Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
That leaked Aaron Sorkin script I wrote up a while back is now a show, called The Newsroom. It goes behind the scenes of a nightly news show with a grouchy celebrity anchor, and revolves around him, his new executive producer and the crew. This means I would watch it religiously even if it wasn’t a Sorkin thing – I have no particular interest in the news, but every show or film made about it seems to be great.
Newsroom, though, has been panned. The only piece I’ve read that was positive about the show ended on a bizarre and contextless account of an exchange that makes Sorkin sound like a patronising sexist prick. Particularly bizarre given his work, which typically mocks sexists, features some of the best female characters on television, and even has them competently discuss their differing takes on feminism.
Weirdest of all, Newsroom does seem sexist. It opens with the male star dressing down a female student for her dumb question about America, in which he takes pains to use “sorority girl” as a pejorative, imply she couldn’t possibly be politically engaged (despite her presence at this political debate), and claim America was the greatest country in the world back when “we acted like men”. If it’s meant to be a sexist character rather than a sexist writer, it’s awkward that a) he’s the protagonist, b) he’s so obviously acting as the writer’s mouthpiece at the time, setting up the manifesto for the show.
Most of the reasons to dislike Newsroom stem from that character, Will. His opening meltdown speech is half great (“America is not the greatest country in the world”) and half terrible (“But it used to be”), and that’s as close as we ever get to a reason to like or care about him. Some reviews object to the amount of preaching – I think the preaching itself is excellent, but when it does get old, it’s because people are having to preach at Will, to persuade him to stop being so pathetic.
Despite all that, I really like it. I’m not convinced Sorkin actually is sexist, I think he’s just misjudged how some of this stuff sounds. And I don’t think Will is going to be a problem forever: once he’s on air, we finally see his virtues.
The emerging news story and the crew’s frantic reaction to it is exciting and inspiring for exactly the reasons it seemed to be in the script, and that’s what I’m expecting more of. News is important, and live TV is tense – it has the potential to combine the virtues of his last three shows. It also has the potential to focus on the kind of emotional stubbornness that made Dana and Casey’s relationship get old in Sports Night, Matt and Harriett eternally tedious in Studio 60, and Will so hard to like in this pilot. I’m optimistic it won’t.
More The Newsroom
TychoCelchuuu: He's not sexist, he's just misjudged how "America was better when we acted like men" sounds? I don't see how that's anything other than sexist. At best he's unwittingly sexist.
Jason L: The character's definitely sexist. He said Sorkin might have misjudged the extent to which it sounds like the authorial voice rather than the character's.
Athatar: Not sure if you have seen this, but the Nerdist has linked a vid demostrating Sorkin reusing lines in many of his shows. Now this is most likely unintentioned but it demonstrates why his shows always seem to have a "deja vu feeling"
ThirteenthLetter: I suppose if you like having clapped-out conventional wisdom rammed down your throat, you might enjoy Sorkin's work. Other than that, not seeing the appeal.