As a person who was once often accused of being a movie buff by his friends I have grown increasingly cynical and critical of Hollywood and HBO’s Newsroom is emblematic of why. When I first heard that the network that gave us Recount and Game Change was teaming up with The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin I didn’t make any immediate plans to watch another liberal-ideology charged Hollywood drama. But when I woke up on Monday morning and read that the Tea Party was a prominent part of Episode 03 my curiosity was piqued … How is the Left going to besmirch the Tea Party now.
What I saw was nothing more than an hour long lambast. The episode takes place from May 4th through the 2010 elections and serves as nothing more than a recapitulation of the Mainstream Media’s actual coverage of the Tea Party during that time. Insert the phrase Conservative Tea Baggers about a dozen times into Will McAvoy’s (Jeff Daniels) dialogue and you have the most accurate portrayal of the Mainstream Media’s slanderous , vicious mission to besmirch, discredit and destroy the Tea Party.
But it doesn’t come off that way. Sorkin tries to compel the audience to cheer on McAvoy (the hero) to expose the “idiocy” and “radicalism” of the Tea Party (the villain). Sound familiar?
Sorkin, who claims to write without a political agenda , uses a weak attempt early on in the episode to make McAvoy appear as an objective reporter. He presents the idea to destroy the Tea Party to his boss Charlie (Sam Waterson) and concedes that the Tea Party was a grass roots movement at first but…
“The Tea Party is being radicalized and their original organizing principles obliterated and no one should be laughing anymore, they should be scared shitless. My party is being hijacked and its happening in real time.”
We are also supposed to believe that McAvoy is a Republican. “These guys aren’t republicans. And it needs to be a republican saying it,” he says.
Now normally Sorkin is a truly brilliant writer. There’s no denying that. But immediately following McAvoy’s aforementioned line, the teleplay turns laughably bad. It’s almost as if Sorkin left and the producers brought in the same people that wrote Sarah Palin’s character in Game Change took over. Every conservative character in the show is written as the most uninformed dimwit in the history of television.
Just as Sarah Palin was depicted in Game Change, the conservative characters here are almost robotic like. Their dialogue is so conveniently generic that the characters appear to be purposely playing dumb so McAvoy can make them look like fools. They’re unintelligent, ignorant and completely incapable defending themselves. Not once throughout his many interviews does McAvoy receive anything close to a coherent, reasonable response from anyone. Here’s some examples:
Minute 16: A spokesman for Tea Party candidate Sen. Mike Lee is asked six questions by McAvoy. For the first five her average response is 7.8 words long and none of them have any substance whatsoever. The sixth question frames Mike Lee as completely economically incompetant and unreasonable if he doesn’t support a tax for the richest 1% of America (sound familiar?) They cut to a new scene before the woman responds. Not that Sorkin would allow her character would a proper one anyway.
Minute 17: Speaking to a political analyst, McAvoy poses a question that implies Rand Paul is a racist and they cut before the analyst answers.
Minute 22: Sorkin inserts a fictional Republican senator named Bryce Delaney who lost his primary to a Tea Party candidate who is a dentist. The two reasons why he lost are a) he refused to acknowledge that Barrack Obama is a socialist or a Marxist at a town hall meeting and b) he “co-sponsored a bill with a democrat that provided homeless veterans to receive housing vouchers and services such as counsel, job training.” This moment is the climax of about a five minute montage that takes shots at Tea Party candidates specifically. “Thank you for the service to your country,” says a somber McAvoy.
Minute 26: Now it’s time to attack the general Tea Party population. McAvoy interviews two Tea Party members that would lose a debate to a box of rocks. “Where does your funding come from?” asks McAvoy. The woman responds that the little funding they have comes from private citizens who donate 5 dollars or 1 dollar. What ever they have in their piggy banks!
Okay I made that last part up, but that’s the tone she speaks in. Awkward smiles and completely clueless. Like every other conservative character that appears on the show she sets up McAvoy for a huge spike with every word that comes out of her mouth. Finally McAvoy asks them if they know who the Koch brothers are. Of course they don’t. They’re dumb Tea Partiers. McAvoy then asks if they’ve heard of Koch Industries. “Are you talking about Coca-Cola?” she responds.
Minute 42: The episode fast forwards to election night 2010. Here we see two more conservative analysts who are too stupid to make any point at all. When McAvoy asks one of them to analyze the election results he responds, “Well we are looking at American democracy in action Will and it is really a beautiful sight to see.”
Minute 47: Another fictional Tea Party candidate appears. They interview a newly elected congressman named Frank Guidry, who is speaking from his rally. McAvoy asks him a question about the national debt and Guidry pretends like he can’t hear them over the noise. He hangs up and comes off as another moronic Tea Party candidate who doesn’t know his thumb from his ass.
Then there’s the scene near the end where Sam Waterson’s character is talking to the head of the network, played by Jane Fonda. There’s another cheap shot directed at the Koch brothers. Michelle Bachman is compared to Joe McCarthey. And finally the encore Waterson’s character says what the episode was trying to get across the entire time. “America just elected the most dangerous and addle-minded congress in my lifetime.”
Yea, Sorkin writes without any political agenda whatsoever. Sure. And Eric Holder doesn’t make prosecutions based on race.
Look, Hollywood leans hard left. It’s just the way it is, and that liberal bias will sometimes bleed into their work. Like divorce, it’s part of the Hollywood culture. Just as we must accept that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are broken up, we too must accept liberal bias in our television shows and movies.
With that said being said, some acts are so egregious that they must be exposed and condemned. Aaron Sorkin and HBO should be embarrassed. If not for ruthlessly maligning the Tea Party for an entire episode, then for the atrocious, low grade quality of work they put forth. Sorkin and HBO sacrificed the quality of the work to besmirch the Tea Party. We knew HBO wasn’t better than that, just tune into Real Time with Bill Maher. It appears Sorkin isn’t either.
But one important point should be noted here that gets lost in all the Tea Party bashing that’s going on. Will McAvoy loses. The Tea Party helps the republicans take control of congress. Sorkin could bash the Tea Party all he wants, but he can’t rewrite history. The Mainstream Media lost. The Tea Party won.