Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two Parties

The West Wing (2001)
by Aaron Sorkin

I am tired of working for candidates who make me think I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe.  I am tired of getting them elected!  We all need some therapy, because somebody came along and said "Liberal" means soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on Communism, soft on Defense, and we're gonna tax you back to the Stone Age because people shouldn't have to go to work if they don't want to.  And, instead of saying, "Well, EXCUSE me, you right-wing reactionary xenophobic homophobic anti-education anti-choice pro-gun Leave-It-To-Beaver-trip-back-to-the-50's," we cowered in the corner and said "Please ... Don't. Hurt. Me."  No more!  I really don't care who's right, who's wrong. We're both right, we're both wrong.  Let's have two parties, huh?  Whaddya say?

In my opinion, there is very little writing to match the pure genius that is Aaron Sorkin.  His work both inspires me and scares me at the same time.  I hear his dialogue and, after I've picked my jaw up from the floor, I think, "There's NO way I could EVER write like that."  The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and the prematurely-axed Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - intelligent people engaged in smart, quippy, fast-paced dialogue that both challenges the listener and stuns with surprises around every corner.

I started watching The West Wing only a few months ago at the urging of some online friends who were astonished that I had never seen the show.  After only the first few episodes of the first season, I was HOOKED and immediately spent hundreds of dollars ordering the complete seven-season series on DVD (thanks to an Amazon birthday gift card).  I am slowly making my way through the series and heard the above quote just last night as I watched the episode "Gone Quiet" from the beginning of the third season.  It is delivered by the character of Bruno Gianelli (played by Ron Silver in the photo above), the somewhat ruthless re-election campaign strategist for the fictional Bartlet Administration.  What struck me most about the speech was its relevance today ... I feel his complaints about the apparent spineless-ness of Liberals (a group to which I align myself) is just as on point today as it was in the fall of 2001, when this episode first aired.  I do wish that I had caught the series when it was broadcast ... it certainly would have been a wonderful alternate universe to visit once a week - an escape from those utterly dreadful Bush years.

My favorite Aaron Sorkin quote (about a discussion he had with Stockard Channing and characterization), and something I need to remember as a writer ...  "Stockard had done an episode of the show as the First Lady. She took me out to lunch and said she really liked doing the show and wanted to do more and started asking me questions like, 'Who do you think this character is?' And those aren’t questions I can answer. As a writer, I can only answer, 'What do they want?'"

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