The Title Is “Amen”
The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 5
I’m never that far from The Newsroom. That’s something that felt giddy and gossipy a couple of weeks ago that now feels tiresome. Because nothing is different. The show is still way out of its depth when it comes to human beings relating to each other in a human way, men and women – well, you already know the drill - but it’s changed for me, from being can’t-look-away car crash to just…exhaustion.
Business first – Sorkin fired all his writers. It happens…though not usually on a show that’s just been approved for a second season. I don’t particularly think the show will get better, no, because I bet those first-season writers weren’t being listened to all that much either.
The thing about The Newsroom that struck me this week is how much hopefulness there is. The theme song. It really believes in itself. It really believes that this – the news, this show - is and should be inspirational.
And this is where you grow a kind of…I don’t want to say pity, exactly…but a sort of sad emotional protectiveness. I don’t like what Sorkin is writing. It’s not just the unending parade of women as hapless goofs whom men love in spite of their shortcomings, or the cliché of everyone in the office getting physically hurt, or the glaringness of only the men getting hurt.
But I feel kind of sorry for someone who wants all this stuff to be this true. For Khalid to be found, easily and unharmed. For a “Rudy” story to be so inspiring that the staff give up their money to show solidarity to their “coach”. For the nobility of not paying for good press to be such an easy decision. The guy’s code name was “Amen”. I mean…?
Aaron Sorkin doesn’t want people to be complicated. In fact, his people are extremely simple in their motivations, and they identify with and relate to people who are just like them. They don’t have conflicting desires, or if they do (see Maggie, who wants Don and Jim…somehow) the “right thing” always wins out in the end. Sorkin’s characters are never self-interested, or never without the nag of conscience at their heels.
Workplaces aren’t like this, of course. People aren’t like this. Nobody is purely good or purely evil (except gossip columnists who call themselves journalists, naturally), and I just…don’t understand the motivation for painting the world this way. Yes, it would be tough enough to do your job if all the baddies were on the outside, but the whole amazing conundrum of the human condition is that the bad guy is sometimes you.
I know. It’s elementary.
I feel like every 16-year-old who loved Catcher In The Rye knows this to be true so – why doesn’t Sorkin? Why doesn’t he want to challenge his characters, make them work harder to be nobler in a world that wants you to compromise all the time?
Because things are easy for them. They get the guests, they get the emotional “Rudy” moments, they get the moral victories without, it would seem, going through any problems to get there. At least, not in the here and now. Cheating? Professional errors? Those are all in the past. Now our people are sailing straight on to victory – as long as the bad guys outside don’t come in.
We were talking about the Doppler effect this weekend – you know, how a siren or music sounds weird when it’s coming toward you, and right when it’s beside you, and then bad and sour when it’s pulling away? Maybe The Newsroom scripts are only considered when they’re right there by his ear?