by Larry Brody
…Sorkin, that is. Looks like everyone’s after him these days, and not in a good way.
And a short while ago he was such a golden boy. Screenwriting Oscar winner! Beloved creator of THE WEST WING! Toast of what we used to call “the Intelligensia” with his cult fave SPORTS NIGHT.
Now, though, he’s getting creamed in the press/on the web by critics and viewers alike. It isn’t just a case of, “Oh, dood, we’re so disappointed. THE NEWSROOM has really let us down,” but of, “Jesus, Sorkin, you phony, arrogant sonuvabitch, you lied to us, man!”
On the surface, the problem is Sorkin’s appearance at the TV Critics Association press tour, during which he unequivocally denied that he’d fired most of the writing staff of THE NEWSROOM, and then proceeded to equivocate about it. Even formerly vocal fans have been jumping all over him on this one, as though delighting in having caught the emperor without his clothes on.
And, I think, that’s what it’s all about. We love to catch people out, to expose the mighty, even those we’ve made so mighty with our approval/praise. By “we” I mean all humans. I’ve seen it so many times that the syndrome seems hard-wired.
Remember how much everyone loved Stallone back in the ROCKY days? Until he accepted his Oscar, thanked all “you little Rockies out there” and immediately distanced himself from his fans. Told us that he saw himself as special. As elevated. All it took was one word: “You.”
Sorkin’s sin is similar. By running a series in which its characters are constantly making moral and ethical judgments that by both implication and overt statement set them up above everyone in not only their TV universe but the viewers’ universe as well, he has for all practical purposes installed himself as the Godlike Arbiter of All Things Just and Good and True.
I’m not saying he did that deliberately, but that’s the result of all his deliberate decisions about the show. That’s the effect on everyone who watches it. We all get the same message: “Aaron Sorkin has set up certain standards of human wonderfulness and is holding each and every one of us up to them.”
And the immediate human reaction to such a message is: “Asshole.”
By making himself a god, Sorkin automatically creates a new set of standards to be used by us judging him. He wants us to be so much better than we are? Fine. As long as he seems better than the average bear too.Much better.
And, of course, he doesn’t. Because he isn’t. No one is. We’re all just people, trying to do our best. All of us fail, a hundred times a day, every day. And, at this point in his career, Aaron Sorkin’s professional/personal failures simply cannot be tolerated, even by those who once adored him.
Sorry, Aaron, but you don’t have a prayer of surviving this. No one in your position does. Because the truth is that the real, hidden, all-too-true-and-human reason we build pedestals and then place people upon them is so we can pull our idols down later and Hulk-smash ’em.
(In case you wondered why the Hulk is so popular. Hmm, gonna be hard to pull him down, isn’t it? But that’ll just make it so much more fun.)