Sorkin’s Girl Trouble

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 10 2012 @ 8:47am


Last week, following the second episode of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom", the Internet lit up with talk that the show "transforms its female characters into hysterics and fools." After the third episode aired this Sunday, things only got worse, as Glynnis MacNicol explains:

Sorkin does not have a terrific recent track record with his female characters, and the fact that he opened this series with a monologue from Will bemoaning a past where America was blessed with "great men, men who were revered" did not exactly bode well for the female-driven storylines to come. So far, however, his female characters (namely MacKenzie McHale and Maggie Jordan) have struck me as such pale derivatives of Sorkin's past female characters that I was willing to give it a wait and see. Well, I've waited, and I've seen.

In this week's episode Maggie (Allison Pill) suffers a severe panic attack during a staff meeting and needs to be talked off the ledge (almost literally) by the ever-knowing, always confident Jim (who employs expertise learned in the field in Afghanistanto coax her from her fit). Meanwhile, McHale, whose own impeccable war-zone credentials we were assured of in the first episode, flubs and natters her way through various confrontations with a series of women McAvoy parades through the office. We can all be grateful McHale didn't fall in love on the battlefield; she gives a whole new meaning to I.E.D.

In Sorkin's world women are helpmates, entirely emotional beings, always just one tick away from an explosion. They are worthy of being feared, the way a small child fears its mother; they must be constantly soothed. The result is less offensive than exasperating and quickly becoming boring to watch.

From a listicle of differences between "The Newsroom" and an actual newsroom:

On Newsroom, the staff instantly discusses their love lives with people they just met. In a newsroom, no one does that because it’s ridiculous.

The above illustration is from the tumblr Hey Internet Girl, a meme that emerged from an interview Sorkin gave last month to Toronto Globe and Mail writer Sarah Nicole Prickett:

"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." I’m not sure how he’s forgotten that I am writing for a newspaper; looking over the publicist’s shoulder, I see that every reporter is from a print publication (do not see: Drew Magary). I remind him. I say also, factually, "I have a New York Times subscription and an HBO subscription. Any other advice?"

He looks surprised, then high-fives me. Being not a person who high-fives or generally makes physical contact with interview subjects, I look more surprised.

"I’m sick of girls who don’t know how to high-five," he says. He makes me try to do it "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, hoping I’ll write something nice, as though he has never known how the news works, how many stories can be true."

Sorkin said in an interview last week:

As for understanding women, I go on the assumption that not all women are the same. I gave up trying to understand the women in my life a long time ago, and now I just try to please them. Much better results.

Previous Dish coverage of "The Newsroom" here, here and here.