I am in the habit of going home to my parents’ house and babysitting for families with top notch amenities often enough that I have been able to keep up with the new Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom despite not actually having HBO in my own adult home. (I mean, if you want to call it an adult home. All I have to eat right now are Cheerios, dried cranberries, and salami.) My first attempt at watching the pilot occurred the Saturday after it first aired, around midnight as I was waiting for my friend to get done with work. I fell asleep right around the thirty minute mark, but had experienced enough to know that something was slightly off here. My initial complaint with the show is that everyone in it, save for Jeff Daniels and Sam Watterson, seemed dumb and bad at their jobs. Not that I’ve never tripped over a chair in my day, but that Maggie character is such a ball of nerves I find it hard to believe she, as she is portrayed, would be able to compose herself long enough to make a favorable impression during an interview at a major cable news network. But as I continued to watch, and consulted with my sister Maggie who also trips over chairs sometimes but generally presents herself as a young adult ready to conquer her dreams, I realized that the real issue isn’t all the characters, it’s the female characters. Even the award winning Executive Producer back from Afghanistan, Aaron Sorkin portrays as a complete ninny. Emily Mortimer’s Mackenzie freaking out in front of her entire staff because she doesn’t know how to use email and accidentally sent a private message to everyone in the office? And she’s the boss? I am more successful at keeping it together in my most private moments and I’m twenty-six! The latest episode “I’ll Try To Fix You” felt like it had been written for the sole purpose of providing reading material for a university course studying Sorkinian gender bias; along the pop culture education lines of the Georgetown course “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z” except less awesome.
So I was happy to find this article on nymag.com today, that not only agreed with the point I was trying to make inside my head, but managed to do so in a much more intelligent and articulate manner. In the article, writer Margaret Lyons notes:
Will’s boss and mentor Charlie scolds him in “Fix” for dating women “he’d never want to spend daylight hours with.” Because it’s degrading? Disrespectful? Objectifying? Because it’s patronizing? Cruel? Selfish? No, no: Because Will deserves better. Will can be petty, nasty, and immature, but the show insists that he’s still worthy of an enormous amount of respect. But that inherent dignity doesn’t extend to any of the female characters.
Yes, exactly. Thank you, Margaret. But while I was sitting high on my high horse, thinking it might be time to start a movement, ready to scream at the first male that walked into my office, “WOMEN CAN BE GOOD AT THEIR JOBS TOO!”, I realized I was simultaneously having the following conversation on gchat:
Lara: i did not see reunion part 2 last night
Me: it was an eye opener
Lara: tell me everything
Me: like major plot points revealed about donn and vicki’s marriage.
donn was having a 20 year affair.
Lara: is that for real
Me: yes. briana was there and confirmed.
Lara: with who??
Lara: why did they stay together??
Me: i dont know. it was hard to know if she knew about it the whole time or found out about it towards the end.
vicki was trampled during the reunion though. she looked like a fool.
Me: because her whole thing is so hypocritical and she wont just admit it. like when gretchen says, “why could you be so critical of my boyfriend and no one can be critical of yours?” vicki’s just like, stop talking about brooks!
Lara: is eddie gay? do we know that yet?
i mean the whole thing with brooks is weird
Me: no as of right now eddie is not gay
Lara: but i dont really know why everyone is so mean ot alexis when she doesnt seem that bad? i mean shes annoying but like ignore her?
but he seems gya
Me: i agree. i think everyone needs to get off alexis’s back. like she clearly can’t defend herself.
AND THEN LATER!
Meg: How did you feel about the gunvalsons after the reunion
Me: i feel the most bad for briana.
but like, dont live with your crazy mom.
Meg: Right. Like get out. But tamra…..youre awful for saying that shit
Me: yeah so basically what she said was that vicki called her in mexico and was like i woke up naked next to a stranger?
Me: like tamra don’t say that. but, yes, vicki you did that
Meg: Right. And briana was like not shocked
And i think gretchen admitted to cheating on her dead fiance
Me: hahaha no she wasn’t.
how awkward to have your daughter nod in agreement as all your friends rip you to shreds
Meg: Well in order to prevent that just like, dont be awful and date a weirdo
Me: yes, correct.
Meg: Remember that Cathy
This may be the most revealing and embarrassing thing I have ever posted about myself. At two different points today, while at work, I had in depth conversations with two different friends about last night’s reunion episode of Real Housewives of Orange County. Do you see this America?! I AM THE PROBLEM. “like tamra don’t say that. but, yes, vicki you did that.” THAT’S BARELY ENGLISH! Oh my gosh. This is where Aaron Sorkin gets his material. From my brain and mouth.
I am pretty open about my passion for reality television. In a Pavlovian-like response, my fingers punch in the numbers for Bravo on the remote as soon as I hear the melodic tone of the television turning on. I try to justify it by peppering into conversation all the scripted television shows I enjoy for their quality writing and acting, but I can’t deny it. I love the junk. My friend Meg (cited above) and I , though miles apart, make it a point to sit down and watch the newest Housewives episode at the same time so that we can text each other our opinions throughout the hour-long broadcast. Why do I care to invest in the convoluted drama of women I do not know and will never meet? I don’t know. Maybe that’s one of those questions I’ll have to tackle in future therapy sessions, where my therapist and I will trace threads from my childhood in order to reveal the root of my obsession with watching the Kardashian sisters accost a giant inflatable giraffe.
In the meantime, I like to believe that no matter what petty or ultra-feminine interest I choose to invest in, that doesn’t actually change the fact that I am a smart, driven, dynamic woman. As my best new gal pal Margaret Lyons puts it:
The feminist utopia version of Newsroom isn’t the one where the female characters are Perfect and Powerful. It’s a version where the female characters aren’t completely othered at every moment; where their motivations make as much sense as male characters’; where they’re given the same opportunities to be perfect and imperfect, powerful and disempowered, as right, wrong, scared, and brave as their male counterparts.
In conclusion, Mr. Sorkin, I will stick with you through a second season, mainly because you write lines like, “It’s a person. A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news,” that make me want to kick the air in celebration of this great nation, but you need to get it together. No more distracting your women who are in the middle of serious conversations with mentions of nail salons, no more Maggie sweating through her sweater just for getting called on during a meeting, no more poorly crafted quips about Olivia Wilde’s hotness. We are so much more interesting than that.