Not much has changed in the 24 hours since I posted my last review of this bullshit show. This weekend is being used by the elite to try and burn the fight out of many Americans. On Monday, they expect all the groveling cows to return to their shitty jobs for paltry wages. Congress is on their two-week break, and I can guarantee you’re going to see ramping up of anti-LGBTQ talking points among the conservative campaigns in the coming months. Hell, at this point, I suspect the Dems will join them on those talking points, appealing to an imaginary group of conservatives that would ever vote for a Dem.
The Tennessee Democrats released a joint statement with the Tennessee GOP, reminding us they are the bestest of friends and would like BOTH 2024 party conventions to happen in Nashville to show unity or some stupid hollow civility bullshit that I’m sure helped Aaron Sorkin achieve a half chub last night.
On to the fuckery!
20 Hours in America, Parts 1 & 2 (S04E01 & 02)
Original airdate: 25 Sept 2002
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Christoper Misiano
Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is on the campaign trail in Indiana when three of his staffers get left behind. They are Toby, Josh, and Donna (Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, and Janel Moloney, respectively), and they get a ride from Cathy, a farmer (Amy Adams). Much of this two-parter is taken up by this trio’s exodus to get back to the campaign while having obstacles thrown in their way. Back in the White House, Sam (Rob Lowe), who is supposed to be taking a day off to sleep, has to go into the White House to act as a critical part of the staff. Bartlet has also been dragging his heels in hiring a replacement for Mrs. Landingham, and that gins up some minor drama along the way.
There is a genuinely bizarre subplot where C.J. (Alison Janney) has taken up the Big Brother duties of the recently killed secret service agent/her lover Simon (Mark Harmon). Anthony, the young Black man Simon was mentoring, is brought to the White House by C.J., who wants to spend time with him. Unfortunately, she gets caught up in the typical chaos of the day, and Anthony is mad about being forgotten to the side. C.J. apologizes, but Anthony calls her a “bitch” as he’s walking out. Charlie (Dulé Hill) walks through, slams Anthony up against the wall, and tells him to respect women. I agree with the respect women sentiment; yes, true. However, this feels like Aaron Sorkin using a Black character to be racist towards a young Black man. It’s a weird scene that does not really go with much else thematically that is happening in these two parts.
My favorite trope in the West Wing is when the geniuses have these revelations about messaging to the American people. As I’ve seen throughout the episodes, this does not translate to advocating for an actual bill or policy, just boosting poll numbers. This always plays out as Josh or Toby or Sam having an epiphany where they say something along the lines of, “The American people want the President to tell them he is going to make their lives better,” and then behaving like they have fucking figured out how to make faster than light space travel possible. Also, Josh (Sorkin’s personal avatar in the show) gets jerked off remotely when Bartlet remarks how brilliant Josh is for handling so much staffing in the White House.
Original airdate: 14 May 2003
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Christopher Misiano
After watching this episode, I kept thinking it reminded me of something. Then, when I saw the airdate, it hit me. Fox’s 24. This plot is coming out of that show’s ridiculous success and does not fit The West Wing. Not that The West Wing was a substantive show anyway; once again, it’s a show about public relations and marketing with a fresh coat of jingoism lacquered over it. The episode starts with the President’s daughter (Elizabeth Moss) having been kidnapped by terrorists from a fictional Middle Eastern country. Bartlet is pushed to an emotional breaking point, and the 25th Amendment is invoked. But there’s currently no Vice President because John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) resigned due to a sex scandal. This means the next in the line of succession is Republican Speaker of the House, Glenn Allen Walken (John Goodman). This is all in service of a shocking conclusion to lead into the fifth season where the demon of Aaron Sorkin had been exorcised from the series (not that it made The West Wing any better, the damage was done).
Let’s imagine this as a real-life scenario, shall we? Aaron Sorkin wants us to think it’s an excellent opportunity for bipartisan cooperation to let the Republican Party take control of a Democratic administration. It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds, as the Democratic Party is just a Diet Fascism party existing purely to hold the line of destructive conservative policies until the GOP can regain the reins of power. But, we have to approach this from the baby-brained mindset of a Centrist like Sorkin. The Dems, in his mind, are the wild boundary-pushing Left who sometimes need to temper their ideas with pragmatic Conservatism. How is that playing out right now in America, at the moment? How are the Dems tempering runaway reactionary judicial overreach? We get a poem reading and singing on the steps of Congress. And also a promise that the filibuster is going nowhere and there are no plans to expand the Court to try and counteract an ounce of this.
The West Wing is as realistic as a Marvel movie. Complete Liberal masturbation was televised weekly during the Bush administration. It only sought to promote a neutered, feckless response to the total destruction of civil liberties that rolls continuously through America like a train fueled by misery. The status quo propagandists are some of the worst actors out there, just vile privileged scum who know that no matter how bad it gets, they will be protected by their wealth and abuse of their talents to promote American hegemony. Veep is still the most realistic portrayal of a White House, and The West Wing never even comes close.
I am saddened that people I know, whom I saw as mentors during college, are still big fans of Sorkin and this show. It’s disheartening but understandable to some extent. They want to cling to this fantasy, believing that anything like this would ever be possible if they vote hard enough and wish when they do that. But The West Wing isn’t even sufficiently Leftist to be considered a great fantasy; it’s pure moderate centrism that tells you the best thing is to do nothing, and somehow through neoliberal corporate free-market fuckery everything will turn out (maybe, someday, possibly). The worst thing you could ever do is push aggressively for expanded human rights. Shudder.
This isn’t the end, though. Keep an eye out for the next episode of the PopCult Podcast, where Ariana and I are going to share thoughts on the 2020 West Wing Election Special (on HBO Max) and our general thoughts about watching these ten episodes.
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