Listening to Aaron Sorkin talk about The Newsroom, his show about cable news, and Amy Sherman-Palladino respond to Shonda Rhimes’ disappointment that she didn’t make sure Bunheads, her ABC Family ballet show, had a character of color, there are some remarkable similarities. First, Sorkin in New York Magazine:
And this all has to come with the caveat that I don’t really know what I’m talking about…No, I mean it. All of my training and experience and education has been in playwriting. I have no political sophistication or media sophistication, so if I was talking to Howard Kurtz or you, you could easily dismantle whatever argument I’m going to make. It is a layman’s amateur argument. Oftentimes, I write about people who are smarter than I am and know more than I do, and I am able to do that simply by being tutored almost phonetically, sometimes. I’m used to it. I grew up surrounded by people who are smarter than I am, and I like the sound of intelligence. I can imitate that sound, but it’s not organic. It’s not intelligence. It’s my phonetic ability to imitate the sound of intelligence.
And Sherman-Palladino, as Vulture transcribes her on Media Mayhem:
Sherman-Palladino never addressed the race issue point blank, but she did defend the casting choices in the context of a rushed schedule. “I had to find four girls who could dance on point, and also act, and they give you, like, a week and a half to do it. That’s how pilots go.” Then she added: “I don’t do message shows. I don’t give a shit who you learn your life from.” And she doesn’t give a “flying fuck” about eating disorders.
The subjects are different, but the dodges of responsibility are ultimately kind of the same. Sorkin insists he’s just an artist, he doesn’t have anything sophisticated to say, even though the animating subject for a huge chunk of his career has been critiques of the media. He can’t have it both ways. Sherman-Palladino’s insistence that only “message” shows can be held responsible for the ideas they send out into the universe is a weird, critique-evading stance: you can mean no harm and do it anyway. And it’s pretty weird that you’d make stories about young girls and their hopes and dreams if you actually “don’t give a shit who you learn your life from.” People tell stories because they want to influence people, or because they have an argument or critique they want to make. You can’t claim credit for doing that when it’s convenient to you and deny responsibility when it gets uncomfortable.