Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day #8174 - West Wing Wisdom

When I find myself in times of trouble, Aaron Sorkin speaks to me through all of his characters on The West Wing

Corny? Yes. True? Actually I think it is in a lot of situations. I know that I've written here many times before about my love of this tv show that was on the air from 1999-2006, but I've recently been rethinking about how given such a diverse group of characters in a high pressure setting actually give quite a bit of commentary about being an ordinary person.

President Bartlett is the one always trying to do the right thing, and sometimes his intense intellect and wisdom make that hard. Put him with Leo McGarry and the two of them often say a lot about how they don't understand popular culture, despite how smart they are or how hard they try. Sam Seaborne is the idealist who more often than not seems to be putting his foot in his mouth despite his good intentions. If Toby Ziegler were a teenager today, I'm almost convinced he'd be a bit emo with the way he refuses to smile too much, acts like he doesn't care about people, and he sincerely wants government and people in power to quit screwing around all the time.

I could go on and on about how each of the many characters on this show have their moments or quirks that make them seem like anybody else, but the two that I think embody this more than anybody is Josh Lyman and his assistant Donna Moss. Donna is the closest to "normal" as any of these people get - it is through her that the writers would be able to clarify various aspects of our government that people outside of it may not know about or understand. She often asks Josh the questions and he'll somehow provide an answer. And as smart as Josh is with his Ivy League education and impressive resume, Donna is often the wiser one when it comes to really understanding people and, despite her own awful dating history, is the one telling Josh how he should navigate his social life. He even admits at one point, "it's like I skipped a year cuz I never learned what you do when you think you like somebody; what you do next." As a fellow braniac who has spent most of her life doing homework and studying, I can empathize with him. Donna's attitude says it all - there are different ways of being smart, and eventually, hopefully, we'll all figure out what it is we're supposed to do next.