was a bungled episode about a bungled episode of tv. But it makes me angry because of the feeling that this could be good if the bad instincts were beaten out of it.

Oh, and as a final note, that weird final shot, of Will stepping out onto his midtown Manhattan balcony to look at the unobstructed view of the Statue of Liberty that you'd get in a helicopter somwhere over Brooklyn or the Buttermilk Channel, can exist nowhere in New York, and also made no immediate sense. It felt like, well, here's some swelling music, let's throw an icon in there and hope it fits emotionally. While writing this I realized it was supposed to be about the immigration issue (I guess?) but it was just a weird, poor capper to an episode that I hope remains a low point for the series.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:50 PM on July 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ooh, can we discuss the latest episode in here? Disappointed by the lack of Balloon Boy this week. It would have had a wonderful symmetry to the premier - in the first they cover the story that no other media outlet is interested in, and then in the latest they could have refused to cover the inane story that somehow became breaking news instead of staying in the tabloids where it belonged.

(Also, Mohammed El-Mohammed El-Mohammed Bin Bizir and falling plaster are not helping the viewers tell this show apart from the West Wing.)
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:12 PM on July 2, 2012


to be completely fair, internet slang actually is intellectually degrading
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:18 PM on July 2, 2012


From what I'm reading in this npr piece, it appears that by episode 4 we will have gone from April 22, 2010 in episode 1, to Jan 8, 2011. When will we reach peak hindsight, at this rate?
posted by Navelgazer at 8:28 PM on July 2, 2012


When will we reach peak hindsight, at this rate?

Presumably the episode where Jeff Daniel's character writes a vicious take-down article about a humble, all-American screenwriter.
posted by smithsmith at 8:32 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is Sorkin in danger of becoming a caricature of himself? Yes. But this piece is ridiculous, and it's written with the immature, annoying snark of a thirteen-year-old girl who hates all men this week because daddy disapproves of her boyfriend's haircut. If the point was to rebut Sorkin's thesis on the current woeful state of journalism, well, it could scarcely be a bigger failure.
posted by azaner at 8:39 PM on July 2, 2012


However, I've never met Sorkin so don't know what he meant--I'm merely suggesting that as the interviewer, it would have been smarter of her to have examined that angle (or at least acknowledged it)
Well, there are two reasons why I doubt that was the case. The first is simply the fact that it's really unlikely that the show's pilot was, in general, incomprehensible. I've only seen a few clips but, but I'm familiar with his other stuff and while there is a lot of ridiculousness in them, they are in no way hard to follow

So in order for Sorkin to think that she might have had trouble following it, he would have had to have been insecure to the point of being obviously wrong. But not only is Sorkin not insecure, he's obviously massively arrogant. So it seems exceedingly unlikely that he was actually worried he wrote something people couldn't follow.

In fact, it seems like he probably wrote something that was intentionally complex, intentionally leaving some people behind. So he might be well asking "did you like it, or are you one of the 74% of the population who are too dumb to follow my complex plotting, which is why my new show is on HBO and not NBC?"

And I think if you're that successful as a writer, it just seems really unlikely that you'd still be worried about being able to handle basic tasks like writing a coherent plot.
and it's written with the immature, annoying snark of a thirteen-year-old girl who hates all men this week because daddy disapproves of her boyfriend's haircut.
Oh it's totally true! All snarky feminists are really just upset at their daddies. Poor girls. They just need a sorkinesque authority figure boyfriend to set 'em straight.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on July 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


But not only is Sorkin not insecure, he's obviously massively arrogant.

To me he seems pretty clearly to be both of those things, a lot. They're not really contradictory.
posted by enn at 8:46 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


unlikely that he was actually worried he wrote something people couldn't follow.

He's a writer. That's part of what they do. Right after they do the writing part. The only writers who don't are the ones who should.
posted by dobbs at 8:51 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


also gawker is not really great journalism

i'm not saying anybody said it was, but just in case
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:53 PM on July 2, 2012


Is Sorkin in danger of becoming a caricature of himself? Yes.

I think that happened somewhere between the first and third episodes of Sports Night.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:56 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


That recent video clip of this latest Sorkin show had the Jeff Daniels character speaking to a student. He said "Hey, Sorority Girl". I thought it was funny given this article and the recent collection of clips of Sorkin repeating his own lines. I don't think I like him.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:22 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god lookit this old white dork seriously don't give him any drugs
posted by The Whelk at 9:24 PM on July 2, 2012


“We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labour force, and No. 4 in exports,”

178th in infant mortality? No. Not true. Sorry. Not even close. 178th on that list is Guinea. The American infant mortality rate was better in 1950 than the Guinean infant mortality rate is today.

Infant mortality is a fucking weirdo metric anyway once you get near the top of the heap. Every nation has its own recording rules, so you can never compare apples to apples.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 9:53 PM on July 2, 2012


Holy crap, there's a new Aaron Sorkin show! Awesome!

Not sure why it's premiering in July, but this is good information to know.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:59 PM on July 2, 2012


also x2 man internet people really get defensive when you say internet is lame
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:03 PM on July 2, 2012


I guess Sorkin's going to snap-judge any woman who blogs (forevermore) because of the whole MightyBigTV/TWOP thing.
posted by gingerest at 10:08 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


also x2 man internet people really get defensive when you say internet is lame

That sentence would have really appreciated at least a touch of punctuation.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:11 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I said in the last Sorkin thread when I linked this exact article still applies.

Seriously, I don't really like The Newsroom at all, but shit like this makes me want to keep giving it more chances. Oh, Internet.
posted by palidor at 10:24 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have HBO so it's not likely I'll continue to watch the show, but I did get to see the first episode via some podcast thingy on my iPhone...I'll just say I absolutely agree with Sorkin when he said he would have really thrived as a writer in the 1940s. And we can both agree to different interpretations of whether that's a good thing to be.

And is it just me or was that first episode basically just the pilot episode of Studio 60 with a few set pieces and character names changed? Seriously. Oh and Mackenzie Machale? Really?! Come on! Has anybody put together a Sorkin character names generator yet because that shit would write itself.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:35 PM on July 2, 2012


“misandry” is a word you hear people say and mean.
Is it really necessary to be so dismissive?

I don't understand how the idea that men might be treated unfairly in some way is too absurd to even consider.
posted by rcdc at 10:44 PM on July 2, 2012


And is it just me or was that first episode basically just the pilot episode of Studio 60 with a few set pieces and character names changed?

Now I really need to see this!
posted by Kevin Street at 10:57 PM on July 2, 2012


Sorkin's portrayal of the female characters in this show (up to episode 2 now) is making it very difficult for me to enjoy the rest of it.
posted by flippant at 11:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's written with the immature, annoying snark of a thirteen-year-old girl who hates all men this week because daddy disapproves of her boyfriend's haircut.


Patronizing, misogynistic and dismissive! It's a hat trick!
posted by lunasol at 11:31 PM on July 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


A few months ago, I decided to go back and re-watch The West Wing, having not really seen it since I was a teenager. I was a little shocked to discover just how often a scene had this exact format:

Woman: MAN! MAN! GET OVER HERE MAN FOR I AM PETULANT AND ANGRY!!
Man: Oh, geez, are you petulant and angry?
Woman: I HAVE REASONS FOR BEING PETULANT AND ANGRY!!
Man: I have no idea what they could be.
Woman: THAT MAKES ME MORE ANGRY!
Man: Okay, okay, stop being so hysterical!
Woman: DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT I AM ANGRY!?
Man: I do! I just don't understand why, you silly goose!
Woman: Hmpf!
Man: Fine, fine, if I do some things for you, will you stop being so petulant and angry?
Woman: Aw! You're the bestest and smartest! [big smooches and leaves]
Man: [rolls eyes] Oh, that woman!

It has kind of ruined the show for me. CJ still totally rocks, but even she is often presented like this.
posted by meese at 11:39 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ok, this is going to be a little off topic, and I have not even watched the new show yet, but I was having an amount of drinks earlier and talking about Arron Sorkin, and now I have had a few more drinks.

I love Arron Sorkin's writing, I recognize that there are quite a few flaws in it, often some awful flaws, leaving me cringing at a terrible misuse of John Goodman, but it scratches some basic media itch, and as much as I love 30 Rock, I would probably prefered it, if Studio 60 was the only SNL based show to get renewed that year.

So anyhow I like the guy a lot He writes everything pretty great, except about politics and media. He mostly only writes about politics and media.

I am having a little trouble coming to my point, but I guess it would be,

Watch some Arron Sorkin shows, they are great, but after ever season or so rewatch the first episode of Black Mirror, the one piece of television that perfectly captures the relationship between television, and media, and all the things that Sorkin dabbles in, it is great palate cleanser for another season of the west wing.


Also sports night is pretty good, they mostly just talk about baseball or whatever, instead of caucuses or whatever, plus romantic tension, and banter, lovely banter.
posted by St. Sorryass at 11:39 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorkinisms - A Supercut
posted by bonefish at 11:39 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, speaking of Sorkin, you know what I really like?

Seasons 6 and 7 of The West Wing.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:42 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man... now that hating on this show is officially a thing and it's free on youtube I feel like I kind of have to watch it...
posted by delmoi at 12:21 AM on July 3, 2012


I just watched the pilot. There were some good moments. But a lot of serious ridiculousness. The key denouement might have been somewhat ruined by the fact that had seen various clips of it earlier and knew that .... spoilers people .... the girl holding up the sign at the start was his new producer. I think the plan was for people to be like "wasn't that the same girl who... " But in my case I knew she was the producer before I saw the "rant" clip and I was wondering WTF his producer would have told him to say that shit. When I realized what the actual plot was, it was completely ridiculous

Also Aaron's Sorken's Punk Rock, which someone apparently linked too in the other thread is hilarious.
posted by delmoi at 2:45 AM on July 3, 2012


Michael Barthel:
What really drives me nuts about Sorkin and dudes like him - and it almost always seems to be dudes - is that they proceed from the assumption that they know how to fix the world, then question why everyone else doesn’t already agree with them. Their ostensibly intellectual pursuits are about dominating the minds of lesser men rather than investigating the nature of the world, what is is and how it works. That seems depressingly hollow to me. It is terrifying that I might think I know everything, because I know how much I’d be missing. It sounds so limited but so settled to have decided on what is right and what is wrong, the mental equivalent of staying in the same small town your whole life, never traveling, never leaving. What’s fascinating about the world to me - or, at least, those portions of the world I’m interested in - is how hard it is to resolve the various possible truths. If we grant that different values systems are legitimate, how do they comfortably coexist? If we grant that change comes through a slow accretion of effects rather than all at once, what other outcomes emanate from those marginal shifts? Where in the middle do we land, and how do we describe that middle? What bad does good cause, and what good does bad cause? Once we’ve decided that there is no settled truth, how do we move on to find some sort of consensus? It’s not easy, sure. But it’s a fucking blast to dig into. And it’s way more entertaining to watch than someone who’s already made up his mind, standing there, telling you the way it all works. Sure, dude, you want to say. But what if you’re wrong?
posted by rollick at 3:26 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know I will never be a great scriptwriter because I cannot imagine, in a visceral sense, what it is like to be Aaron Sorkin everyday knowing that he is not David Mamet.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:32 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.”

What? Really?

Assuming that's true, that's incredibly condescending and rude. I'm kind of surprised that nobody here seems to care, and that "dobbs" seems to be doing the whole "If a woman says a man is being a jerk, then obviously she must be lying" line that you see time and time again on the internet - incredibly depressing double-standard though it is...

To be honest, I'd be inclined to believe her, given the enormous amount of evidence out there of spoiled and entitled behaviour from men raised in patriarchal cultures...

He says, “Let me manhandle you.”

Lovely. Not at all creepy.

All this from the man who brought us a character using a firework speech to accuse members of Generation Y of being the "Worst. Period. Generation. Period. Ever." Nice example of blaming the victim, but it doesn't really ring true...
posted by lucien_reeve at 4:58 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.”

Listen here, writer boy. It wouldn't kill you to read some stuff on the goddamned internet once in a while. Reporters in 2010 knew how to use email.

Or, you know, pick up a newspaper yourself. So you can figure out WHO WRITES THEM.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:30 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assuming that's true, that's incredibly condescending and rude.
It's worse then condescending. He sounds like a character from one of his own shows.
posted by delmoi at 5:39 AM on July 3, 2012


uncanny alley syndrome

AWESOME.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:43 AM on July 3, 2012


So my idea, which has solidified in the past hour, is this: a horror-suspense movie a la Se7en where Aaron Sorkin (Leo diCaprio) goes on a "there can be only one" rampage killing the great writers of the contemporary era and at the end it is the brilliant detective (Jada Pinkett Smith of course) who figures it all out just in time to get to Mamet's house even as Sorkin pulls out his garrote (a typewriter ribbon of course), and in an absolutely scintillating scene where interleaving paragraphs fly faster than bullets ever could, the three of them verbally eviscerate each other as the books in Mamet's massive library explode all around them.

I don't know how it ends, I just know that it must be made, and it must be called MONOLOGUE.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:11 AM on July 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


My take: dobbs is pretty much right. This reporter is being irritating as well as irresponsible, and this article does not stand up to the standards I would expect from the Globe.

1: The Joke: Sorkin's joke, which set off this whole prickly exchange, was a time-honoured writerly joke. I've said that 'joke' myself, or variations of it, dozens of times. Everybody who writes has heard it. It's almost a ritualistic response: a simple, self-effacing joke. I mean she could attack him for being unoriginal, I guess, but insulting seems a stretch.

2: The Interpretation of the Joke: So let's say this reporter is still unseasoned enough that she doesn't recognise this joke... well... she's a reporter, right? Shouldn't she clarify the meaning of the question before excoriating this man in (as she keeps pointing out) the national press?

3: The Context: So from the context it looks like this exchange took place at a big press junket. The poor actor or writer has to sit down for hours and hours and get interviewed again and again in five or seven minute segments. More often than not, it's the same questions over and over again, not because reporters are unoriginal, but because each news programme has to have a clip of the same details about opening dates and wasn't-it-a-privilage-to-work-with-so-and-so? This, in fact, might explain why this reporter was trying to get Sorkin to understand that she was Serious Journalism by saying she watched his show twice (many reporters wouldn't have seen it at all).

From this we draw conclusions:

3a: Sorkin probably wasn't at his best, and could have been very close to his mental worst when interviewed, and that the reporter probably knew this going in and;

3b: The reporter pretty much lived up to anybody's worst expectations by failing to do Serious Journalism, but instead writing a snarky hit piece. Not that snarky hit pieces don't have their place, but in the Globe?

4: The Jesse Thorn-Influenced Rebuttal: Come on, guys! Aaron Sorkin is not everybody's cup of tea. He might even be a condescending, irritating person... I don't know him. And yes, apparently he struggled with drug addiction and can be very unpleasant at times. But he's also amazingly prolific, and you simply can't write that much stuff under those incredible time pressures without doing some work that's kind of hackey. And yes, he repeats himself, and yes he has some characteristic motifs he falls back on (in other artists, this is called having a 'style'), and yes he probably says some things he's had characters say in the past. You know what? So did Oscar Wilde. So did Churchill, and they gave him a Nobel for literature.

I don't know what it is about TV that causes us to hold artists to unreasonable standards. By all means, let's discuss this guy's work, and by all means let's critique it, but all this drawn-out vitriol is demeaning... and I don't mean to Aaron Sorkin.

Many of us in this thread are writers, in one form or another. Let's all stop and think how we would feel if people examined our work in this way. Let's take this unpleasant article as a warning of what can go wrong, not a model of how to behave ourselves.
posted by Dreadnought at 6:24 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dreadnought, I'd be way more inclined to give weight to your response if you hadn't just favourited the lovely comment about a thirteen-year-old girl who hates all men this week because daddy disapproves of her boyfriend's haircut. That is utterly gross.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:27 AM on July 3, 2012


Because we really needed another post about Aaron Sorkin so you guys could come in here and talk about hating Aaron Sorkin.

Yay!
posted by kbanas at 7:02 AM on July 3, 2012


That is utterly gross.

Ok, I withdraw that favourite. I think that comment might have been calling on a stereotype that I don't have in my head, so I didn't flag it up as 'offensive'.

I clicked the little plus because a) I thought the comment cleverly (albeit in an exaggerated way, but turnabout is fair play) called up the tone of the article as being childish in that way you get from young teenagers ('I love you!' 'I'm a serious grownup!' 'Don't treat me like a baby!' 'I hate you and everything you are!') and b) I had that little chuckle of recognition because I remember that exact thing happening when I was thirteen, so it was like somebody making a reference to my life and experience very directly.

So I apologise, and if anybody wants to further explain why this particular example is hurtful, I would be grateful to be educated.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:07 AM on July 3, 2012


"dobbs" seems to be doing the whole "If a woman says a man is being a jerk, then obviously she must be lying"

If I say your your own skills of comprehension are worse than the reporter's, rest assured I do so without looking at your profile to determine your sex.
posted by dobbs at 7:23 AM on July 3, 2012


dobbs: “When he asks if she watched the show a second time because she didn't understand it, she assumes he means ‘because she is stupid’ when he could, in fact, mean, ‘because I failed’. I ask the same question of anyone who tells me they read something of mine twice and that's exactly what I mean; every writer I know would.”

It seems highly unlikely that this is what Sorkin meant. Or – well, tell me this: when you ask this of people who have read something of yours twice, do you then tell them that you'd rather they lied and told you they read it twice because they liked it? Because that's what Sorkin did. Does that really sound like a technical question about writing mechanics to you, in that context?
posted by koeselitz at 8:18 AM on July 3, 2012


Also – there is something important in the way the question is asked, dobbs. When having someone look over a piece of my writing, if they read it twice, I might ask: "because it didn't make sense to you the first time?" I probably wouldn't ask: "because you didn't understand it?" Sure, a small difference, but in light of what came after, it turned out to be an indicator of where Sorkin was coming from.

And one can't forget that interviews are written after the fact, and colored by the whole experience. I have a strong feeling this interview would not have been written this way if Sorkin hadn't ended it by uttering the phrase "Let me manhandle you."
posted by koeselitz at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The first episode is (officially) on youtube, and it didn't region-block me or anything! All right! Guess that's it for productivity this morning.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:57 AM on July 3, 2012


The "Let me manhandle you," comment is especially galling when it follows how he thinks America peaked in the 40s when female reporters were actually manhandled.
posted by maryr at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


koeselitz, I have no problem with the way he phrased it because I'm unaware of his inflection and I cannot rely on the reporter to be accurate with her assessment (because she's given me no reason to).

In the opening paragraph she turns his plea to "write something nice" into a condescending command, something I simply do not buy. Again, I don't know Sorkin but I have listened to hours of interviews with the man and it's not a summation that I can accept unless viewed through a very dim prism of interpretation.

Look, here he is in a 10 minute interview, where he discusses the Newsroom and his Steve Jobs project. (He even uses "authorial" in it, just like he did in the newspaper interview.) Note that this interview has been cut down but in the full-length one, practically the first thing out of his mouth is a declaration of his own lack of intelligence. (I believe Mossberg calls back to it in this edited piece). He also says that he likes to "kidnap" actors, "put them in my pocket and take them wherever I go". How do you think this reporter would have spun those words had you been unable to view their context and inflection?

Regarding the "manhandle" comment--if this reporter were telling me this story face to face and she'd said he said that, I would absolutely ask, "What do you mean? Why would he say that? What led to that word-choice? Are you saying he said that out of the blue or is he referring to something you mentioned earlier in your meeting that you've neglected to mention?" Because it just doesn't make sense--it does not have any context whatsoever and on its face, I simply don't buy it as an unmotivated comment. It seems obviously to be commenting on something we're not privy to and restricting our access to it is really bad reporting.

comment is especially galling when it follows how he thinks America peaked in the 40s when female reporters were actually manhandled.

What?! No! You're doing exactly what the reporter was doing. His comment was
“I think I would have done very well, as a writer, in the forties. I think the last time America was a great country was then, or not long after. It was before Vietnam, before Watergate.”
Notice that women's rights or women's jobs or their place in the workplace was not the subject of his comment. In the next paragraph, the reporter tries to twist his words to mean that, but that is not what he said.

If I say, "I really wish I was alive before technology was everywhere you turned--hell, before roads took away greenery and cars polluted the air," that does not give you the right to tell people I wanted to own slaves and fight in the civil war.
posted by dobbs at 9:37 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dobbs, given how he portrays women in the workplace across his entire body of work, the reporter really didn't need to twist his words at all.
posted by peppermind at 9:58 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


dobbs: “koeselitz, I have no problem with the way he phrased it because I'm unaware of his inflection and I cannot rely on the reporter to be accurate with her assessment (because she's given me no reason to).”

Look, "she might be lying" is an easy dismissal of everything and anything she says, but I don't think it's a rational way to approach this.

I'll just say this: if she is correct about the things she claims he said and did – leaving aside entirely any motivations she ascribes to him – then he's clearly not asking for constructive criticism, or implying that his script might have failed, when he asks her if she understood his script.
posted by koeselitz at 10:23 AM on July 3, 2012


Notice that women's rights or women's jobs or their place in the workplace was not the subject of his comment. In the next paragraph, the reporter tries to twist his words to mean that, but that is not what he said.

No, I agree that Sorkin was not referring to women's rights or jobs in the subject of his comment. I don't think he was thinking about them at all. I don't mean that he doesn't believe in them - I'm sure if it were being discussed, he'd agree that women were not treated equally in that time period. I just don't think he's discussing that at all. It's not in the worldview he's presenting. When he goes on to be consistently dismissive to the (presumably) young, female reporter in the same interview it shows how little he is thinking of it.
posted by maryr at 10:30 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


SAM
First of all, it’s bad writing.

HENRY
What’s wrong with it? [sits]

SAM
It sounds like it was written by a high school girl.

HELEN
Is there something wrong with the way a woman writes?

SAM
There usually is when she’s in high school.

HENRY
Sam!

[conversation continues and concludes]

SAM
[over his shoulder] I know plenty of women who can write, Helen. I know women who can blow the walls of brick buildings. This sounds like a girl.

[Helen doesn’t respond, just stares at him for a moment, and leaves.]
posted by lampoil at 10:36 AM on July 3, 2012


Look, "she might be lying"

I'm not saying she's lying. I'm saying she's biased. I believe he said, "Let me manhandle you," but since there's no context provided--and I refuse to accept that there wasn't context (because Sorkin is clearly capable of having a "normal conversation")--because she deliberately left it out, then, I'm sorry, but as a reader, I choose not to follow her into a rabbit hole of her own creating.

I believe he said, "Write something nice." But I also believe her categorizing the comment as "Smile, honey" is in her imagination, not his delivery. I believe that not because she's a woman, but because she's recontextualized their entire conversation to be one about gender politics. She's having a conversation he can't hear. Then, she's telling us that that's what they talked about.

When he goes on to be consistently dismissive to the (presumably) young, female reporter in the same interview it shows how little he is thinking of it.

Why would he be thinking about it at all? She's there to talk to him about The Newsroom. That's what the junket is for.

It seems pointless to discuss this here, further, because I feel we're all just talking past one another as we've made up our minds about the piece, but to me, it seems obvious why the conversation goes the way it goes.

She tells him she watched the show twice. Were I him, I'd wonder why and ask so. Then, when she provides her answer... it doesn't make sense, because her answer is essentially, "I watch everything twice if I'm going to write about it." Then why are you mentioning it?! If your watching it twice is not of note, why make note of it?

He then tries to get things back on track by making a joke: "Instead of providing me with useless information, you could have just lied." (IE, there was no reason for you to bring that up as you've just wasted a question and my time.)

Then she goes on to say that she liked the show but would have found it more interesting if he'd written something completely other. That is, if he had written about the internet, a subject he is on record as having no interest whatsoever in. However, he humors her and says, "You're right, there should be a show about the internet." He's being gracious, trying to change the subject by getting past the one at hand.

"There should be a show about Gawker!"

Writers don't like to be told, "It would have been more interesting to me if you'd made it more about things I'm interested in." They certainly don't like to write drama and be told it needs more explosions, which is essentially what she's done here. He's written a show about the decline of news, which is something that bothers him. She counters with "You should write about how glorious the decline of news is."

Now, were you him, how would you get out of this rather pointless conversation?
posted by dobbs at 1:48 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


So Aaron Sorkin is re-doing Ken Finkleman's show for Americans?
posted by CCBC at 2:37 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Let me manhandle you," but since there's no context provided

Isn't the context that he's showing her how to high-five properly and thus probably grabbing her arm or hand? The way that it's written in the article:

He makes me try to [high-five] “properly,” six times. He also makes me laugh; I’m nervous, and it’s so absurd. He loves it. He says, “Let me manhandle you.” Then he ambles off...

certainly could make his words sound like a parting shot. But I read it as being something that he said in the process of his high-five education, not necessarily at the end of it.

Which still makes that particular part of the interview condescending on his part and pretty embarrassing to endure for her. But those words didn't seem quite so "WTF, sexist" as other people seem to have picked up on.
posted by MUD at 3:52 PM on July 3, 2012


She tells him she watched the show twice. Were I him, I'd wonder why and ask so. Then, when she provides her answer... it doesn't make sense, because her answer is essentially, "I watch everything twice if I'm going to write about it." Then why are you mentioning it?! If your watching it twice is not of note, why make note of it?
This is getting a bit ridiculous. First of all, it might not be of note for her but she may have thought it was of note for him. If a girl tells you she's not wearing underwear, it doesn't make it less notable to you if she rarely does.

Secondly she was in the middle of a question, and mentioning that she'd seen it twice was part of the setup, but he cut her off in the middle.
Look, here he is in a 10 minute interview yt , where he discusses the Newsroom and his Steve Jobs project. (He even uses "authorial" in it, just like he did in the newspaper interview.) Note that this interview has been cut down but in the full-length one, practically the first thing out of his mouth is a declaration of his own lack of intelligence.
Sure, but he was talking to a fellow middle aged man, rather then a young woman. Being talked down too by men who don't talk down to other men is something that many women say they often experience.
posted by delmoi at 1:58 AM on July 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Salon: Aaron Sorkin versus reality: The increasingly unpleasant superiority complex of America's most prominent liberal screenwriter

Terry Gross interviews Sorkin on Fresh Air.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:43 AM on July 19, 2012


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