Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My thoughts on the recent Aaron Sorkin controversy

A lot of readers are asking my opinion of the recent Aaron Sorkin/Alena Smith flap. This is nice. Before I had a blog no one asked me about anything. So I’ll take a moment from plugging my book sale (the real reason for this blog) and weigh in with my thoughts.

In case you’re not familiar with the story. On last Sunday night’s episode of THE NEWSROOM there was a campus rape storyline that has angered many viewers. It’s also very timely considering the recent Cosby allegations and University of Virginia/ROLLING STONE debacle. But the episode was filmed months ago. The fact that Sorkin touched on a hotbed subject is actually coincidental. It happens. Real life events sometimes have the audacity to interfere with entertainment scheduling.

Alena Smith was a staff writer on the show and tweeted this week that she strongly disagreed with Sorkin’s position on the campus rape issue in the writers room, and when she wouldn’t stop pressing it Sorkin eventually asked her to leave.

Sorkin then issued a statement. Here is part of that response:

Alena Smith, a staff writer who joined the show for the third season, had strong objections to the Princeton story and made those objections known to me and to the room. I heard Alena's objections and there was some healthy back and forth. After a while I needed to move on (there's a clock ticking) but Alena wasn't ready to do that yet. I gave her more time but then I really needed to move on. Alena still wouldn't let me do that so I excused her from the room.

The next day I wrote a new draft of the Princeton scenes--the draft you saw performed last night. Alena gave the new pages her enthusiastic support. So I was surprised to be told this morning that Alena had tweeted out her unhappiness with the story. But I was even more surprised that she had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality. It was a room in which people felt safe enough to discuss private and intimate details of their lives in the hope of bringing dimension to stories that were being pitched. That's what happens in writers rooms and while ours was the first one Alena ever worked in, the importance of privacy was made clear to everyone on our first day of work and was reinforced constantly. I'm saddened that she's broken that trust.

And now Sorkin is taking more flack.

So where do I stand?

Well, first of all, I wasn’t in the room. I don’t know how long the debate was. I don’t know how contentious the debate was. I don’t know Alena Smith. I didn’t even know Aaron Sorkin had a writers room. I did see the episode however. I am still a loyal viewer of THE NEWSROOM. It makes me feel smart if I can understand half of what is going on. So I have no idea who was right or wrong. I’m clueless as to whether Sorkin gave her sufficient time or was dismissive, whether she had a myriad of points that required time to express or the same point repeated seven times. I don’t know if he warned her that she was in jeopardy of being tossed. I don’t know if ultimately in his rewrite Sorkin did change things as per her argument or ignored her completely.

But I side with Sorkin on this point: Confidentiality in the writers’ room is a must. And it’s more than just “you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry in public.” Writers need to feel safe. The best stories and moments come from real life, and in the quest for a good story a writer will often share the most intimate details of his or her life. It is a brave and courageous thing to do, to expose yourself for the sake of art. You truly cannot believe some of the shocking things writers will confess in those rooms – things they haven’t told their family, spouse, or shrink. I was once in a rewrite (and this was for a sitcom) where one of the baby writers revealed she had once been gangbanged. Holy shit! She’s telling me this and I didn’t even know her name?

When you join a writing staff it is understood that you honor confidentiality. That’s a cardinal rule. No exceptions. Heide Perlman was a staff writer on CHEERS. Her sister, Rhea, was in the cast. But we knew that nothing said in the room about Rhea or anybody would ever get back to her. And we all said NICE things.

But that’s the code and Alena broke it. Did she ultimately harm anybody? No. But it’s like Pete Rose gambling in baseball. After the Black Sox scandal in 1919 baseball determined that the one thing that could kill the game was if the public thought it was fixed. So there is a rule that players, managers, and coaches are forbidden to bet on baseball. They sign agreements to that effect. There are big signs posted in every major league clubhouse. When Pete was managing Cincinnati he broke that code. You could argue that he only bet on his team, but what about nights he didn’t bet? Wasn’t that sending the message that he didn’t think his team would win that night? Wouldn’t that be handy information to have if you’re a professional gambler?

Again, I’ve never worked for Aaron Sorkin. I might want to kill him if I did. I dunno. He might want to kill me if he were ever on my staff.  But internal struggles have to remain internal. It’s necessary for the process.

Think of it this way:  the writers' room is the ultimate Las Vegas.  What happens in the room STAYS in the room.

Some suggest that Alena Smith will have trouble getting future staff work because of this. In some cases I’m sure that’s true. Would I ever hire her? If I thought she was the best writer for the position then yes I would. Really good writers are hard to find. And the confidentiality issue?  I bet she never does that again.

Now the plug for my book:  Last few days of the sale of  THE ME GENERATION...BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60S).  Only $.99, an 81% saving.   Way more laughs to the penny than you'll ever find again.  Here's where you go.  But hurry!  


Hamid said...

Before I had a blog no one asked me about anything

Which are you more excited about, Star Wars: Episode VII or the final Hobbit movie?

Jeremy M said...

Yeah, that'll show that woman that it's not acceptable to speak passionately about the portrayal of a heinous act on national TV when a man has better things to do! The secrecy of the room is more important!

Ken, you may feel strongly about the sanctity of the writer's room, and I'm sure that it is a safe space and the fact that it is a safe space makes for more human moments to churn (in a good way) into human moments in our entertainment. It seems to me like this is an example less of just that and more of a writer (Sorkin) who has longstanding problems with women's voices and also with people talking on the internet without the permission of white men (i.e. "professionals") (an issue which is described with more eloquence by people like Emily Nussbaum in other places) shutting down a conversation started by a person who is statistically much more likely to have experience with the subject at hand, in order to write another heavy handed scene where a male character comes out looking like the hero of a scenario purely by actually agreeing with/approving of the woman in the scene when she speaks.

There is a long history of this in his work. While I count the Sorkin years of The West Wing among my favorite television of all time, everything the guy does since then has made me like him and that show less. Which makes me sad.

Anyway, I think you may have missed the mark and I wonder what women who read your blog will think.

Writer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan Levy said...

What is the difference between this writer talking about her experiences in a room and the retrospective stories about Cosby's and Roseanne's writer's rooms? Is it distance?

Shelia said...

Didn't she merely tweet out that there had been a disagreement? That's not the same as violating the sanctity of the writer's room, I would think.

Ditto on Brian Levy's question about retrospectives. You've talked about bad experiences in the writer's room. Have you violated said sanctity? At what point is it ok to talk?

MikeK.Pa. said...

I really don't see how Alena Smith violated the sanctity of the writing room. She simply indicated she wasn't on board with the script as it was televised and was ejected from the room. After that it became a she said/he said. No secrets of other writers' experiences were revealed. Probably took some courage on her part to speak up, especially being one of the few females in the room and with Sorkin's sometimes overbearing personality. Not sure what Sorkin's history is with his writing staff, although he's been criticized for not sharing writing credits and of letting go 4-5 writers after the first season of NEWSROOM.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eduardo Jencarelli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I agree. She was a bit out of line, even if what she said about Sorkin is 100% true.

Imagine if this situation were to create the possibility of producers monitoring what happens inside the room. Creativity would go down the drain since no one would be comfortable to speak his/her mind.

As for the episode, I actually agreed wholeheartedly with Don's argument. Creating such a website would encourage a number of witch hunts which could ruin the lives of potentially innocent people.

Some people simply don't want justice, only revenge. And after 560 Simpsons episodes, I'd like to think there's a lesson to be learned in not fueling more mob mentality.

Carol said...

I didn't think she violated any privacy, other than telling the public they had a disagreement over a very volatle subject.

I think the bigger issue, (and I'm only going by what I read, so forgive me if I'm wrong) is that Sorkin's POV seems to be 'women shouldn't accuse men of rape even if the man raped her, because it could hurt the man, and the moral imperative of all good people is to believe the accused, not the accuser when it comes to rape.

If that's indeed what she was arguing against in the script, then I wonder if he's not more upset because she's outing him as kind of a jerk more than the idea she 'violated privacy of the writer's room'

Ted said...

Sorkin is one of the most important and unique voices in Hollywood screenwriting. Oh, and also, he's not to everyone's taste. He writes about actual issues, so I guess we can nail the guy on pretty much every script he writes. But I'll still be first in line to see his next movie.

pallas said...

Clearly Ken does not really believe that there's an absolute rule that what goes on in the writer's room stays in the writer's room.

For example in an old post on his blog he wrote:

"One day David came into the office and pitched the idea of Frasier having to care for an ailing, aging parent, something many people Frasier’s age were facing. We could keep the radio station, but now add a home life. David Angell and I both liked this idea immediately."

Ken has outed David as pitching an idea and outed the others as liking the idea.

How is this in anyway different from what Alena Smith did?

It seems the issue is for Ken is she said something negative, not that she brought up the writer's room.

Phil Hesdilla said...

Thank you Ken. Your considered blog post said it all and I agree.

But here come the cavalry.

* Ken's a hypocrite.
* The female staffer is correct and Sorkin is wrong. Why? Just because... it's... a safe opinion... to have.
* This topic is so important... so very, very important, it needs to be dealt with great delicacy and respect... why? Because it's, um... happening right now... isn't it?

Yes, and it's terrible, of course but it's also fast becoming an hysterical witch hunt. Really? Yes. So it should have the same considered approach as any topic would, no more no less and as for the staffer... she had a strong opinion about a topic and ground it to the ground. We all have strong opinions about things and if I were in a writer's room, I would be respectful of its 'rules' regardless of how much I'd like to argue my point of view.

Just because 'your' POV matches public hysteria, doesn't mean it's any more or less important.

Johnny Walker said...

Alena Smith made four tweets on the subject, that are probably worth sharing for the sake of balance:

As @emilynussbaum points out in her review of tonight's ep, you can't criticize Sorkin without turning into one of his characters.
— Alena Smith (@internetalena) December 8, 2014

So when I tried to argue, in the writers' room, that we maybe skip the storyline where a rape victim gets interrogated by a random man...
— Alena Smith (@internetalena) December 8, 2014

I ended up getting kicked out of the room and screamed at just like Hallie would have for a "bad tweet."
— Alena Smith (@internetalena) December 8, 2014

I found the experience quite boring. I wanted to fight with Aaron about the NSA, not gender. I didn't like getting cast in his outdated role
— Alena Smith (@internetalena) December 8, 2014

And let's not forget that Sorkin publicly trashed a writer on one of his shows after being called out for not thanking him during an Emmy acceptance speech for a script they co-wrote. He can't be TOO annoyed...

Finally, on a vain and selfish note: In the first season, I was doing both The West Wing and Sports Night at the same time and I wanted to try seeing if The West Wing could run like a normal TV show. I gave a staffer named Rick Cleveland a script assignment. He wrote a script called "A White House Christmas" wherein the First Lady's cat trips a Secret Service alarm. I can't much else except mention was made of a business card found in an old coat of Toby's that he'd donated to Good Will. I threw out Rick's script and wrote "In Excelces Deo." Because Rick had worked for months on his, I gave him, rather than a Story by credit, a co-written by credit and put his name ahead of mine. For my script, he received a Humanitas nomination, an Emmy Award and a Writers' Guild Award. Every Emmy nominee gets a letter from Don Mischer, the producer of the telecast, very clearly saying that only one person is allowed to speak when accepting. After that person is done, the orchestra will play you off. Rick could'ce done the St. Crispin's Day speech that night for I cared. It wasn't my call.

This, too, was explained to Bernie.

At the end of the first season, Rick was fired. Not by me and for economic reasons. It was by John Wells and it was for lack of performance. He was then hired by Gideon's Crossing, where he was fired by Paul Attanassio for the same reason.

Sorkin later had to recant what he said, and withdrew from the internet.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

@Johnny Walker: I recall that event pretty well (including the whole Emmy presentation), and while there's probably some truth in it, there's always one than more side to a story.

For every Rick Cleveland and Alena Smith, there are also writers who worked for years under Sorkin without being fired or putting out dirty laundry. And they're still out there writing and producing: people like Eli Attie, Paul Redford, Kevin Falls and of course Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.

Kev said...

Oh, Jeremy M, you odd fellow. You write such garbage, I feel like putting your comment out the front of my house to be collected.

You cast yourself the protector of women, yet your blog "Cute Girls In Stupid Sunglasses" kicks off it's gratuitous female ogling with an eleven year old girl.

"...I wonder what women who read your blog will think."

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

And also Debora Cahn.

Anonymous said...

I think Sorkin's an ass, but she really should have known better than to tweet this stuff. What matters more to her--her Twitter followers' approval or her boss's opinion of her? What was she thinking? Does it matter that she didn't like the plot line? Did she feel the need to let the panting audience know her thoughts on the episode?

Anonymous said...

David Lee here. For the record Pallas, I'm the David being spoken of here. First, it was Peter Casey who shared the anecdote, not Ken ( Peter was guest blogging) and second, it was not in the writer's room rather a conversation between Peter, David Angell and I which we had no problem sharing with the world.
I know it may seem abstract to those who have not been there, but what Ken is talking about--the sanctity of the writer's room-- is very, very important. And it doesn't really apply to positive comments, only to those which reveal private matters (of which I revealed plenty over the years--many of which you saw on screen)or those which reflect badly on your colleagues.

Dan Ball said...

Sensationalization. What is it good for?

norm said...

You are my age, what are your thoughts on the passing of Ken Weatherwax?

Alan said...

Hear, hear, David Lee.

Who, for my money, wrote the finest sitcom pilot ever, in Frasier 'The Good Son'.

Johnny Walker said...

@Eduardo Jencarelli I really don't see your point. So it's OK for Sorkin to publicly trash a writer in his room?

Big Boy Pants said...

"Confidentiality in the writers’ room is a must. And it’s more than just 'you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry in public.' Writers need to feel safe."

No, they don't; that's just outdated thinking, at best.

Any writer that needs to "feel safe" is someone who needs to put on their big boy pants and grow a pair.

I, for one, admire Alena Smith's courage to call a spade a spade.

Jessica said...

As a long time reader/lover of the blog, I am hesitant to say anything that even starts to sound mean toward Ken here... However, I also disagree with this post.

I have never been in a writers' room, so I'm sure my opinion is less (or not) valid. However, I do agree with other commenters here that it does not seem like Alena Smith was sharing any other writer's secret personal stories/secrets. (And I would completely be able to see why that would be upsetting and not okay.)

I don't think it's smart to publicly speak about your boss on the internet. So, I don't know that what she did was smart... But to me, it doesn't seem like she went against some kind of writers' code.

I, along with others, also do wonder why it's okay to air bad stories about Cosby or Roseanne... yet what Alena did was not okay?

Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy all of your stories. (That's why I'm such a long-time reader/lover of the blog!) And I'm not trying to trap you in some kind of logic argument or anything.

I'm genuinely asking where is the line of what is okay and what is not okay to say in a public forum when it comes to a writer's experience? Because it feels muddled to me...

Whether I've agreed with your thoughts, I still thank you for sharing them and for allowing us to share ours as well.

Mike said...

The West Wing had a plotline of Allison Janney getting very upset over aid to Saudi-Arabia like Kumar, not keeping it to herself.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

@Johnny Walker

Not at all. It's certainly not okay for Sorkin to do what he did.

I'm only saying the media tends to bring up the negative stories, while overlooking the positives. As I said, for every writer with a sob story such as Alena, there's another who worked pretty well with the guy for years, but those ones don't translate to juicy stories.

Sorkin's personality certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way, which certainly doesn't help when it comes to reporting stories about him. Hence The Newsroom.

Mike said...

The timing is not entirely a coincidence. There has been a push by the government to force colleges to implement a new set of policies where due process is irrelevant, and the accuser has priority.

Aaron Sorkin is probably still living in the West Wing world, so he supports the accused, Bill Clinton, over the accuser Juanita Broaddrick.

By any chance did the accuser inn the episode make up dialogue like 'Better put some ice on that?'

McAlvie said...

Thank you, Johnnie Walker, for posting the text of the tweets. That gives the discussion context.

It's a very delicate issue, so I want to say right out that I have not seen the episode and am not expressing any opinion whatsoever on the value of the script.

I do think this is yet another case where the immediacy and very public nature of tweeting, and the desire to vent emotions, are a bad combination. If I did so regarding my own job, nobody would be arguing about whether I deserve to get fired for it. Circumspection isn't just for writers' rooms. If Sorkin were tweeting nasty comments about Smith, he'd be the bad guy. So why would it be acceptable for Smith to be so publicly sharing nasty comments about Sorkin?

Canda said...

These comments make me realize that no gender discussion can be had anymore, without people citing chapter and verse of their politically correct or politically incorrect thinking.

As for the point of view of the program Sorkin chose, not every writer writes what he or she personally believes in a story line, but rather what a character or characters may think or do. From that, hopefully comes stimulating discussion, counter views, etc. That's what good writing is supposed to do. If everyone wrote what they thought they were supposed to write, to please the greatest number, or to adhere to what is considered "correct", it would all be awful writing.
The McCarthy era condemned people for thoughts the majority found unacceptable.

As for the writers room, creativity comes from trust, the ability to state what you feel, to share experiences, etc. Those should remain in the room, IF THEY ARE PERSONAL, OR COULD CAUSE EMBARRASSMENT. To say you disagreed with the final product is fine, as far as I see.

To go on twitter and make a federal case of it, and then say you were screamed at, is simply petty.

Alena Smith has clearly made it impossible now for Sorkin to fire her, but who will want to work with a writer like her in the future who says derogatory things about you to the public. Anyone who works in TV knows it is often a tense and pressure-filled job. If you are interrupting the process needed to fulfill the time needed to finish a script, and I yell at you about it (which may be a product of the pressure I'm feeling), I don't need the world to think I hate, disrespect, or dismiss women's views. You've tarred me forever now, for an incident that may have had nothing to do with that.

By Ken Levine said...


As David Lee stated in the comment thread, revealing personal information or negative information about colleagues.

When I've told stories about writers rooms they general focus on the process of how a scene or story was constructed. Or a benign funny incident. Trust me, there's a lot I haven't told you and won't tell you. I'm sure my traffic would skyrocket and Gawker and TMZ would link to some of my posts but it's not going to happen.

Now yes, there are gray areas, and writers of shows do talk amongst themselves. We all share horror stories. But it's understood that it's between us and not to go public.

Interestingly, this issue has really only come into the forefront over the last twenty years or so. With the internet there is now a public forum that had never existed. Thirty years ago, who would Alena Smith have told this to -- a reporter from the LA Times? Would it be newsworthy enough to print?

My main point, and this has nothing to do with gender or Aaron Sorkin or just cause, is that writers need to be discreet. We do. We just do.

Michael said...

I realize creating extreme what-if scenarios is rarely productive, but curious on how far you feel the sanctity of the writer's room extends. Does it extend to the admission of having committed past unsolved serious crimes?

Dan Ball said...

I really hope we're not getting dangerously close to letting the sensationalism of social media dictate HR in the workplace. If we can't fire people for being unprofessional and airing the workplace's dirty laundry (never mind them ever accepting responsibility for those they harm with it), then I shudder to think of the ramifications of that.

While Alena didn't really violate the confidentiality of "The Room", she did bad-mouth her boss on social media for the whole world to see. That's a no-no regardless if you're in the entertainment industry or the port-a-potty business. Since this happened to coincide with some talk of rape, a topic which frequently involves women as victims, and Alena Smith felt like, as a woman, she was victimized, she felt like it was okay to make this public.

Two mistakes: Sorkin did not seem to treat her unprofessionally by either his or her account (since when is yelling unprofessional?); two, if she felt that he had verbally abused her, Twitter wasn't the right place for her to receive help for that. So why are we giving her unprofessionalism a pass?

What sickens me is that people aren't really reading between the tweets enough to see this clearly for themselves. They just lump her perceived victimization, the rape subject matter of the episode, the recent fad of stickin' it to The Man in lieu of Ferguson, and her gender all together to draw a completely wrong, bleeding-heart, knee-jerk, and misinformed reaction--not a well-reasoned conclusion, mind you--about the situation. Where's common sense in all this? It's MIA. Yet, until this discussion is interrupted by the next social injustice or cute dog-adopts-farm-animal-baby meme, it will continue to be about Sorkin v. Smith, not the sensationalism of social media vs. common sense like it ought to be.

Mighty fine handbasket we're haulin' ass in. Can't we get some spinners or fuzzy dice to trick it out? At least a Coexist bumper sticker.

Andy K said...

But did they have to kill Charlie?

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Couldn't this just be taken as a workplace issue?
Ms Smith, a first year associate publicly says something about her boss (who happens to be a celebrity).
She'd be fired if she was a Project Manager at APPLE and said something on Twitter about how Tim Cook conducts business.

It's as simple as that.

Dan Ball said...

To qualify calling Ferguson a fad:

I think to many, it's a fad. It's all over social media and it's a very emotional, CURRENT topic. However, in a week, month, two months (depends on how long police departments can keep from using unnecessary lethal force in the coming weeks) this will all blow over and a lot of these protesters will fall by the wayside, captivated by the next 'thing' on social media.

However, this is too important to die out that way and, for many, it won't. I believe there's work that needs to be done on both sides and sweeping it all under the rug doesn't count as work. The sad reality is that it probably will die out sooner or later, with the bulk of the problem left unresolved.

Since it's a hot topic right now, though, it's playing into people's opinions of Aaron Sorkin in this particular Alena Smith situation, when the two issues are unrelated despite both involving victims of either real or implied abuse by white men. One is a legitimate public concern, the other is not even though it's feeding off the former. And this is what bothers me.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Let's face it...if she has violated the code of the writer's room as Ken as said, then she may not have an issue getting a job, but she may have an issue with the other writers trusting her and confiding in her.
She'll have to earn that trust back or maybe she should just try writing in a format where there are no partnering.

BOB said...

I saw the episode in question. It presented a thorough explanation of both points of view.

I didn't hear anything that led me to form an opinion on where Aaron Sorkin stands on the issue of burden of proof in rape cases.

I did come away with a better understanding of rape victims frustration with the lack of due process and certain portions of the media's willingness to take advantage of that.

As for the "controversy"...
Who's name is listed under "created by" and "written by" in the credits? It's Aaron Sorkin's show, not Alena Smith's. From my POV, there is no controversy.

Jon B. said...

I like today's blog entry because it allows some readers to reveal their biases, often in a high and mighty way. Don't like Aaron Sorkin (who doesn't, right?)? Let it all hang out. Think Ken is a jackass hypocrite? Zing away! See misogyny everywhere you look? You have Exhibit #1 (again).

Turns out that this time I am sympathetic to Ken's (and Sorkin's) position, at least to the extent that they say it was bad form for Alena Smith to tweet as she did. I, too, don't know the whole story and so I concede I might feel differently in the unlikely event I ever do learn the whole story.

One observation: These kinds of things will happen more and more frequently with social media and, I suspect, many younger folks will not see the same yellow lights that older folks do. Maybe that's not all bad.

Todd Everett said...

All that I've ever asked from a boss when we've disagreed is that they hear my case. Sometimes they'll come around; sometimes, not. And sometimes, of course, they won't listen at all.

But if they have (or haven't) considered my argument and still disagree, they're still the boss. Which gives me two options.

From the story as reported here, it appears that Sorkin listened, considered, and (eventually) made his decision.

She should have let the meeting go on, with or without her. And if her disagreement was sufficiently strong, she should have found a more accommodating employer. There are lots of those in show business.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused as to why people think she would have trouble getting other writers to trust her.

All we have is a tweet saying he disagreed with an episode.

Anonymous said...

My daughter, post Bachelor's & Master's degrees, decided to give stand up comedy a try. I warned her that she could not use her current full-time employer for a source of laughs. That most jobs come with either a written or implied confidentiality agreement. Besides it would just be bad form. You just don't want to burn your bridges.

What Alena should have done, if she strongly disagreed with the scope of the episode, was respectfully decline to work on it. Make sure her name wasn't attached. But you don't go on Twitter and complain about it to the world.

Pam, St. Louis

Baylink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marty Fufkin said...

It's funny... Alena Smith did the same thing that Hallie Shea did in Episode 2 this season -- they both broke an old-media rule to get attention on new-media, and if all this plays out the same way, Alena will get hired as a writer for some "cutting edge" website that pays per click.

Marty Fufkin said...

A lesson to read the comments (rather than skim them) before making my own. Johnny Walker re-printed all of Alena's tweets above and see now she was aware of the weird feedback loop she was in: "You can't criticize Sorkin without turning into one of his characters." I shouldn't have implied that she was playing the same game as Hallie.

Mike said...

Also, Lena Dunham's book with a fake rape claim was published end of September. Enough time to get a storyline out?

Anonymous said...

Dan Ball said...

"I think to many, it's a fad. It's all over social media and it's a very emotional, CURRENT topic. However, in a week, month, two months (depends on how long police departments can keep from using unnecessary lethal force in the coming weeks)"

Don't forget, it also depends on how long young black men can keep from trying to take a police officer's gun from him or otherwise make him fear for his life during an arrest procedure.

I think the challenge will be, collectively, far easier for the police.


Anonymous said...

Jessica Said:

"I, along with others, also do wonder why it's okay to air bad stories about Cosby or Roseanne... yet what Alena did was not okay? "

When people "in the arena" are convinced that a particular person is "out of the arena" and can't hurt by them, then they feel free to hammer away.

By the time Ken and Roseanne were going at it, Ken was convinced Roseanne couldn't hurt him in any meaningful way. Same probably goes for Roseanne. That's why the free-for-all shit-slinging match ensued.

When both are in positions of power, you'll hear more about the idea of "professionalism," and "respect."

It's the same "respect" people give each other in a Mexican Standoff. Everyone plays nice, however much they fear or hate each other, in that scenario.

However, if one of the players figures out the other one's gun isn't loaded, "respect" is out the window, and the "professionalism" of the Mexican Standoff is over.

People are converging on the Cos for the same reason. He's old and irrelevant. Time to settle old scores. Time to feed on his aged flesh.

Hollywood is a shitshow with a majority of it's participants suffering from some kind of personality disorder, if not full blown pathologies.

Arguing with them for fair play is like reciting rules to the dogs before a pitt bull fight. Don't waste your time. It'll seem like they agree with you–until they don't.


Diane D. said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe Ken was ever in a writing room with either Bill Cosby or Roseanne. If that is true, then the sanctity of the writer's room is not an issue in anything that he said about either of them, and cannot be logically compared to what Alena Smith did. I do agree, however, that what she did was more impolitic than anything else. She didn't really reveal anything except a disagreement, it seems to me.

DBA said...

Jeremy M, I think you completely missed the point. I thought Ken was very even-keeled in that he acknowledged that he doesn't know if the disagreement between Sorkin and Smith went on for two minutes or much longer or how much back and forth there was and if it were respectful disagreement or not. Without knowing that there's no way to know how much of an ass either was being, and in television you do have timelines. A subordinate can argue their position all they want but at a certain point if the boss disagrees he's not only going to disagree but move on with his own decision. At that point, you're overruled, in any business.

Regardless of my thoughts about the actual storyline in question, from what I can see of the situation, Smith was behaving unprofessionally. Since it's Sorkin's show it's his call about the script, whether he's right or wrong. And if the show goes horribly wrong, he's the one people will bitch about, not anyone else in his writer's room.

Anyone, in any business, you tweet about work in a negative light, unless you're whistleblowing a crime, you're probably going to lose that job. Just saying you think your boss made a horrible choice, even if you're right, is not a way to keep a job.

Breadbaker said...

Apparently here too it's all about ethics in gaming journalism. Smith's point, like the points of the legitimate critics of misogyny in gaming, gets silenced by a lot of mansplaining about ethics and then the use of the term political correctness in quotes, which some people think ends an argument just by invoking it. Sorry, there's more here and a lot of you are simply not wanting to see it.

Anonymous said...

"Real life events sometimes have the audacity to interfere with entertainment scheduling. "
I have been a fan of this blog since 2011, this quote is by far the best thing I have ever read. :)

Pat Reeder said...

To Breadbaker:

How is tossing around pissy buzzwords like "mansplaining" any worse than pointing out ridiculously over-the-top political correctness? You say, "Sorry, there's more here and a lot of you are simply not wanting to see it." You're wrong. There's less here, and you're simply not wanting to see it. All the currently fashionable jargon, like "rape culture," "mansplaining," etc. is irrelevant. Here's all that matters: Whether you work for a TV show or a bean bag company, you can't expect to badmouth your boss on Twitter and continue collecting a paycheck. Anyone who can't comprehend that basic fact of life needs to go into a line of work that requires fewer IQ points.

Mike said...

You say it is unprofessional, but Smith is also associated with the final product. Some years ago, Gregg Easterbrook got fired at ESPN for writing in his column about how Jews were the victims of so much violence, so they should not support putting violence in their movies, the firing happening on the orders of higherups, possibly Eisner himself. My point is Easterbrook was placing blame for the movie he didn't like with those who were involved in its creation.

Here Smith is actively choosing to put some distance by raising an objection to the material. Perhaps she should resign, or perhaps that would be too much of an accusation against Sorkin.

Mike said...

I don't know what stats Sorkin had his characters mouth at rapid speed, but the rate of rapes on campus has gone down, and is below the rate for the public at large. To the argument that rape is unreported, given the overall drop, this would mean that the unreported rape rate would have to be higher now than in the past.
Either that, or the story being put out of a campus epidemic is BS.

Angry Gamer said...

It's really fascinating to read the back and forth on this one...

I will leave this though:
In the movie "As Good As It Gets" there is a dialogue that sums it up.

Receptionist: How do you write women so well?

Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

Remember Ken there is NO accountability here. Shame on you, Ken, for thinking there should be.

Your friendly Angry Gamer

Hamid said...

There wouldn't have been so many frayed tempers if we'd just discussed Star Wars. :-D

Johnny Walker said...

AngryGamer: Both sides agree that Tweeting about your boss isn't a smart move, and is likely to get you into trouble, if not outright fired, so I don't see how you can claim there's no accountability. Which ironically means your 'male' argument is lacking in reason.

MikeN said...

So as the Newsroom is ending, it is linking to the actual end of journalism. When Ken says UVA/Rolling Stone debacle, he is (I hope) not referring to a gangrape at a frat, but to the fact that the story is made up and Rolling Stone ran it with nothing in the way of real reporting. The Washington Post followup has exposed the woman as lying, and Rolling Stone as lying in their description of their 'due diligence'.

Matt said...

I understand Alena Smith's problem.

I story idea she vehemently opposed was used on a show she was a writer. She wanted to make it clear to everyone that she opposed it.

Her real problem is that she has a misguided notion of who knows that she is a writer for Newsroom. Almost nobody knows.

However, I don't see where there was a breech of confidentiality other than to say that Aaron Sorkin threw her out.

Did she divulge any secret stories? Was it a secret that Aaron Sorkin is very controlling and approves all stories, if not writes most of them?

Her mistake was overvaluing her place in the world.239223

H Johnson said...

If I was a cynic, I'd think that this first year nobody used social media to elevate her status to "Alena Smith - Defender Of Women" standing toe-to-toe with Evil Aaron Sorkin!

At least for a few days.

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ, women! Shut the fuck up! You WON!

People said "women aren't funny. Women can't do slapstick or rude humor."

Then you cranked out "Bridesmaids," for Chrissake! It shut MY fucking mouth for good. Now, I can't wait to see what that fat chick does next. She was funny as fuck! She was like Belushi funny. All the women in that movie kicked some major ass!

And what about "Friends"? Without the girls, that show would have sucked ass!

Who's amongst top comedic actors in the last few years?


She's like fucking Chevy Chase was back in the day. Can't get away from her damned ass! She's everywhere she wants to be!

I don't like her that much because I think she's a mean, snarky little shit, but MOST people LIKE HER!

There's quite a number of other women I could mention who are kickin' it.

So you WON! Be good winners and quit fucking with us men all the time, like it's 1979. We're fucking TIRED of this shit.

You WON! You're at the top of the ladder now, so you can stop climbing our asses every fucking chance you get!

Learn to be good winners! You're killing us, here!!! Let us fucking BREATHE!!!!!

Most Men

MikeN said...

Most Men: From Ten years ago:

"Women's voices will be heard in full and at last."

Spoken at a national political convention by a candidate for first lady.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was her Twitter comments that were the "Aaron Sorkin controversy." I think the controversy was Sorkin's poor handling of the topic generally and his history of treating women, in real life and in fiction, as if he knows no actual women but only cartoons upon which he projects a whole wealth of his own issues.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken, it seems to me that if you follow your logic no writer would ever be able to complain about their ill-treatment in any writers' room. I don't see where Alena Smith disclosed anything more about her treatment than other writers have in other cases, though she did it closer to real time.