Sorkin does not live in the age of Gawker. But The Newsroom is opportunely timed – at least for educated-liberal audiences – in part because this is an election year, and Americans are so divided that wild ambivalence seems like the only way left to feel. In larger part, it’s because a certain kind of man is now freaking out over the loss of his greatness: Esquire is e-publishing “men’s fiction”; Simon Fraser University wants to build a “men’s centre,” requiring perhaps refuge from the plague of 51-per-cent female enrolment; “misandry” is a word you hear people say and mean.
Really, all that’s happening is that feminism has achieved some of its purposes and pluralism has taken root. Systems are tenuous; forces of change are multiplying; the great-(white)-man theory will not hold.
Sorkin, though, is winningly upholding it. The colonel, the president, the genius, the baseball coach, the anchorman, and next – as he’s recently confirmed – no less than Steve Jobs: His subjects are masculine iconoclasts with traditional top-down power, who strive, in Graham Greene-type ways, to use it for good.
But on “real” TV news, these heroes are dying, and to mourn them is also to mourn a paternalistic notion of truth as something you should but cannot handle, when for the powerless vast majority it’s so gossamer it just slips through our fingers. With one look into the steel arrogance behind Sorkin’s eyes, I am sure he considers his life’s tragedy that, in 50 years, there will be no Sorkin to write about him.
“I think I would have done very well, as a writer, in the forties,” he says. “I think the last time America was a great country was then, or not long after. It was before Vietnam, before Watergate.”
It was a great country, yes, for great white men. It was a great country when you could still trust in greatness. As many of us (who watch HBO, at least) long ago stopped believing in God, a God who for all Christian and capitalistic intents and purposes was male, it could not be much longer before we also stopped believing in things as theistic as neutrality and objectivity and omnipotence in journalism. I do not want us to stop believing in heroes; only in heroes who think, as Sorkin’s heroes think, they’re truth-raining gods.
The most amazing part, to me, is how patronizing and mansplain-y he is to the interviewer. Look at this:
“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.”
And she was interviewing him for the newspaper she writes for. WHO SAYS THAT?