Aaron Sorkin is so incredibly and unbelievably awful that his latest product (The Newsroom, now well into its 3rd and final season) is so terrible a new word was added to the English language to describe consuming it. Hatewatching was coined explicitly to describe viewing The Newsroom, a show so garbage people watch explicitly to mock it. Hate is a strong word, but it is an appropriate feeling to have towards a body of work as vile and toxic as Sorkin’s.
Before we get into the dubious ethics that buttress Sorkin’s moral universe, it’s worth getting one thing out of the way – if he were a better writer, he could get away with it. F. Scott Fitzgerald had archaic views on women, but we still enjoy The Great Gatsby. HL Mencken’s views on race were less than progressive, but he had enough of a way with words he’s still considered one of the great columnists of all time. Sorkin’s writing, on the other hand, is atrocious. Painful and drawn-out monologues are so self-righteously bewildering and inexplicably unrealistic they leave you thinking “absolutely nobody talks like that.” Further, his characters have no depth. Sorkin admits this openly, once going so far to say in an interview regarding West Wing, (this is paraphrased) “there is no ‘something CJ would say.’ CJ says what I want her to say.” And the plots! They merge a lack of excitement with a lack of realism in such a way it transforms the unwatchable to the hatewachable.
Sorkin might take offense to all this, arguing that dialogue, plot, and character development are ancillary – that he is a master of the moral parable. But the incessant preaching of shows like West Wing and Newsroom are completely vacuous, and certain behaviors propounded in these shows are disturbing. The same is true for his movies. When given the opportunity to write a script for The Social Network, he took rather mind-boggling liberties with the truth to tell a tale of greed, ambition, and insecurity (Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in that movie is a complete fabrication, and charges of theft of the idea for Facebook have been discredited by since released Facebook chats). Randomly lying about an entrepreneur seems worse than engaging in a few hardball business practices. Conversely, as if to prove he just makes everything he touches terrible, when given perfect opportunity to tell a morality play based on true event, Sorkin fell on his face with Charlie Wilson’s War. Based on the true story of how a drug addicted, porn star-cavorting Congressmen funded Al Qaeda and the Mujahadeen in order to murder two million Russians, Sorkin wrote a script that turned Wilson into a scrappy underdog, a sort of middlebrow fantasy archetype of the kind of leader that “just gets things done” and is just “all too rare in Washington these days”.
But his most infamous skewed morality is the hardcore sexism of Newsroom. Premised on a fictional 24-hour cable network, professional women are constantly having gendered meltdowns in their place of work, over everything from mild stress to relationship issues. Worse, the central theme of the first two seasons is one of the anchors being extremely cruel to one of his employees, who he is angry at for breaking up with him years ago, an obviously unethical and plausibly illegal behavior Sorkin wholeheartedly endorses. Even worse, Sorkin seems to be basing this off of the way he treated an employee who once broke up with him. When confronted about this, Sorkin becomes condescending and dismissive. Condescension and dismissiveness are often vices of high-aptitude people, but seeing them in such a no-talent hack is a spectacle worth hatewatching.