As many of the West Wing faithful have gleefully discovered, all seven seasons were recently added to Netflix Instant, which means I know what I'll be doing for the next few months.
The West Wing isn't a perfect TV show in its depiction of women, but it's better than most. So what went wrong with Sorkin's newest show, The Newsroom, which struggles to present even one plausible female character?
As a sad teenage liberal, disillusioned with the Bush administration, I grew up on The West Wing. The political world that Sorkin depicted—one that passed the Bechdel test, where women's reproductive rights mattered to the president, the press secretary was a woman, and the first lady was as awesome as Rizzo in "Grease"—wasn't a reality then, but watching TheWest Wing made me think it could be.
Less charitably, The West Wing is porn for liberals.
I wasn't sure it would hold up this time around. But it does. The writing is still excellent, and the issues explored on the show—gun control, abortion rights, marriage equality, gender parity, terrorist threats—aren't any less timely now than they were in 1999.
I spend a lot of time blogging complaints. Not enough women, too many but too insubstantial, why do they only talk to each other about men, etc., etc. This is a complaint commonly made about bloggers, and, hell, feminists, that they are too critical and don't ever seem to see any good in anything.
But today I've something positive for you. The other night I was watching the Colbert Report and a small, good thing happened. Colbert was interviewing Aaron Sorkin, who, if you've been living in media blackout for the last six weeks, has out a new movie about Facebook called The Social Network. The movie being essentially about a tech startup, not a form of human organization known for its devotion to vagina-ocracy, there aren't exactly strong female roles in it. This is not something I expect to be a common observation about the film, because at least as regards the gender of the main movers and shakers, the film is merely reporting the facts: they were men. So imagine my surprise when the one major issue Colbert stated about the movie was that its portrayal of women seemed flat. "The other ladies in the movie don't have as much to say because they're high or drunk or [beep]ing guys in the bathroom. Why are there no other women of any substance in the movie?" And then when Sorkin admits this is a fair question and terms the women "prizes," Colbert asks, "Are women at Harvard like that? I'm trying to figure out if I missed out on the college experience."