Sorkin’s Newsroom Now a Cynical, Sexist Mess

by Randy Shaw on August 21, 2013

In July 2012, I wrote a stirring defense of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series Newsroom. I claimed it drew negative reviews because it “put journalists on the defensive,” and said “pulls no punches in attacking the political cowardice of the mainstream media.” Unfortunately, this season is a disaster. The show now combines sexist and misogynist plot developments with condescending, elitist attacks on the political left. It has turned all of its characters into caricatures, shredding any connection to newsroom reality. Sady Doyle in has astutely captured Newsroom’s episode by episode failures. Her column this week—“Moderate to the Bone”—is a must read for those interested in the show’s shift. But Newsroom’s failings are more offensive than even Doyle suggests, and speak volumes to faux social critics like Sorkin who promote cynicism under the guise of truth-telling.

If Newsroom did not have the potential to be so good, its failure would not be so disappointing. But something happened to Aaron Sorkin following the first season, as he now promotes the mainstream media caricatures of activists and progressives that he challenged during his first season.

Insulting Progressives

Sorkin has provided a cartoonish trivialization of the Occupy Movement, used a female journalist to criticize real-life activist Sandra Fluke (who became famous after Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” for supporting birth control as part of Obamacare), and depicts critics of droning and U.S. intervention abroad as fools and liars. But unlike FOX News, which routinely offers such analysis, Sorkin’s characters routinely bash the Tea Party and right-wing.

In other words, because Sorkin’s characters bash the right, he cloaks their attacks on the left with more credibility. But this attempt to create parallel universes of left-right denial of reality is pure nonsense.

After showing signs of introspection and growth in season one, Sorkin’s Will McAvoy has become a childish and arrogant anchor person who offers tantrums and lectures rather than news. Nobody with his on-air personality would last for years as the chief news anchor for a national television network, and they would not be treated with the reverence McAvoy enjoys from his fellow staff.

Because Newsroom has attractive characters who viewers want to root for, Sorkin’s well-known foibles—such as the rapidity of his characters’ dialogue— can be overlooked. But he has become so angry and even nasty this season that whatever idealistic and humane values his show once espoused have been drowned by his negativity.

HBO should tell Sorkin to fold up his tent and return to network television where his brand of faux social critiques play best.

Randy Shaw is the author of the newly released, The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, as well as Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century

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