I ran out of time (and energy) this week. So, my recap of The Newsroom might seem somewhat eclectic. But, given how Sorkin handles the subject matter, that's apropos. After Episode 5's pathetic homage to the movie Rudy, I half-expected The Newsroom's 6th episode, "Bullies," to end (like the movie Good will Hunting it references) with Will McAvoy's psychiatrist, Jack Habeeb, saying over and over again to the troubled TV journalist: "It's not your fault. It’s not your fault."
The driving, but ultimately minor, plot element driving "Bullies" is a death threat Will receives via ACN's website. Will is upset by the low quality of the web comments he has to include on his show. According to Mackenzie, they have to air such a segment because ACN's "paid website" makes up for their drop in ratings. The concept of ACN being able to monetize itself on the Internet, given how real news organizations haven’t figured out how to accomplish this feat, seems far-fetched. But, okay.
Will seems particularly annoyed by "anonymous" comments and asks Neal if anything can be done about it. Neal says that there may be a solution to which Will replies: "Talk to me Tonto." In addition to being racist (Neal is Indian), this also suggests that Will is casting himself as the Lone Ranger – a character who chose to remain anonymous. If I felt this were deliberate irony (as one person suggested to me), I'd applaud it. However, in my opinion, the too clever by half Sorkin is so amused by the witty banter firing off his laptop that he doesn’t catch the inconsistency implicit in the dialog. Like I said, that’s just my opinion.
Here Sorkin is being tricky with the facts.
- Lee Harvey Oswald, murderer of JFK was inspired by a sociopathic attraction to Marxism. Until The Newsroom’s reference, I’d never heard any suggestion that Oswald was acting in the name of Christianity. Not one.
- The same could be said for Bobby Kennedy’s killer, Sirhan Sirhan, who claimed at the time: "I did it for my country" (Palestine).
- The Mark David Chapman example is a bit more murky. Most theories link Chapman's actions to the novel The Catcher in the Rye. And Chapman reportedly had hoped that improving his relationship with God would help him fight the temptation to kill Lennon. But that's a whole lot different than doing it "in the name of Christianity" as McAvoy claims.
- Finally, John Hinkley’s shooting of Reagan was inspired by an obsession with the 1976 film Taxi Driver and Jodi Foster. Again, NOT Christianity.
Certainly, the formal organizations McAvoy cites characterize themselves as inspired by Christianity. But the comparison should have stopped there. To be more dramatic (I guess), Sorkin pads the list with a dubious litany of supposedly Christian assassins and, in doing so, once again effectively dilutes the power of McAvoy's argument.
Later in the episode, McAvoy gets into a debate with a character named Sutton Wall, an openly gay African-American and former aide to Rick Santorum. The Sutton/McAvoy confrontation is probably inspired by a real-life one between Chris Matthews and Robert Traynham – a gay African-American who worked for Santorum (see video of actual exchange below).
The Newsroom’s version is more intense and, to his credit, Sorkin (who clearly, and perhaps rightly, disagrees with Santorum’s stance on gay rights), shows Sutton holding his own against McAvoy. On the other hand, if I were a writer on the show, I would have also included McAvoy interviewing a fictional spokesperson for the Cordoba House to find out his (the “spokesperson” would undoubtedly be male) opinions about homosexuality. I’m guessing the responses wouldn’t be any more progressive than the former Senator's. But, why go there. Sorkin likes his decks stacked.
Finally, the nuclear reactor disaster following the earthquake in Japan is a major plot point. There’s an entire subplot where Sloan uses an “off-the-record” quote indicating that the danger is more serious than the company running the Fukushima reactor is letting on. The “fallout” (that’s right out of the dialog) could cost a Japanese executive his job and ACN it’s journalistic reputation. Given the earthquake, the resulting tsunami, and, of course, the reactor disaster, the loss of an executive's job or a picayune interpretation of "off the record" seems rather melodramatic. Frankly, I would have highlighted the heroic efforts of Japanese reactor workers who faced deadly levels of radiation during the crisis. Then, I’d have symbolically linked their efforts to the Sutton story – a gay man who has to face the radioactive statements of his boss.
But, that might have been too clever by half.
- Are Internet death threats really taken that seriously?
- Why does Sloan ask the news people leave the room during a conference call between her and the Japanese nuclear reactor executive? Ostensibly, she wants him to feel comfortable enough to speak freely. Yet, none of the other news people speak Japanese. AND Sloan tells them exactly what he said immediately after the call. Did she think that a more honest thing to do?
- Why does Charlie Skinner, who worries about charges that Will created a “hostile work environment” by once yelling at Maggie, unapologetically refer to Sloan as “girl” while yelling at her?
- Will is an accomplished guitarist? The myth grows.
Sorkin Misogyny Watch:
- Sloan can speak fluent Japanese but assumes "expanding" means gaining weight NOT taking on new professional opportunities. I guess any “girl” would think that regardless of the context.
- Sloan swoons at the mention of "Gucci." Really?
- Maggie doesn’t know what LOL stands for (she thought it meant "Lots of Love"). She confuses Georgia the country with Georgia the state. And why does her NOT knowing the plot of The Sting so funny? It’s a forty year old film.
- Mackenzie’s ankle problem prevented Will from finishing a marathon. He had to carry her to the aid station.