The West Wing was the first TV show that I didn’t understand, which perhaps says much about our entertainment industry as I was about 12 when it first came out. However, I didn’t start watching the show till it became a late-night routine for my parents while I was in junior high or high school. I would sometimes sit with them and watch, confused by the fact that I was captivated by a show that seemed to revolve around…well, nothing a high schooler is typically interested in. It was about politics, but it wasn’t boring. It was like watching the news, but it wasn’t. They used thinly veiled references that I didn’t catch and talked about issues that I had hardly heard of. I ate it up. That is the power of any script Aaron Sorkin touches. Sometimes you don’t understand why you love it. You just do.
Often Sorkin’s work leaves me pressing pause on the DVD player to go and look up an icon, an event, or an artistic work one of the characters has made reference to. This third-culture-kid needed a Western cultural guide, and I can think of no one better for the job than one whose characters drop lines from classic literature like some of the ladies at my school drop “In Touch” headlines. My friends may tease me for my attachment (ok, addiction) to The West Wing, but the show makes me believe in political honour, and demand it in my own government. It is perhaps part of what influenced me to vote for Glen Pearson, an MP that is making waves in Parliament for his refusal to play dirty politics and drop cheap accusations on his fellow politicians.
The West Wing also makes me want to be a part of something bigger. When I was first introduced to the characters of Amy Gardner and Ainsley Hayes, I wanted to stand up and cheer. They are two women who stand for their convictions, sometimes in the most unconventional ways. One night my friend (a feisty young feminista and, might I say, talented script writer herself) were discussing how these fictional women have become powerful ideals for us of what we could someday achieve as women of conviction ourselves. It may sound pathetic to find your inspiration in fiction, so rest assured that I have “real” role models as well, among them journalists Stephanie Nolen, Lara Logan and Naomi Klein. The point is that these women, real or fictional, have given us something to aspire to. And that's a powerful thing.
By creating entertainment that doesn’t just make us laugh and cry, but makes us think and wish for a better future, Aaron Sorkin goes beyond the typical boundaries written in glitzy Hollywood ink. As realists say, art imitates reality. Sorkin, for anywhere from 40 to 90 minutes, ignites our imagination with a world that has so much potential. What shocks us as the credits roll, is that this world he has imitated, the world where things can and do change for the better, is ours.