Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Matter of Facts


Why Aaron Sorkin Really Pisses Me Off

Never watched The West Wing (couple minutes here and there), never watched The Social Network, and never watched Steve Jobs. LOVE The Newsroom (mostly).

The West Wing annoyed me partially because it seemed like everyone was so full-on Type-A personalty, I couldn't stand to be in the same room with them for more than about three minutes. Plus, who talks like that?

The Social Network. An interesting topic, though I couldn't figure out how you'd make a movie about the creation of a really annoying web service that I still use (to my shame). Coders are not generally exciting people, except in the genius of their creations (unless their creation is the Kardashian App). I knew there were many lawsuits generated between the folks who started it, and there were probably lots of interesting dramatic personae involved. Sorkin wasn't happy with that, so he made people meaner and weirder than they were, motivated by things they weren't actually motivated by in real life, and creating and doing things that never happened.

Steve Jobs. A fascinating, infuriating human being who was the head of arguably one of the most innovative tech companies since the industrial revolution. He was a difficult, cranky man who was one of a team that ushered in an era of computers for everyone (well, everyone with a relatively hefty savings account), allowing people to use their computers to do stuff other than just tell other computers what to do (though you can use them for that, too). His character was reduced to a blank individual whose primary skill is in marketing, not in motivating folks to do better, to create a more innovative product every chance they could. Certainly there were some egregious mis-steps in Apple's product lineups over the years, but it's hard to deny they were at least interesting. But there's a lot of absolute bullshit in this movie. Things that did not happen, people who weren't like their portrayals at all, and meetings and events that are entirely made up. The same can be said for The Social Network.

And then there's The Newsroom. This is a TV show about a news organization, a completely fictional news organization, that seems to have a gift for getting the "right sources" almost every time. I won't go into too many details for those that haven't seen it, but it has the same rapid-fire patter of The West Wing, and occasionally droops into some very unbelievable dialogue. Sam Waterston is possibly my favorite character who admits to being drunk most of the time, and also offers to punch someone's teeth out one at a time with a big happy smile on his face. I love the guy, and his charm factor is way off the scale in this show. Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, is a near-genius level newscaster whose newscasts have been centered almost entirely on getting ratings. Pretty much the entire first episode is him sitting front of a teleprompter, doing an entire news hour with the word "VAMP" on the teleprompter screen, about a very big story that is developing, and they, of course, scoop every other network. If that were true, I'd be impressed.  The dialog is snappy as hell, occasionally impossible or highly improbable, but often amusing.

The show itself is generally about the rehabilitation of news on the show, essentially bringing up one of the major points of most liberal media, that there aren't always two sides to an issue (the world IS flat, goddamn it). They are wanting to inform viewers about facts, and ensuring that the facts they're presenting are both relevant and, well, factual, for the education of the voting public.

You know, like the news used to be..  mostly...

McAvoy even says at one point that you can't even get Americans to agree on facts.

There's this big argument then: if facts are so goddamn important, why can't Sorkin stick to them? Both Facebook and Steve Jobs are modern stories with characters who are still alive. He can check. He can talk to them. Mr. Sorkin's extreme concern for the facts has led him to write two movies about real people which involve counter-factual and/or nonexistent events in these famous people's lives, one of whom is still alive. I get dramatic license, but there's a limit. Sure, you can't know every conversation that every person ever has, and of course you're going to have to make some stuff up. But, to espouse such a concern for the facts in one instance, and then to ignore them so completely in another is at least hypocritical.

I could also go on about the Titanic movie, too, but that's another rant for another day.

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