The Newsroom, “Bullies”
This week in The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin takes Will McAvoy and puts him in grave danger thanks to the internet. After having enough with the empty and callous comments that are spurred on thanks to anonymity, Will decides to “fix the internet” by forcing a somewhat stringent verification process of all comments on his blog so that everyone will have to submit their real names and stand by their remarks. This immediately leads to him receiving a death threat, causes a short spell of insomnia and has the top floor issue a bodyguard (played by Terry Crews).
While a lot of the internet related specifics may be skewed I feel that nitpicking them would only be missing the point completely, as from when The Social Network was being marketed it was well discussed as to Sorkin’s views – and more importantly lack of support – on the internet and social media. This entire plot wasn’t to say that the internet is a poorly constructed tool that’s being used incorrectly but that people on the internet have to stop using pseudonyms as a mask to stop them from having to be held accountable for their words. With this episode airing just a couple weeks following the incident of many film critics being served numerous death threats for being critical of the much anticipated geek-centric film The Dark Knight Rises, which according the internet can’t be bad. So in an odd way HBO ended up being “timely” with this episode.
Was this plot/argument right? Somewhat. The internet is a place where trolls exist and there’s always food for trolls. Was the argument well put forward? Not so much, and that has to do more with Sorkin’s very skewed version of the internet that none of you who’re reading this recap (on the internet) will agree with, but as I said earlier, we should forgive him for that and see what he really means by it all.
In the middle of all of this Will finds himself at his psychiatrist, who he’s been paying for four years without seeing, to serve as a week’s recap as he’s tricked into telling us what’s happened which leads us into two other sub-plots of the show this week: (1) Sloan making a complete ethical gaffe that would under any normal circumstance have her fired so fast she wouldn’t know what to do with herself; and (2) Maggie has a few minor moments about her past in the office come to light which shows how “green” she really is in the world of journalism. Both of these plots serve as further fuel to the fire of Sorkin doing his utmost to undermine the women of his show, but somehow both seem well placed.
Maggie’s story of mistaking Georgia the state and the country for a news piece seems silly enough, but for a twenty-something to mistake ‘LOL’ to mean “Lots of love” for a card that’s supposed to be empathetic is cringeworthy sad.
Sloan however, makes a much more serious sin. While off the record she gets a friend/contact to confide insider information about a story and then forces that same person on air to admit to that same fact. However, he doesn’t admit to that fact and in her frustration, and horrible attempt at imitating Will’s bullying style of questioning incorrectly. This frustration comes to a head when she decides to continue the interview in complete Japanese and then puts words into her guest’s mouth and says the truth with no evidence to back up her questioning, allegations or closing statement.
Charlie Skinner is the next in the office to begin the chastising of her in a manner that I wouldn’t recommend anyone do to even their own child, much less employee in an office. However, I view it as somewhat believable in the moment and coming from Charlie isn’t anything other than his natural anger manifesting (possibly with a Whiskey or two mixed in as well), Even the following damage control that happens I’m willing to accept because not only was what Sloan did wrong but rather than stand on a high horse saying that she did something morally right she knows more than that she did it at the cost of a friendship and that friend’s career. So in order for her to make amends with that friend she has little issue with putting herself in the line of fire.
All in all it was a good episode, but more and more that I watch this show is the more I feel like comparing it to Entourage. It’s a show with a lot of great comedic moments where Sorkin pushes his characters into crash courses with each other and occasionally has a point to say, but I almost feel like there’s no collective progression made week to week. Regardless I still laugh and look forward to the next week of diatribes to enjoy.