laleia: (e-louai doll)
[personal profile] laleia
Wow, I haven't posted in a while ...

Anyways, tonight, I rewatched the two Big Block of Cheese episodes and was reminded of who much I love The West Wing, despite all the times I may have shouted objections at the screen on any number of things.

God, I love those episodes.

And I really love this show, even though Aaron Sorkin is terrible at writing female characters or feminism, even though the show itself is terrible at writing international relations, and even though I have strong opinions about the way it presented so many of its domestic issues as well.

I have a lot of unpopular opinions about West Wing (or at least, opinions I gather are wildly different from common fannish ones). For one, I don't hate Mandy. I don't even dislike her. She's not my favorite character, but she was a woman trying to do a job that she was paid to do, and she was doing it effectively even if not all the characters on the show agreed with her - if they all agreed with her, they wouldn't have needed to hire her in the first place. (And I swear to god, people need to stop describing unlikable female characters as "shrill".) I also don't dislike Amy, and I don't ship Josh/Donna. In fact, I don't like Josh, and I don't like Sam.

I love Toby Ziegler, though (even though I do believe he's the leak while apparently a lot of people think he was covering for CJ?), and I love CJ Cregg. They were my two favorite main cast members. Oh, and Charlie! I love him too.

While I frequently love President Bartlett, I also frequently disagree with him - for one, I don't think hiding his MS is forgivable. The President is rather a unique job where you need to be "on" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the entirety of your term. And you need to have the capacity to make good decisions for the entirety of that time. Having MS is one thing, and it clearly made it difficult for him to do his job during his negotiations with China, but hiding his MS during most of his first presidency makes it impossible for the entire structure of the government to accommodate and account for his moments of incapacity. A president needs to be "on" 24 hours of the day, but everyone understands that as a human being, a president will need to sleep at night, and may sometimes get sick. Systems are developed to account for this. Hiding his illness, and hiding the potential for incapacity means also that there is no system in place on the off-chance that an MS flareup coincides with a global crisis. The potential for such a coinciding may be small but White House procedures are all about making plans for things that have a slim chance of happening - case in point the procedures in place in case of nuclear war. Case in point the government-wide policy as to how many important officials can be in the same place at the same time.

Another thing I sometimes don't like about Bartlett is his academic professorial background. The show does this big thing about how he chooses not to dumb himself down for the American people, how he's not going to stop sounding smart for them, and heaven knows I frequently consider the American people (as a monolith) extraordinarily stupid. But (and this is I feel more an issue with the show and how the writers choose to write Bartlett's plotlines and less with Bartlett as a character) I feel that Bartlett doesn't make enough of an effort to understand and communicate with the people that have elected him to represent them. It's easy for Bartlett and the staffers who surround him - who almost unanimously come from background of privilege and a certain amount of intellectual elitism (which is another thing I find supremely frustrating, the way they are all hired essentially through connections, which is how politics works, but they all end up having the same sorts of backgrounds, which is why there are so many white men in US politics today) - to consider themselves more educated, and to look down their noses at the unwashed masses but I don't know, I don't often feel that Bartlett and his team feel it is important to communicate with the average American people on their level OTHER than as a campaigning strategy, other than with ulterior motives.

I have a lot of complaints about the show, beyond just the political ones and the disbelief in how they choose to play international affairs scenarios (I'm sorry, I'm an international relations major, so I have STRONG opinions about the stances that the show tries to advocate as the "right" ones) - I mean there's also the fact that writing and characterization grows kind of choppy later on, and threads are introduced without a strong enough follow-through. Character A achieves Position B as a important and meaningful moment at the climax of one episode only for it become a nonentity or for it to turn out that they were All Wrong for Position B only a handful of episodes later. That kind of inconsistent storytelling is characteristic of episodic sitcoms or Glee (inconsistent storytelling and inconsistent themes were very common in Glee) but I expect better from The West Wing.

But all my complaints aside, I watched the entire 7 seasons of the show in less than a month the first time around, and watching these two episodes tonight reminded me of how much I love this show. I'm sorry, but politics makes me cry. I didn't give a shit in Les Miz when Fantine or Javert or Valjean died but I was bawling during the revolutionary bits. Revolution, and protest, and the principles behind politics (and even patriotism, if not overdone into nationalism) makes me tear up more than heartbreak - I'm more emotionally moved by Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (watched a documentary during a film class in college and needed tissues even though nothing sad was happening) than I am by characters dying tragic deaths to motivate others characters' backstories. That's probably a bad example. I do cry a lot in normal sad scenes as well, so think I'm trying to say that a poorly-written, heavy-handed "political" scene will make me cry moreso than a poorly-written, heavy-handed "sad" scene.

Anyways, this is all to say that watching The West Wing makes me very emotional. Every episode, when some character (usually Bartlett) declaims that sweeping, majestic, grandly pontificating speech on the meaning of politics and life and their purpose, I can't help but tear up. This show makes me want to work in politics and work at the White House - but also makes me never want to do it at the same time. I feel that sometimes I am full of both too much idealism and to much cynicism to handle it. As Leo McGarry said, "There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em: laws and sausages."

I love the Big Block of Cheese Day episodes because the idea behind the day is very profound, I think, and makes for good comedy. Also because the Mercator map vs Peters map bit blew my mind and I think one of the greatest things The West Wing ever did was get out this idea that even the very maps we look at can be misleading and can influence our perceptions of the world around us in a way we should be aware of.

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