• Wed, Jul 18 2012

The Ten Most Misogynistic Moments On “The Newsroom.”

the newsroom misogynistic

I swear, I almost never use the word misogynistic.

It’s partly because I don’t believe in a culture where we go around feeling victimized, and partly because I think it’s a term that gets wildly overused. Sometimes people are nasty to people just because they’re people, not because they’re women. By “sometimes” I mean “most of the time.”

So, when I kept hearing that The Newsroom was an incredibly misogynistic show, I thought, “Aaron Sorkin generally writes very well thought out female characters, people are probably just looking for an angle and have nothing else to write about.”

Then I watched the show.

No. I was wrong. Like Newsroom anchor Will McAvoy on the show, I am issuing a public apology for ever having thought that. I was wrong and I have failed you up until this moment.

Having watched it, from what I can gather, something must have happened to Aaron Sorkin that caused him to wake up one morning, drink a cup of coffee, chuckle about some bit of historical trivia, and then decide, “Wow. I REALLY hate women.” Why? Because women are the worst, you guys! They’re always watching reality TV and having panic attacks and yelling at you for no reason! Let’s break down some of the moments on the show that could lead a viewer to think that Sorkin thinks that women are all internet girls who don’t know how to high five.

Pictures via HBO/Newsroom

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  • Eagle Eye

    Heh, so, now I kind of want to watch this just to be filled with some righteous indignation!

    • endn

      Haha you should! and for sam waterston’s eyebrows

    • Belinda

      It would be misplaced. The show is actually pretty well rounded. Everyone is a screwup, not just the women.

  • Ann

    Thank god I’m not the only one who noticed!

  • endn

    hahaha hilarious! I’ve been trying to get into this show because I keep expecting it to get better but… it… just… won’t. WTF is up with Emily mortimer AND alison pill’s characters, the two most frequent women, being complete spazzing disasters? Also the don quixote shit makes me mad too, from episode one i feel like Sorkin was trying to make some stupid pseudo-intellectual point about using idealism to elevate the media (back to a time when things were great except if you were colored or a woman hooray) but that stuff only makes sense if you’ve just listened to people reference it rather than actually reading it yourself in whatever language. But he trots it out as an emblem of lofty notions and intellectual knowledge (especially on the part of jeff daniels’ character who btw is horrible I wish he would just do dumb and dumber 2) as if he’s assuming we’re all morons who would be impressed. Sigh.

    • endn

      also what’s up with having the only non-white main characters be so ridiculous? Olivia munn as a hypereducated unemotional bad socializer? Dev patel literally gets referred to as the “IT guy” in the first episode by jeff daniels, too, and at the end of the episode he makes a big deal about learning his real name as if it’s a huge endearing character development to not be racist, BUT he’s still basically the tech/blogger guy for the rest of the series and is oh so hilariously geeky/dorky/nerdy/as if people who know apple products are just giant nerdlingers still? jesus christ! at least he got a girl last episode. oh and there are a couple of black people who have lines sometimes. yay

      (sorry for all the long comments today… slow day at the office)

  • BMur

    I watched the rerun of Sunday’s episode last night. Was I the only one that thought the F-bomb exchange towards the end was pointless, out of place, and really forced?

  • holleeta

    I have a lot of issues with the show and yet I can’t stop watching it. Alison Pill is a shitty actress and she is intolerable in this role. Her whole story is completely unbelievable. She starts as an intern and gets promoted to assistant, then Mac comes in and promotes her to associate producer. Really, what world does this happen in? You’d think she’d be grateful and reverent towards Jim, but instead she acts like a five year old flirting on the first day of kindergarten. I’ve never seen such behavior in my life.

    4. I don’t think Will was saying reality stars deserve privacy. He was saying that Americans shouldn’t care about reality stars. That we should care about what is really going on in our country instead of convincing ourselves that it is okay to spend so much time on guilty pleasures. He is right.

  • holleeta

    What’s ironic about the show is that i do believe it covers all that is wrong with America, and that includes the patriarchal tendencies that most men don’t even notice. I am not sure that Sorkin realizes this but he is accomplishing bringing the issue to light.

  • Kelly Rapacki

    Am I the only one not wanting to castrate Aron Sorkin with a burning bra? I think a lot of your points are taken out of context, like the Bigfoot thing seemed more like McAvoy trying to be a nice guy to a worker who deserves it. Yes Mac is spazzy, but it’s a character trait. It doesn’t mean she’s not a well rounded person. Did you miss the part where she spent three years as a bad ass field reporter in the war, and in the first episode she successfully manipulates at least 3 other characters, albeit the love triangle was an obvious and lazy route for Sorkin.

    And cut Maggie some slack everyone! yes she can be a bit unbelievable and she has some self confidence issues but a theme of the show is how all the young characters are trying to figure things out and don’t really know what their doing. I think once we get to the inevitable Don/Maggie/Jim fight she’ll round out a bit.

    So is everyone ignoring Leona Lewis in this debate?

    The only woman that really bothered me was the second date one with the gun. For lack of better words, she was a bitch

    Also Jim is really the geeky one not Neil. Just because he writes the blog and knows a lot about tech doesn’t mean he isn’t suaver and cooler then other characters. He does have a girl while Jim’s been pinning over one without the guts to tell her for 9 months.

    I honestly can’t say why I just spent so much time defending this show other then I don’t really have a life :P

  • Captain

    I feel like a lot of these are taken out of context. You included so many of these little things but didn’t include the fact that Mac, a successful producer, can’t use e-mail properly?! I think Mac/Maggie are really spazzy characters and are pretty terrible illustrations of women (that said I totally adore Maggie) but I don’t think this show hates women. I think some women look at everything as a personal attack against them. The way some gay men do (I’m gay so I can say it).

    • Nancy

      To be fair, I know a lot of successful executives who can’t use e-mail properly. Shockingly common.

    • Belinda

      I agree with the other comment about the email. She’s not a regular journalist, and she was within a new system. Its not that uncommon to send emails to everyone accidentally, and I’ve worked places where men and women have done it.

      For what its worth, this article is a month old, and I think the show has done a pretty good job of evening out the field a bit.

  • MarleneElyse

    I have to disagree- the last episode was about making the anchor look like a pig in the media- the result of angering the corporate media. The previous episode shows top exec threatening to create a context for firing him.

    It is the man in the central relationship that is the ‘wounded victim’ and I applaud the message that reality tv is a horrible way of dumbing down our culture. The message of the show is something we desperately need-free press-honorable news anchors who don’t instigate an angry population for ratings.

  • Jurybox

    I too think Maggie is a completely ridiculous character. Mac’s background as this incredible field journalist for three years seems completely foreign from the character we see in the series – she needs more moments of complete mastery and they give her very little of those.

    Finally, I have to disagree with the author on her point about Will’s tirades against “take-down” articles and gossip mags as being heroic. I thought he came off as a self-important, egotistical, condescending elitist (which is entirely in character for him). Definitely not heroic. And also pathetically lonely.

  • DeeSevere

    My favorite misogynistic/and simultaneously overly PC moment was, when Will masterfully takes the gun away from the fun date who has pot and a gun in her purse, and she says, “is it wrong that I found that hot?”

    And he says: “Yes!” and he’s serious.

    First of all, I’ll admit that I travel in a rather kinky milieu, but the vast majority of guys I know would think that woman was, like, their best date all year, and then they’d go forth to have really hot sex.

    Second, watching someone handle a gun well IS kind of hot, as evidenced by a zillion action movies with hot men and women doing just that.

    And that was the point where I decided I could not stand Will, that he needed to have many more drinks thrown in his face and be otherwise taken down a peg or two.

    P.S. In my fantasy, there’s an episode where Will meets Fiona, the steely weapons expert from Burn Notice. And/or Zeva from NCIS. And they teach him a thing or two. ;)

  • rebecca

    I don’t think Sorkin meant for Will to be completely likable. I think people who have problems with characters in this show and GIRLS are all watching tv under the assumption that good characters = good people. I’m sorry, but i don’t think it is a show creator’s responsibility to mold perfect role models. How boring would television be in that case? How relatable could the characters be?

  • Old Gent

    Jennifer, I feel we are watching the same show with different opinions. I think it is hard to write good women’s parts by either ender for women. I think that Newsroom is supposed to be about bringing young women’s and men’s differences together to be united for a purpose other than work affairs. I agree it is oversimplified and hard to watch, but it was intentional to measure the growth of these women’s confidence in just the misogynistic environment the show conveys. Measuring this to “Girls”, which is considered a well written show for women, I see better effort to tear down old ways to better what women really are, unleashed powerhouses. Newsroom wins for me. It is a man’s opinion, but I do care to see better roles and time will tell me if this was Sorkin’s purpose. He claims to have hired writers for their ideas in order to use that for himself to write the show. That seems crazy and unfair to me, or he fired them because he feels like you. Either way, I would rather watch Newsroom for the tackling of arguable issues. That can make for a very short or very long series.

  • kayla

    As a woman, I can agree that the ladies in The Newsroom are not portrayed in the most idealistic way, but everyone seems to forget that the men aren’t either. If Will’s character was a female, the whole world would be talking about what an unkind reflection on womankind his character is. I was just discussing this topic with a few Dish coworkers whom are also females, and we agree that we should not prove the show right by analyzing every little thing out of context and then whining about it. Instead, we should focus more on the main content The Newsroom presents to its audience, which is not a reflection on women but on society as a whole in conjunction with the Media. Once the misogynistic argument is set aside, the brilliance of the show shines through. Sorkin has created a piece of work that goes beyond the regular TV dramas to really incite a stimulated debate about who is really in control of our society. It is an educated show that I plan to keep on the top of my DVR list. I’m certainly not saying that the character depiction is infallible, and it does have the potential to fall towards a misogynistic path. If this does end up being the case, at least I have the Hopper DVR with tons of recording space, so no substantial recording space will be sacrificed. I have nothing to lose by keeping with The Newsroom and will continue to advocate for it until it proves me wrong.

  • JAKE

    You numbered the slideshow incorrectly for some reason. You made #2 come before #3 in the countdown.

  • Jamie Peck

    I have not watched the Newsroom and from what I’ve read, I don’t think I want to! But I don’t think you need to constantly feel victimized to recognize that many things in our culture are patently misogynistic, and that we should work to make them better or at least call them out like you’re doing here. I don’t feel like a victim despite having literally been victimized. It’s all in your state of mind.

  • Brittany

    This is ridiculous. It’s all a light twist for a show that delivers serious content on events in recent history. Calm you estrogen jets and try focusing on the real message of the show – getting the full factual story and making a human connection to these real issues/revolutions/disasters that are faced around the world.

  • Kent

    You’re a moron. The men on the show are shown in unflattering lights all the time. Sorkin picks on both genders equally. Will is oblivious, preachy, and often pretentious. Charlie is a drunk. Don is often (though not always) sleazy. Neal is dorky and a bit of a womanizer. Jim is socially inept. The network executive is essentially evil incarnate.

    1. Neal’s Bigfoot story is never taken seriously by anyone (except himself.) The iPad incident is used to show Will’s flaws, not the female staffer’s.

    2. Maggie having panic attacks isn’t misogynistic. Some people really do have such a problem.

    3. “someone shouting “you can’t have it all, women! You can’t have it all!” isn’t misogynistic. It’s real life. NOBODY can have it all. A great high-powered career DOES demand sacrifices in one’s family life, social life, or personal life. And vice versa. This is true whether you’re male or female.

    4. Will gets his comeuppance from Nina Howard. Even though he’s entirely correct about her profession.

    5. You really, REALLY don’t get that the Bigfoot story is a running gag meant to make fun of Neal, and not women. NOBODY (except Neal) is trying to prove Bigfoot is real. Nobody takes it seriously.

    6. Will continually gets trashed for his “mission to civilize.”

    In short: you didn’t watch most of the show, and when you did, you clearly were looking for … well, a story to write, I guess. Either that, or you just didn’t get it.

    Remember, the key to a good story is starting with a plausible pitch. Work on that, will you?

  • Tina

    While I agree that there are definitely moments in the Newsroom that enrage my inner feminist, on the whole, I tend to view the show as being comprised of imperfect characters. I’m fairly certain McAvoy is meant to be seen as a misogynist, and he has PLENTY of other character flaws.

    On an unrelated note, however, I would just like to point out that all the Don Quixote references are not about the original source material, but rather, the musical The Man of La Mancha, which presents Don Quixote as a loveable but delusional character whom Aldonza admires for his ability to “dream the impossible dream”. In the musical, the character literally is idealized, which is why they constantly reference him on the Newsroom.

  • toupeira

    And here I was thinking that Newsroom is actually one of the few shows with strong female leads. http://www.leakynews.com/newsroom-season-2-just-as-feminist-as-it-always-was/