Olympics clip was taken down. So...Newsroom!
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Aaron Sorkin has a thing about gay republicans.
In episode 6 of The Newsroom, Bully, we have a scene reminiscent of a plotline from The Portland Trip, from Season 2 of West Wing. In The Portland Trip, Josh argues with a gay republican congressman about DOMA. That exchange ends with the congressman proclaiming that his life isn't solely about his sexuality, because something something state's rights.
In Bully, we have another gay republican, only this is a black gay Santorum republican, which is like 7 Unicorns of absurd. But anyway.
The scene is meant to portray Will as a bully. He continually questions the black gay Santorum republican (BGSR from now on) on Santorum's talking points. He asks how, exactly, gay marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage. He asks BGSR if the legalization of gay marriage in five states has damaged Santorum's own marriage. He reminds BGSR that Santorum thinks him a "sick deviant who threatens the fabric of society", that Santorum compares homosexuality to incest and bestiality. This line of inquiry culminates with, "I'm asking why you would work for a man who believes you are inferior, damaged, ill, unnatural, a threat to children, unfit to serve in the military, unfit to be a parent, and unloved by god."
At this point BGSR tells Will to stop. He goes on his own reply rant about how he believes in the sanctity of life. About how he is "more than one thing", not reducible to his skin color or sexual orientation: "I am not defined by my blackness. I am not defined by my gayness." BGSR came on the program to voice his support for Santorum's stance on abortion, and he does not need Will to protect him.
Once BGSR ends his own rant, we see the following exchange.
Will: "Does Mr. Santorum think you're fit to be a teacher?"
Throughout the scene there are cuts to the control room, to persons outside in the newsroom. They all look away awkwardly, or cast their heads down. Mackenzie repeatedly says, "Stop hitting him!" into Will's earpiece. We're supposed to feel uncomfortable, or think that Will has gone too far.
But I cannot quite get there.
In each of these episodes, Bully and The Portland Trip, the gay republican states that he is more than his sexual orientation. He cannot be reduced to his sexuality and cares about more issues than gay rights. Yet in each of these situations the gay republican has to sacrifice one issue to support another. It's not that they care about both gay rights and states rights or abortion, but rather they sacrifice their concern for gay rights to focus upon other issues. This is supposed to be laudable, but it ought to result in the following exchange:
Gay Republican: I am more than my sexuality.
Interlocutor: But aren't you also more than your concern for states rights / abortion?
Why can you not care about both?
That's why I cannot conceive of Will as a bully; his questions are legitimate. Yes, BGSR cares about fetuses, but in supporting Santorum he's harming himself. Maybe there is a political candidate who cares about abortion
Moreover, I think it problematic for these fictional gay republicans to give credibility to conservatives by sacrificing their concern for social issues. State's rights are important. Abortion issues are important. But gay rights are important, too. These fictional characters seem to consider gay rights to be less important than other issues, and that may not be a good thing.
So, I don't take Will to be unnecessarily harsh in the exchange. Yes, BGSR is in a difficult position. But maybe that is not a virtuous thing: Perhaps the difficulty indicates a problem. And the hope, at least my hope, is that if a News Anchor plays enough clips of Santorum comparing homosexuals to pedophiles this will spark conservative homosexuals to stop supporting the people who think them broken.
I realize that the series are both fictional, and there is a good chance that the conservative homosexual characters are mostly entirely strawmen. Maybe actual conservative homosexuals do not sacrifice their concern for gay rights when they...yeah I can't even finish that thought.
Here's the thing: Will and Josh are not acting like bullies when they ask uncomfortable questions. When Josh exclaims, "How can you be a member of this party?!" he's asking a reasonable question. When Will presses BGSR on the fact that Santorum thinks him a social deviant, that is a fair line of inquiry.
It doesn't make any sense to hold conservative homosexuals up as laudable individuals who make personal sacrifices for some greater good. It's absurd to suggest that pressing them on social issues is somehow out of line or mean. Will and Josh both ask fair questions, and are entirely justified in repeating the republican talking points on the evils of homosexuality.
You can't shoot yourself in the foot, and then stand proudly in all of your foot shooting glory.
Because the blood loss from the fucking bullet hole will make you fall down.
And I'm ok with that metaphor.