How Aaron Sorkin Can Save His Creative Soul

June 23rd, 2012 10:02 PM

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin could write a Martian character as convincingly as one who pledges allegiance to the GOP.

Based on Sorkin's work, he's never met either an alien or a bona fide conservative.

That hasn't been an issue until recently. For years, critics and content consumers alike have applauded the screenwriter's work on television ("The West Wing") and films ("The Social Network"). He won an Oscar for the latter, and deservedly so. And even conservatives begrudgingly acknowledged the fine work done on "The West Wing" for much of its run.

Yet the reviews for Sorkin's latest project, the HBO series "The Newsroom," have been generally less than kind. Even liberal critics are uneasy with the screenwriter's left-of-center storytelling. His inability to portray the right side of the political realm with honesty and clarity is undercutting his fiction.

Just consider liberal critic Tim Molloy of's takedown of the new show, debuting at 10 p.m. EST Sunday on HBO:

But "The Newsroom" isn't persuasive. It doesn't even seem to want to persuade. It wants to preach. In this case, the choir is liberal, and the sermon is about how much smarter the choir is than that other choir across town....

"The Newsroom" newscasts quickly degenerate into McAvoy espousing almost exclusively liberal arguments (which also happen to be Sorkin's) while dismissing the conservative side -- or presenting its arguments in less than "the best possible form...."

Real journalism - the kind of deep-dive into conservative movement that the New Yorker does so well - might help liberal viewers understand what they're really up against. Instead the show invites them to throw up their hands and say, well, the other side is crazy.

That's not helpful. That's hopelessness.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Sorkin's ideological cocoon will take some time to penetrate. He's been telling a number of media outlets that the mainstream press isn't biased to the left, an absurd notion for any truth teller. But, more revealingly, Sorkin claims his own work lacks a political point of view.

That's spit-take funny.

It's time for Sorkin to hold his nose and read Breitbart News, The Daily Caller, Mark Steyn and The Washington Times. And, on days when he feels he could take on the world, listen to Rush Limbaugh. He might even strap on his best George Washington costume and attend a Tea Party rally.

Writers should be open to new ideas, different vantage points and fresh situations. And it's clear Sorkin could benefit from this kind of exposure. Especially if he wants to continue writing about the country's political climate.

We often hear celebrities talk about how spending some time with U.S. troops had a profound impact on them. Sorkin may emerge from a Tea Party event with precisely the same views he held before. That's fine. But chances are he may not be so willing to paint them as racist, or dumb, or cruel.

That's emotional progress, and here's betting it will make the talented screenwriter even better in the short and long term.

[Cross-posted from Big Hollywood]