Aaron Sorkin’s newest drama is a lightning rod for criticism, much like every other HBO show as of late. Girls was problematic to some for its depiction of privileged, young white people and lack of diversity. Luck was prematurely canceled after three horse’s deaths occurred during filming. While Girls was condemned for its representation of men (Jessa’s jerk husband Thomas-John, pushover Charlie, oddball Adam) Newsroom is now under fire for its portrayal of women.
The women of The Newsroom are supposed to be well-educated, hard working, and ultra intelligent. Emily Mortimer’s MacKenzie McHale is a two-time Peabody Award winner. Olivia Munn’s Sloan Sabbith is a genius economic analyst with a Ph.D from Duke, yet hasn’t had much to do, other than work at proving she has a brain. Alison Pill plays Maggie, anchor Will McAvoy’s loyal assistant who gets magically promoted to assistant producer. MacKenzie liked her moxie, and girls have to stay together in Sorkin’s world, don’t you know?
Although these leading ladies are supposed to be strong and independent, they each have a few fatal flaws. MacKenzie has the vision to create an amazing and whip-smart broadcast show, but doesn’t know how to send an email. She knocks down posters. She’s always flustered and begging for Will’s forgiveness (even though he often behaves like Keith Olbermann on steroids and completely disregards her feelings).
It seems that there are two MacKenzies: one who’s a brilliant producer and journalist (she’s even badass enough to have scars from protecting a woman during a Middle Eastern protest), and the one who’s dumbstruck at the sight of a handsome middle-aged man in a suit.
Maggie is trapped in a love triangle. Don, the boyfriend she keeps going back to, is clearly terrible for her. She even drunkenly says that she’s not quite sure what she did wrong, but she’ll figure it out and apologize. Her boss Jim, on the other hand, believes in her, but is continuously saving her from herself. She’s too passionate for her own good and makes many mistakes for seemingly no reason. Such a silly girl with her weak constitution, but don’t worry, Jim is still there to save her.
It’s difficult to hear that these women are supposed to be take-charge ladies, but then watch them do so many ridiculous things. The one genuinely strong female in the whole cast is network president Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda). Although she’s obviously The Newsroom’s resident villain, she’s powerful and smart. Everything she does actually fits with her characterization. You won’t see any histrionics from Leona or her pining for some man: she’s got a business to worry about.
Newsroom is only in its third episode, so hopefully we’ll see different sides to these strong female characters we’ve been promised. There’s so much room for growth in an promising show that’s already been renewed. Munn has said that viewers will be seeing a lot more from Sloan in the future, and maybe it’ll be more than just her legs.
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