24 October, 2006

Dear Other Writers: Special P.S. For Sorkin

I consider myself a writer.

I know my life is long stretches of bore, punctuated by the interesting trauma of sickness, job turmoil and cars that won't start. I'm not complaining. If I wanted sex, drugs and rock and roll I'd have joined the French Foreign Legion. But I'm a writer. I like to sit back, watch Interesting happen to other people and write about it. In lieu of it actually happening I'll make something up and call it "fiction". If I were James Frey I could combine the two for a rollicking good time and a spot on Oprah.

But I truly believe that the majority of writers are more like me and less like Hemingway. We don't really crave too much excitement for ourselves.

Which is why so many writers have this overreaching fondness for The Hollywood Blacklist. It's one of the few times in history that being a writer actually had some drama about it. Frankly, I don't consider the Blacklist anything more than an historical artifact. It holds about as much interest for me as the size of Algier Hiss' pumpkin. I know that it existed as part of our society, but I don't view it as the American equivalent of the Holocaust.

I finally made it through this week's Studio ZZZZZZ. Surprise, surprise. The old guy was a hero! For being blacklisted! I'm sorry, but this is like the Twentieth Century Hollywood Writer's equivalent of scoring the touchdown in the big High School game. The character in question had to be at least 80 years old. He fought at Normandy, for crying out loud. But I and the rest of the audience are to believe that the most pivotal part of his life was being fired in the Blacklist?

The worst untruth about the Blacklist Legend is to me the way it is constantly framed as the government beating down the free spirits. As a matter of fact, there would have been no chance at a blacklist had there not been folks willing to name names. By "folks" I mean other actors, writers, directors and such free spirits. It was a purely cannabilistic time that has been twisted by modern mythos to present the face of a bad government versus an innocent and righteous cabal of talented and unique gifts to mankind. We the Average are presumed to have squandered these talents on our altar of conformity. What B.S. It was this very backstabbing and self-serving world that turned in upon its own.

Writers may have been the victims, but writers were also the perpetrators. I wish they'd remember that when they sit around the old Remingtons and toast the magnificence of those bygone days.

I also wish Studio ZZZZZZ would stop thinking that my failure to be part of the Hollywood Scene means that I have no more than a first grade education.

Oh, and one more thing: Writers of the world, here's a shock. There are black people who are successful in life that didn't rise up from the 'hood and just come out of a gang. Sorkin slayed me with this episode. First we see Willy Willz do the prototypical "Black people are different from white people because..." routine. Then we get this speech about how that stereotypical comedy is demeaning to black people. Fast forward to Simon Styles and Matt Albie at the bar. Simon gives a long speech about how he was part of a gang and watched some dude get shot and almost shot another dude yadda yadda the 'hood yadda yadda prison yadda yadda really rich now yadda yadda debt to the community.

WHAT THE H&*^%&^%&^%?!??!?! How is that speech any less degrading to black people? Do black people only come in two flavours? Gangsta and Bling? You know what would have been far better writing, far more interesting and challenging? To have the black character be the one with the bland midwestern background and the brother in Afghanistan. There's some real conflict.

Yes, the life of a writer can be boring. I wish Sorkin would quit trying so hard to sex it up. It rings false.


At 11:50 AM, October 25, 2006, Blogger Mr. Mack said...

I'm not sure that Studio 60, or West Wing were written for other writers. The people I know that love these shows are, like me, somewhat intelligent, somewhat engaged, but not all that educated. I'm not ashamed to say his writing makes me think, sometimes I pause the damn show and go Google the reference. My how Sorkin gets under people's skin. I don't agree with you about the Blacklist. While I certainly wouldn't equate to the Haloucast, it was a shameful period in our history. That the people affected were show business types is irrelevant. Lastly, explain to me how a bland midwestern black person is interesting on a television show. Sure, the episode was a tad stereotypical, heavy handed, even, but does that somehow diminish the point that Sorkin was driving home? Sure, it's obvious to you, but what possible harm was done by portraying a black comedian's disgust for the same ol schtick?

That said, if I had to bitch about Sorkin's style, I'd say that usually, his characters are almost always too good at what they do. I think he sets the bar too high.


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