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Aaron Sorkin Kicked One Of His Writers Out Of The Room For Challenging The Newsroom's Campus Rape Storyline

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I get it. I had almost no opinion of Aaron Sorkin before this show other than #1) he wrote that Studio 60 show I liked that got canceled too early, and #2) he used to go out with Kristen Chenoweth, whom I adore, so good taste for him.

 

The interesting tidbit is that Harriet Hayes, the character on Studio 60 played by Sarah Paulson (who was mocked repeatedly on the show, as a character, for her religious beliefs), was likely based on Kristen Chenoweth, his former girlfriend.  Agendas, he has a few!  Also, if you haven't watched The West Wing (and Studio 60 is your first impression of Sorkin), you really, really should watch The West Wing. That's some of his very best work.  Studio 60 was  not.  So, so many good episodes of The West Wing, in the early Sorkin years, you really should watch them.

 

[Newsroom] presents women just as people equal to the men around them, not madonnas or whores

 

That is just not going to be Sorkin's legacy re: writing woman characters on this show or others. It's just not. He's awful with writing real  female characters. 

 

 

I wish he hadn't said that too [calling Mary an "alleged" rape victim, rather than a rape vctim], mainly because it sounds silly: he wrote it, right? He knows if it did or didn't happen. But I think he's just using the lingo there.

 

Aaron Sorkin is going to use lingo rather than all the precise words he insists on in the rest of the episodes?  I disagree that he meant anything other than what he said. .

 

I wonder if he's gun shy.

 

In my opinion, Aaron Sorkin may be many things, but "gun shy" about his opinions or writing, he is not.

 

So, we may disagree now, but really, you must watch the first few seasons of The West Wing. 

Edited by pennben
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The interesting tidbit is that Harriet Hayes, the character on Studio 60 played by Sarah Paulson (who was mocked repeatedly on the show, as a character, for her religious beliefs), was likely based on Kristen Chenoweth, his former girlfriend. Agendas, he has a few!

I know she was. I also know that according to Kristin Chenoweth, he asked her first if he could do it (she said yes) and the character is "loosely based" not some kind of biography. Like with Olivia Munn, if we're picking celebrities to believe, I choose Kristen Chenoweth. To try to make it look like Aaron Sorkin did something wrong or had an agenda because he based a character in his writing on someone he knew doesn't fly with me. All that means is that he's a writer. Many, many writers do it. There's nothing wrong with it, and it means nothing as far as what kind of agenda the writer has. Plus, I liked Harriet a lot. I don't see that the character was any kind of attempt to make Kristen Chenoweth look bad. Christians are often mocked for their beliefs. That the character was means nothing except that the story had a realistic bent.

I started watching The West Wing after I started with this show. I couldn't get into it and find The Newsroom far more interesting.

Aaron Sorkin is going to use lingo rather than all the precise words he insists on in the rest of the episodes? I disagree that he meant anything other than what he said.

I think he meant what he said too. That doesn't mean it wasn't silly or that he didn't fall into lingo. It means I think he chose the wrong words to say what he meant. Again, so what? I completely get LotusFlower' s disappointment, but I don't get latching on to every little mistake Sorkin makes and branding him for it. He doesn't owe his audience perfection of personality or actions. He's just a guy who writes stories very well. That's it. Edited by madam magpie
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That is just not going to be Sorkin's legacy re: writing woman characters on this show or others. It's just not. He's awful with writing real  female characters.

I agree with this so much! Even in TWW, with lines that were funny and thrown in the dialogues to make things light, he showed how he cannot talk/write about women without showing his sexism. And it does not get better. At minimum, he shows all his male privilege.

 

It is my opinion that he just cannot do it. It is too ingrained in him. He could have done a much better job with this rape story. He didn't, it came out messy and then he defends himself, making it even worse. 

 

Extrapolating a little: in a perfect world, nobody would be raped, nobody would be falsely accused. Or even in a more balanced world, those cases would be such an aberration, the remedy would come fast and with positive effect. But things don't work like this. Men are privileged, women are not. I can tell by experience. When I was sexually assaulted, every single person I told saw the need to find "reasons" for why that happened and none of those reasons were "the guy was an ass". All the explanations led to MY behavior, MY attitude, MY way of saying things, MY whatever. I should have known better, I should have thought about possible things, I should have anticipated. And this wasn't even a case of drinking and/or drugs, not in a party, we were friends - or so I thought. Not that any of these situations are explanations for rape or assault, I am just stating how differently the treatment is for men and women.

 

So, Sorkin can write whatever he wants, it is his show. But he is being an ass and worse, because there is no way that the burden of proving that allegations are false are the same as proving a rape occur. Plus, the statistics. I am really sorry for people who experienced false allegations and I would be devastated if this happened to me or to someone I love (I do know people who were falsely accused of child neglect, although the accuser's story was so fishy, they ended up being punished). It hurts. But Sorkin chose a rape story that is very true in the real world. He chose this to "show the other side". Not helpful. No, what he wrote is not going to change how people perceive victims, but I felt terrible about it and for him to defend his asinine story, it is simply unacceptable to me - emphasis on  TO ME.

 

I am going to try to elaborate how I feel about Sorkin's writing: he has good ideas and the pace of his dialogues are unmatched. But he fails in the development of the story. An analogy to music/songs: his writing has good melody, the lyrics many times suck.

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Journalists in general don't say things like alleged victim. I am one, and that's just silly. Te victim is the victim the only thing that can be alleged is the identity of the criminal. I personally don't think sorkin does have any lingo down whatsoever.

And while I get that he thought he was writing about the falsely accused he did it in a way that was highly offensive because society at large has made it very difficutk for women to get justice. It wasn't long ago that a woman was basically put on trial herself in rape cases, having to prove she fought back, her past was looked at, wtc.

He comes across as a bully in this instance, because he had all the power and she had none. So I would totally disagree that he auccessfully turned this around, and while he's not responsible for Bill Cosby or UVA happening at the same time, he is responsible for being a tone deaf jerk. Ymmv.

I also don't buy he just a guy who writes stories very well. I personally think he doesn't write them all that well but also in this instance since he is specifically trying to write about the newsm and doing it in a very pompous, crusading for good kind of way, he aphas an absolute responsibility to try to be more balanced. To me he comes across as an egomaniac.

Edited by lucindabelle
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Journalists in general don't say things like alleged victim. I am one, and that's just silly. Te victim is the victim the only thing that can be alleged is the identity of the criminal.

Your paper wouldn't consider the crime or victim "alleged" if there were a dispute over whether or not the crime had taken place? That seems pretty ballsy for a paper these days. Usually, they want to hedge all their bets so as not to risk being sued for libel. If RS had been more attentive to the "alleged crime" and victim, they might be in less hot water than they are right now. I believe that's how Sorkin was using the term, which is dumb because he, of all people, knows if the crime happened or not on the show.

Edited by madam magpie

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Maybe because the word "allege" implies that something illegal and wrong was committed and usually the alleged is the accused, not the accuser. Even if it turns out the person is lying, they still accused someone, so the accused is alleged to have done something.

 

That's how I understand it

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If the tape is a fact, and has been reported to the police, then no, you don't say alleged. Officially. By your reasoning you'd have to say alleged murder, alleged hit and run, alleged burglary.

You say alleged about the criminal. But the crime is a fact, she had a rape kit done and everything, unless there's some special reason to suppose hat every rape victim is an alleged victim which gets back to special disbelief to crimes about women, again,

Edited by lucindabelle
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If the tape is a fact, and has been reported to the police, then no, you don't say alleged. Officially. By your reasoning you'd have to say alleged murder, alleged hit and run, alleged burglary.

You say alleged about the criminal. But the crime is a fact, she had a rape kit done and everything, unless there's some special reason to suppose hat every rape victim is an alleged victim which gets back to special disbelief to crimes about women, again,

Maybe. Or maybe it speaks to the brand of "criminal" placed on a falsely accused person and may be one reason that brand is so hard to shake even when someone is completely exonerated.

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So, we may disagree now, but really, you must watch the first few seasons of The West Wing.

 

 

Chiming in to say, to really experience the phenomenon, you have to watch the whole series. Otherwise it s like sex without then orgasm. Sorry, couldn't think f a better analogy.

 

Also wanted to add that while Sorkin was the head writer for the first 4 season, the show was more than Sorkin. I made a huge rumbling post in the West Wing forum about how it took a village, not just Aaron Sorkin, to make The West Wing the success it was. 

Edited by Deputy Deputy CoS

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I think he meant what he said too. That doesn't mean it wasn't silly or that he didn't fall into lingo. It means I think he chose the wrong words to say what he meant. Again, so what? I completely get LotusFlower' s disappointment, but I don't get latching on to every little mistake Sorkin makes and branding him for it. He doesn't owe his audience perfection of personality or actions. He's just a guy who writes stories very well. That's it.

I think Sorkin maybe misused the word ("alleged victim") from a journalistic viewpoint, but stepping back, I think you make a fair point about his motive, or his thinking. He's trying to talk like a reporter. The show is called "The Newsroom" after all. I noticed a couple of things in the credits: First, only two people are listed as staff writers, and one of them is Alena Smith. I'm not really sure what that means, but I thought it was interesting. (Here's my guess - I'm sure the show has a lot of writers on staff, but she and the other writer credited were assigned to this episode specifically, and probably wrote chunks of it, along with Sorkin, of course. That would explain why she was so upset - to see her name attached to an episode that offended her). But back to the credits - the second thing I noticed was a long list of consultants, and I recognized almost all of the names as writers and reporters (most from MSNBC!). Of course none of this is surprising - again, it's a show about a cable TV newsroom, but it does go to your point that he does a lot of research to make the show credible, and maybe that's where the use (perhaps overuse) of the word alleged comes from.

I am going to try to elaborate how I feel about Sorkin's writing: he has good ideas and the pace of his dialogues are unmatched. But he fails in the development of the story. An analogy to music/songs: his writing has good melody, the lyrics many times suck.

Just wanted to say I love both the melody and the lyrics to your whole post! (But particularly loved this analogy).

Edited by LotusFlower
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But it is not journalistic lingo to use alleged when referring to someone who is a victim. It's like saying alleged murder victim. Sorkin is trying to sound like a reporter and doesn't. And staff writer accreditation does not work that way. Story editor etc are all hilary indications. Staff writer in this instance when others are listed has to do I with salary not what episode you're onl (I also have worked in tv).

That a crime has been committed is a fact, the only thing in dispute is the criminal.suggesting that alleged attaches to the complainant is not in fact what journalists do. It has zero to do I with the identity of the criminal.

Edited by lucindabelle

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And staff writer accreditation does not work that way. Story editor etc are all hilary indications. Staff writer in this instance when others are listed has to do I with salary not what episode you're onl (I also have worked in tv)..

Can you explain what you mean? If Aaron Sorkin is the main writer of the show, and is paid as such, I'm sure there are more than two other writers on the show's staff, yet only two were listed in the end credits. So one (or both) might be a story editor, but not a writer?

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Story editor on television show means a writer who is paid more. That's all it means, it's not like a story editor in film. When writers have been in the job a few years they might get a title called producer. It doesn't mean they are producing. It means they are being paid more. It's confusing and there's no reason anyone not in tv would know that, I agree!

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Ok, but regardless of her title or salary, not every writer is listed in the credits of every episode. Every show is "written by" Aaron Sorkin (in the opening credits), and different writers are listed in the end credits. Doesn't that mean something?

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I've actually read that Aaron Sorkin writes all the episodes himself, unlike other TV shows that have a showrunner and a writing staff who are assigned episodes to write. Supposedly he has a group of media experts (journalists, govt people, etc.) that he consults with to get the news details right, and then there's a "writers room" where, I'm guessing, he tosses around story ideas, plot, etc. Those people sound like they have input like a collaborator or editor might in publishing: this bit doesn't work, that element doesn't jive with previous character traits or plot points, this would sound better worded differently, etc. Maybe they offer suggestions about how to restructure a scene. No one can write well with no outside input, but in the end, all episodes are "written" by Aaron Sorkin, and the staff writers who had input on the episode are listed in the end credits along with the consultants. That's my understanding anyway from what I've read about his writing process.

Edited by madam magpie

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Yes, Sorkin writes all the episodes, and I think it is unusual. Your description of other writers as collaborators makes sense, but I think there's a reason the different staff writers are credited for some episodes, and not credited for others. The only reason I'm addressing this is because I think it might speak to Ms. Smith's motive as to why she was unhappy with the episode airing as it did.

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Would she have had the ability before the show aired to have her name removed? If so, then I don't understand why she didn't. Directors are allowed to remove their names from the credits when they don't like the final cut of their films. Are writers afforded that same opportunity? If she had that option and didn't take it, then I really side-eye her tweet after the fact.

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Yes, Sorkin writes all the episodes, and I think it is unusual. Your description of other writers as collaborators makes sense, but I think there's a reason the different staff writers are credited for some episodes, and not credited for others. The only reason I'm addressing this is because I think it might speak to Ms. Smith's motive as to why she was unhappy with the episode airing as it did.

How so, do you think?

It might just be that different writers collaborate on different episodes.

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Just what I wrote upthread, that maybe she didn't want her name attached to an episode that offended her so deeply or personally.

Oh, OK. I see what you mean. Well, if so, and she couldn't remove her name, I would have probably taken her more seriously if she'd said that. It's a legitimate complaint.

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