A President’s Day Tribute to Aaron Sorkin

The man, the genuis. The Aaron Sorkin

Normally, I have a strict no politics policy on social media. Which is not to say that I’m not interested and informed about politics, or that I don’t have opinions on the issues. I do. But the fact is, I don’t discuss politics on Twitter, FB, etc for various reasons. Today I’m going to make a bit of an exception to talk about my love of Aaron Sorkin and his writing.

I became a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin when I caught a second season episode of his Emmy winning and critically acclaimed TV series, The West Wing, which ran from 1999-2006. The West Wing focused on the administration of President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen), a Democrat from New Hampshire who was a descendent of THE Josiah Bartlett who signed the Declaration of Independence. I was immediately drawn by the top notch writing, acting, storytelling, and production values. The focus of the episode was President Bartlet’s 3rd State of the Union Address, and I was hooked right away. You are immediately drawn into the world of the Oval Office and the West Wing, all the while rooting for the President and his Senior Staff. You felt and believed in their passion, commitment, and dedication to serving their country and their earnest effots to do what they felt was best for the American people. They stumble, they fail, they don’t always get it right, but by God, they tried. For example, in The Stackhouse Filibuster, the White House rallied to help Senator Stackhouse, who was bravely trying to help his autistic grandchild by waging a filibuster so that an appropriations bill could be re-opened to include funding for autism research. Watch HERE

Not only was The West Wing excellent story-telling and entertainment, it was educational as well. In Mr. Willis of Ohio, you learn about the census, how and why it’s collected, and the important political and policy implications involved. I was able to learn a bit about the Indian-Pakistani conflict over Kashmir in the episode Lord John Marbury. Season 1 had a recurring storyline with Justice Roberto Mendoza where the audience got the opportunity to learn about the Senate confirmation procress. Season 4,6,and 7 had various characters on the campaign trail, and you get an education about the electoral process and campaigning. The West Wing doesn’t shy away from difficult issues, such as abortion, gun control, taxes, terrorism, foreign affairs, the Arab/Israeli conflict, government shutdowns, race, religion, LBGT issues, the works. What I appreciated most about the show it that they dealt with all of these issues in a complex and thorough way. I learned a lot from watching seven seasons of this show.

Emily Procter as Ainsley Hayes

One thing I appreciated most is that while the Bartlet White House is Democratic and takes a liberal stance on most issues, the conservative/Republican viewpoint is also represented by articlate and intelligent characters. They are not demonized as the minority and considered automatically wrong just because they have opposing viewpoints. Ainsley Hayes, who became an associate White House Counsel, made her debut on the show by appearing with Sam Seaborn on a Meet The Press type show, and wiping the foor with him. She also comes out on top when they debate the ERA in 17 People and feminism in general during Night Five. HERE and Here

One of my top favorite West Wing episodes is the season 5 episode The Supremes, where the Bartlet White House needs to fill another vacancy on the Supreme Court. They meet with Judge Christopher Mulready, who is the least ideologically incompatible judge you can imagine for the administration. But you gradually come to see that Judge Mulready is a brilliant legal mind, despite ideological differences, and you come to like and respect him immensely, as do the other characters. Here During Season 6 and 7 Senator Arnold Vinick and Congressman Matt Santos go head to head in their bid for the White House. Senator Vinick is portrayed as a strong contender who is just as politically savvy, smart, honorable, and capable as any Democratic candidate. Here and Here

Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney as Josh and Donna. Don’t they look perfect together?!

Naturally, the romance lover in me was immediately drawn to the Josh and Donna storyline. Josh Lyman was the Deputy Chief of Staff, and Donnatella Moss was his trusty assistant. From the beginning, Donna was not just merely his assistant, and the relationship between them was not the typical boss/assistant relationship.  It was obvious from the first moment they met. Here The chemistry between Bradley Whitford and Janel Moloney was off the charts, and the Josh and Donna relationship quickly captured the attenton of the audience and became a favorite storyline. Their verbal banter often crackled with sexual tension, their devotion to each other was evident. While the pair of them often were in denial, or simply unable or unwilling to deal with their feelings for each other, other characters and love interests commented on the Josh and Donna dynamic. We viewers endured 7 seasons of will they-won’t they until they finally got together during Election Day and Transitions. One of the sweetest Josh and Donna moments happened in 17 People. You wouldn’t think a conversation about traffic lights would be sweet and romantic but yet, it is. HERE

We Americans are a cynical and jaded lot when it comes to our elected officials, and not without reason. Every time we turn around, there seems to be a new scandal where yet along politician succumbs to greed, power, and corruption. It’s easy to lose faith and dismiss them all as a pack of thieves and liars. But The West Wing shows us that idealism, and patriotism isn’t dead. There are many dedicated public servants who sincerely want to serve their country and do good. This speech President Bartlet gives during his first campaign is a sterling example HERE. And I think we can all agree with Leo when he expresses disgust and dismay at having to choose between the “lesser of who cares.” HERE It gives us hope that we can and should expect more from our country’s leaders and those who represent us at all leves of government. That there are good, smart, qualified, and hardworking, decent, honorable people who will do right by us.

This blog is only the tip of the iceburg. Aaron has written brilliantly for shows like Sports Night, and movies like The Social Network, The American President, and A Few Good Men. I really believe the man has a gift for words and can work magic with a keyboard. His writing sets an incredibly high bar, and is one of my main inspirations as a writer. I strive to write characters who are just as real, human, complex, and smart and funny as his. But for all of his talent and his achievements, he suffers the same doubts we writers all face. In his introduction to The West Wing Script Book, he says “I love writing but I hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says. ” You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I’m not your agent and I’m not your mommy, I’m a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?” and I really, really don’t. I don’t want any trouble. I’ll go peaceable-like.” It gives me a bit of comfort that there may still be hope for me yet! lol

I’m going to end this with one final thought. Both President Barlet and CJ Cregg said “Decisions are made by those who show up.” So, remember to show up!

So tell me, dear guests, are you into politics? Are you a fellow West Wing nut like me? Do you enjoy shows/movies about politics? Tell me in the comments below!

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11 thoughts on “A President’s Day Tribute to Aaron Sorkin

    • I so agree crisgzr! I always have the TV on when I’m doing laundry-great distraction while doing a mundane chore. I would pop in my WW DVDs while I worked out on the treadmill-made that half hour go by super quick. 😉 Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  1. You know, I agree on the no politics discussions, but Mr. Sorkin has written some of the arguments that I’ve heard in clips and said “THAT!” and wished I’d been brilliant enough to say those words when someone challenged my ideologies. Great article, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I know, right??!! I loved Michael Douglass’s speech at the end of The American President. I was like RIGHT ON! That’s what I loved most about the show-just how smart it is. It doesn’t water down the issues and talk down to the audience. Brilliance all around.

  2. Hi, Lisa! I never watched The West Wing, but after reading your blog it seems as if I missed a great show! It looks as if I have a lot of catching up to do. 🙂

    And yes, I’m quite into politics. 😉

    • I really think you’ll LOVE West Wing Andrea! 🙂 It’s available on DVD, Netfilx, etc. If you do give it a chance, please let me know what you think!

      And yay for another politically aware romance lover!

  3. Pingback: Broadening My Reading Horizons-My Favorite Non-Romance Books | Teatime Romance

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