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Deputy Deputy CoS

Donna Moss - Impervious!

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I am a little sad there's been no thread for Donna yet. I am not surprised however, she is one of West Wing's underrated characters. 

 

I had the pleasure of watching the whole series on Netflix and I must say, watching her was simply delightful. Donna, because she was a young woman starting out, was the only member of the main cast who had major character developments. Her journey was a joy to watch and the payoff is one of the reasons why West Wing is one of my favorite shows of all time. The character was heavily involved in most my favorite scenes and episodes. Example Stirred.

 

She is often overlooked when the discussion is about strong women in Sorkin's world because I don't know, she wasn't brash enough? Outspoken women with Ivy league degrees and with impression titles are usually said to be strong females but those credentials while very impressive, is not what I look for in strong female characters. It makes it easier for a storyteller to present the character as such. 

 

The popular opinion is that Wells years doesn't measure up to Sorkin's, a notion I find confusing since Wells was there since day one, anyway, Sorkin's years served their purpose, it was all lightness and goodness for most of the time but no second term administration relives its glory days of first term. The staffers would be long disillusioned by then, which was exactly what Wells did. He did it a little too well, thus the complaints IMO.  He took the characters where they needed to at that point in their lives/careers. To stay on topic, left to Sorkin, I firmly believe Donna would have remained in Josh' shadow till Bartlet's last day in office. Wells took an endearing character and developed her into an interesting woman IMO.

 

Everyone but Josh was ready for her to by the time she walked out of the White House. The fact that she stuck around that long made her leaving even more bittersweet. That kind of patience and perseverance is rare in television where instant gravitation rules. 

 

I can only describe the major milestones in Donna's journey as bittersweet because of how long they took for her to earn them. I am sure I am not the only WW fan that cheered when we saw that gigantic office of here's. Or to a lesser degree, when she first answered her own phone at Bingo Bob's headquarters. 

 

Donna Moss is one of a kind character, even among her peers!

 

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PS - This gif is from Stirred, so underrated an episode. I LOVED everything ad everyone about this episode. Jed was the president of my dreams, Josh was Donna's hero, Donna was Mrs Morello's hero, the Vice President proved to be a good choice and Charlie just wanted to buy some electronics.

Edited by Deputy Deputy CoS
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Oh, the pure ....something that Donna had when she told Mrs. Morelli that she was in the Oval Office and the President's urging her to do so is one of my favorite minutes in the series.

 

I also love her confusion when she realizes the office isn't for First Lady Santos but for her.  It was such a "you go, girl!" moment.  

 

I love Josh.  He is my favorite character over all (and my cats are named Leo and Toby - I'm a nut).  But I always believed that Josh wouldn't have been half as successful as he was without Donna.  She's an amazing character.

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Donna's growth was nice, but in my view, unrealistic. She was hard working, nice, pleasant, respectful and organized, but I never got the impression from Sorkin that she was all that bright. Maybe it was because she was surrounded by REALLY smart people, but she never came off as having the "wattage" necessary to move up the ladder within the White House. Don't get me wrong, she was smart enough to get elected (see Bachmann, Michelle), but she didn't seem bright enough to reach the position that she did.

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Donna's growth was nice, but in my view, unrealistic. She was hard working, nice, pleasant, respectful and organized, but I never got the impression from Sorkin that she was all that bright. Maybe it was because she was surrounded by REALLY smart people, but she never came off as having the "wattage" necessary to move up the ladder within the White House.

 

I thought her promotion was long overdue and I disagree that the growth was not realistic. I never got that she wasn't that bright either. I got the opposite impression, that she was too bright to chained to that desk for as long as she was. 

 

Donna wasn't as bright in politics as say Josh, because she was learning. She was a novice at politics as much as CJ was at as Press Secretary, but CJ had the PR background and life experience overall. Even then, she wasn't flawless, she made many mistakes along the way.  Doesn't mean she was no bright or that her upward mobility was unrealistic. Josh, Toby, Jed and all of them made costly mistakes along the way but they are all considered the smartest in the room. 

 

Donna did her job and excelled at it in all of her time at the White House and beyond. She wasn't just fetching coffee or dressing Josh. She was an Assistant but she performed duties beyond that of an assistant. She was representing the White House as far back as season 3,  she was bright enough to realize Senator Stackhouse had a grandchild with autism in the Stackhouse Filibuster. All the Bright people where in the room when she raised her hand in the Oval as if in class. And before the Shutdown, Leo had her replace Josh in the budget negotiation since she knew as much about it as Josh did. It wasn't for nothing, but Angela was impressed with her before she saw the Social Security loophole. 

 

Her performance on the campiang trail combined with her experience in the White House was why Helen Santos asked her to be her CoS.  How adorable were both to them in that scene? If that moment wasn't earned or realistic, then I don't know what could have been. Maybe digressed back to answering Lou's phone?

 

For some characters like Amy Gardner, we are told through other characters that she is brilliant when the actions contrast that very fact. Donna's was more of showing, not telling. She was also humble, a very rare trait amongst her peers. It is not a trait attributed to powerful people. Maybe that is why she is often discounted.

Oh, the pure ....something that Donna had when she told Mrs. Morelli that she was in the Oval Office and the President's urging her to do so is one of my favorite minutes in the series.

 

Here you go

 

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Edited by Deputy Deputy CoS
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I could never get into Donna.  She was perfectly fine, and had some nice moments (that one talking to her teacher is certainly one of them), but I wasn't invested in her.  And I often felt she was shoehorned into scenes.  I stopped watching some time in season five, so I didn't see her progression.  I rolled my eyes upon reading about it, but I have no idea whether I'd have bought it had I seen it.  Nothing in this world could make me think she and Josh were a good idea as a couple, though. 

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The character suffered a bit from being the one stuff was explained to 90% of the time.  The explanations were for us, but they were given to Donna so frequently that it made her look childish.  Charlie should have had more things explained to him.  He was brilliant, but his life experience was so different that he should have needed more things explained.  The worst though was CJ saying she didn't understand why we have a census.  

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The character suffered a bit from being the one stuff was explained to 90% of the time.  The explanations were for us, but they were given to Donna so frequently that it made her look childish.  Charlie should have had more things explained to him.  He was brilliant, but his life experience was so different that he should have needed more things explained.  The worst though was CJ saying she didn't understand why we have a census.  

 

That is why Donna got the brunt of it. Toby, CJ etc not knowing stuff they should know about would have been more WTF than it was with Donna.

 

I think they tried to explain the exposition fairy thing once. That Donna knows things but Josh likes to talk, and she let him.

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I remember that explanation.  I agree that senior staff not knowing was ridiculous, which is why I suggested Charlie.  We also had Bonnie, Ginger, etc.  Remember the hostile intern schooling Sam on government reports?  That was enjoyable, and believable that he wouldn't know the value of the reports they were discussing.

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I remember that explanation.  I agree that senior staff not knowing was ridiculous, which is why I suggested Charlie.  We also had Bonnie, Ginger, etc.  Remember the hostile intern schooling Sam on government reports?  That was enjoyable, and believable that he wouldn't know the value of the reports they were discussing.

 

Are you being sarcastic? I hated that know it all girl. 

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Not for nothing, but Donna's teacher referred to upthread was actually Mrs. Morello (Mrs. Molly Morello, I think it was), not Mrs. Morelli. Just a small correction.

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I didn't like Donna during the series, and now that I know the ending for her I struggle even to make it through her scenes on a re-watch. Finding out she got the job by pretending she already worked there and continually lying badly to Josh is not a "meet cute." Frankly, it should have ended with security. When they gave her glimpses of intelligence, I found those forced and unbelievable.

I would blame the writing for her, but I didn't care for the actress on her one episode of "Sports Night" so I think I just don't enjoy her take on characters.

I don't think she is a strong woman. If we want to talk about strong people, I choose Mrs. Landingham over everyone, even the men.

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I have been re-watching the series in Netflix. I watched the show when it first on and in viewings on Netflix. I have never warmed up to Donna. Probably my least favorite main character. Maybe it's a toss up between Donna, Will and Amy Gardner. Donna was on longer so she gets the title. Just about everything annoyed me about the character. 

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The show acted as if Donna was the best and the brightest. The best of all the assistants. That title goes to either  Margaret, Mrs. Landingham or Debbie. I felt Donna was very immature and shouldn't be the assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff. 

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I never really took to Donna in all honesty!

Yes, she was bright, sharp, quick-witted, and was very under-valued by Josh throughout most of the early seasons. But I didn't like the way she got to be Josh's assistant during the first Bartlet campaign; and I didn't like the way she would play dumb, or whine; or always end up in a hopeless romance with another dead-end guy!

And then of course there was her little temper tantrum of Jack Reese, which again I found to be totally out of character, and perhaps in more realistic circumstances would have seen her being severely reprimanded.

I think the only times I had any affinity for Donna was her frustration of not being listened too by Josh in terms of her career development; and that resigning in order to join the Russell Campaign was a highlight that I particularly enjoyed. And following on from that was the scene in "Tomorrow" where she is shown a large empty office and she mistakenly thinks its the First Lady's, but is in fact hers! 

A lot of posters have mentioned the phone conversation in the Oval Office twixt Donna and her former teacher, Mrs Molly Morello. It was nice, but in all honesty I saw that scene coming almost half way through the episode. Just didn't click for me I am sorry to say. 

But despite my criticisms, Donna was certainly one of the better written female characters in the show; definitely not a Mandy or a Amy. And she was very easy on the eyes and ears. But I really didn't like the Josh/Donna conclusion at the end either. 

Sorry, Donna

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I generally feel similarly about Donna. I think I'm a little harsher. And I loved Amy. Donna was pleasant to watch for a number of reasons- pretty lady, witty dialogue, great chemistry with Brad Whitford. She did make sense in her box as Josh's assistant so that was good but it was still a box so it was fun to see her bust out of the box with more challenging projects or when she'd be in big scenes with a non-Josh. But she was verrrry whiney and made really damaging upsetting choices like the Jack Reese thing or the diary perjury thing or being mean to Abbey on her birthday. A LOT of her Assistant Comedy stories were stupid and even permanently damaging- voting incorrectly and spending the whole Election Day harassing pedestrians to switch votes. I thought her working for Russell was interesting but the most interesting part was swept aside and not spoken of- she tried getting an asshole dolt made Leader of the Free World to advance her career with zero regard to what it would do for the rest of the population. After that, I don't see her as a Good Guy like much of the cast. Which is fine- but the show should have worked with that. 

Although, I actually liked the way she became Josh's assistant in the first campaign. It was a favorite scene of hers.

Edited by Melancholy
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Ironically, I once described Donna as the Phoebe equivalent from Friends!

Slightly edgy, slightly scatty ,slightly dippy, slightly endearing. But a character I could never quite take all that seriously.

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Donna is probably the one character I'm the most undecided about.  Some times I really like her character, but other I really don't.  Her job interview with Josh in Season 7 was ridiculous.  They also suddenly gave her such great skills in so many things.  We get it; she didn't feel like she had enough growth in her job for Josh.  But we also never really saw her with so many skills that would naturally lend themselves to being a high-level strategist.  

Bottom line - it's fine to not think your job has growth opportunities and want to change that.  But she wasn't entitled to a job with growth.  She was in the job for about 6 years with no formal political training or high level degree that would make you think she was being passed over for a promotion just so Josh didn't have to train a new assistant. Couple her lack of education and experience with some of the massive errors in judgment she made over the course of the series and I think you can make a compelling case that she wouldn't have been on the short list for a higher level job.

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I recall the flashback scene in "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen", during the first Bartlet campaign and Donna is in Josh's office taking calls.

When Josh challenges her about what she is doing there, she basically tells white-lies to him about her job, who assigned her to him, her education, boyfriend and a whole bunch of other things. And then justifying her position for wanting to be his assistant, she says:-

"Look. I think I might be good at this. I think you might find me valuable." She then flutters her eyelids and gives him a helpless puppy-dog look, and he acquiesces, gives her his ID card with no thought of actually checking her credentials given that she's been lying to him.

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Donna is pretty shady dishonest character. In the elimination thread, I wrote how the lying for Jack Reese wasn't innocent and harmless but instead, it's own kind of disloyal. The diary fiasco. I also hate how she consistently seeks inappropriate perks from the West Wing- Molly Marillo Day, a pardon for her friend's father, excusal from jury duty. 

Donna is cute and can be funny and she has some unique little stories about what it's like to work at the White House in a low-level position that required more creativity than the high level staffers' more "ripped from the headlines" stories. I thought she was a bullshit artist in a lot of ways but I never doubted that she dearly loved Josh and that she was crazy about Jed and was proud to serve in his administration as a matter of principle. Her work with Bingo Bob and the colder, more opportunistically Donna eroded that with Matt Santos. I think she just worked for Santos because it was a road to glory and importance. She was corrupted away from principle. 

Also, I extend my "bullshit artist" feelings about her to explain her "You're just not comfortable with me in a position of power so that's why you're not hiring me"  or "WILL taught me a lot. Not you" or "You kept me in indentured servitude for 6 years because you didn't want to train another person to order your hamburgers" bitchy unfair attacks on Josh. I feel like if that shit was really true, Josh would be disqualified as an endgame love interest. But they got together without Josh apologizing, IMO, because while Josh could be overbearing and arrogant and have little etiquette as a boss, Josh really wasn't a mean boss. Donna was just screaming bloody murder to drown out how she sold her soul and all of her harshly anti-Santos remarks in the primaries. (Bashing a politician in the primaries before he wins and then you want to work for him in the general election, doesn't disqualify you at all from working for him but it leaves a stench. Kellyanne Conway still got a campaign manager position in the Trump campaign after she bashed Trump on behalf of Ted Cruz. But members of the media STILL bring up her anti-Trump quotes to hammer the point that she's a phony and by extension, Trump is pathetic for having an on the record phony as his shillwoman." 

Edited by Melancholy
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She also just seemed so ditzy at times that I wondered if the writers were trying to play the dumb blonde stereotype.  Trading votes, anyone?  

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I can't recall the name of the episode, but there was a scene where she was interviewed by a reporter, who told her that ICBM missiles could be launched from the Rose Garden (I think it was) in the White House, and she completely fell for it!

Admittedly she got her own back on Josh's prank, but I really didn't like the "Donna is just a dumb blonde" trope

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Aaron Sorkin's show Newsroom has a Donna Moss character in Maggie Jordan. She was very unpopular but I think she was well-written. She did dumb blonde things but she evolved in such a way that you could see that she was smart but her youth, Bambi ass naïveté and timidity wrongly gave the impression of being a dumb blonde. Unlike Donna, Maggie was really called out on her dumb mistakes and childish dishonesty. Even too harshly. But she was forged into a stronger personality with fire and doing better at turning situations into actual opportunities instead just getting promotions by moving from the White House to the Russel campaign to the Santos campaign to the White House.

Ironically though, I don't think Janel Maloney is a great talent but she could play Donna pleasingly and cutely. Even when the writing was dumb, Janel made Donna pleasant to watch. Allison Pill (who played Maggie), OTOH, was very grating and acted terribly and kind of squandered her good writing. 

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Unlike Donna, Maggie was really called out on her dumb mistakes and childish dishonesty

One of the reasons cited for not supporting Josh and Donna as a couple was because of how Josh treated her. It is not as if she was treated like a special snowflake by other characters. 

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15 minutes ago, Deputy Deputy CoS said:

It is not as if she was treated like a special snowflake by other characters. 

Ha!  The reason I went from "Yeah, she's fine" to "Oh my gods, please stop shoving her down my throat" was due to the show's - via the characters' - reactions to her.  I hated the idea of (I'd quit watching by the time it happened) the Josh/Donna relationship because they were somehow simultaneously both too good for and not good enough for the other; his treatment of her, given the power differential, was obviously the more problematic, but they just sucked on every level beyond boss/assistant.  The idea she wasn't afforded snowflake status, especially as compared to the other assistants, but just in general, gives me a good guffaw.

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8 hours ago, Bastet said:

Ha!  The reason I went from "Yeah, she's fine" to "Oh my gods, please stop shoving her down my throat" was due to the show's - via the characters' - reactions to her.  I hated the idea of (I'd quit watching by the time it happened) the Josh/Donna relationship because they were somehow simultaneously both too good for and not good enough for the other; his treatment of her, given the power differential, was obviously the more problematic, but they just sucked on every level beyond boss/assistant.  The idea she wasn't afforded snowflake status, especially as compared to the other assistants, but just in general, gives me a good guffaw.

Well Janel was a billed member of the cast so from that stand point, her character was going to be more prominent as compared to lets say, the actresses whose characters assisted Toby or CJ.  

As far as plot lines, Donna was shown to go above and beyond to earn her position. She was long overdue for the promotion and ended up taking matters into her own hands. Her hardworking wasn't lip service. Is that the problem? That the character was written to be a damn good at her job? Is that what made a snowflake? 

I could be more specific as to why I think she earned her place on the show but I don't want to be more of a laughing stock than I already am. 

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