Sunday's episode of The Newsroom, and its clumsy handling of a rape plotline, garnered quite a bit of criticism, both here and elsewhere. This bothered Aaron Sorkin, because even Sorkin the Great is not impervious to other peoples' opinions of him: Monday night at the Writers Guild Association, he was "surprised by the vitriol and misunderstanding" that he perceives was leveraged his way after the episode aired.
As written by Nerdist:
What plagued Sorkin most, though, was the way in which he felt people wrongly ascribed his personal beliefs to that of what was done and said on the show and the "terrible inferences drawn from it about me and my character." Rice added that she herself has noticed this tendency in people's criticisms and compliments of the show, to which Sorkin posited his belief that if he'd "writtenThe Newsroom under a pseudonym, the reaction would've been much different."
"They're seeing it through a fractured lens of me," he lamented.
Though he was reticent to say what he truly believed out of any of them, in the end he said that if he were to fall in line with anyone on the series, "I believe Neal [Sampat, played by Dev Patel]." A surprising twist, given Sampat was the social media-enjoying, Internet-evangelizing director of ACN's website and digital content — often the odd-man-out on a series that frequently admonished certain aspects of the Internet.
(Personally, we believe the reason people so often conflate the two is not because Sork writes about politics — as he so posited — but rather the singular nature of his voice, so frequently philosophical in its grandstanding. But hey, what do we know?)
"His voice, so frequently philosophical in its grandstanding," is a pretty spot-on assessment as to why viewers tend to equate Sorkin himself with the tone of the show, so eager is it to make its righteous points. (And I actually tend to like the show, in case it was not clear in my piece yesterday—if I didn't, how would I know that much about it?) Sorkin is certainly a great writer but the tone he often strikes with The Newsroom is that of a preachy, self-important moralist speaking to us from a pedestal on high. No matter how wrong he tries us to convince us we are.
In the New York Times, Sorkin explained his intent with the rape storyline as follows:
Mr. Sorkin argued that he "designed the story so that Mary, the Princeton student, would have our sympathy," adding, "The two men she accuses are kept off screen." He said: "I cast a great actress who feels like our sister, our daughter, our roommate. I did everything I could to make it difficult not to believe her so that Don's declaration that he's obligated to believe 'the sketchy guy' would be excruciating."
"Let me put it a simpler way," he said. "She's not a rape victim. She is an alleged rape victim and I wanted to make it harder for us to remember that. It's easy to side with the accused in 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I made it less easy last night."
What the sam hell kind of circular comment is that? (Secondarily: does he really think The Newsroom is great enough to sit in the pantheon among one of America's greatest works of literature?) I understand that the rule of law is important in a democratic society, and that there must be room for reasonable doubt, and that many people are wrongly convicted of crimes, though statistically said false crimes are almost never rape. (The commonly cited percentage is that a minuscule percentage of all reported rape cases are false, although there is some dispute with that statistic. We do know for sure that false rape claims are very, very rare.) But he simultaneously seems like she is arguing for and against his character, reminding us that she could be lying—even if she is our sister, daughter, roommate—but also that the accused is a bad man, too. Or something? That is some circular-ass logic. And, ironically enough, Sorkin's argument sounds a lot like Don's.
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