#SorkinGate, Or An Open Letter To Those In The Aaron Sorkin Business

UPDATE: I really felt strongly about a couple of bits of news coming of out of the utterly reprehensible Sony hack that the media has been oddly silent about. But, as I was about to hit publish on this post, a non-Sony email hit the news cycle…

Clutch your pearls, girls. To paraphrase the all-time classic Kanye West chestnut: Aaron Sorkin Doesn’t Care About Female People.

Feel free to read the rest of the post or whatever, but…

Aaron Sorkin can go fuck himself.

——————————

It goes without saying I am 100% not OK with anything relating to the hacking of Sony Pictures. I don’t think anyone feels otherwise, really, except the people who did the hacking. Probably.

So it was really, truly odd for an Op-Ed from Aaron Sorkin to hit the New York Times, seemingly to rally a tinny cry for justice. The… what?

If you didn’t know, Aaron Sorkin is very upset about all this hacking activity, but he feels as if he’s standing alone against this tyranny! Why isn’t the media smart and brave enough to stand up to the bad dudes, dudes??

(I’m paraphrasing. My utter lack of interest in being a Sorkinesque writer allows me to distill his missive, er, a bit.)

Admirable, right? Um, Aaron Sorkin taking a stand and fighting for the little guy…? Is he defending his friends at Sony? Is he defending an industry on its knees, or one that has fallen too far from grace to be saved?

Nope. On all counts.

Aaron Sorkin isn’t some innocent bystander chucking his admirable wordsmithing into this complex issue, in altruistic fashion. Aaron Sorkin has a horse in this race.

A straight-up racist horse, as a matter of fact.*

Much hullabaloo has been made about Amy Pascal’s seemingly (and hopefully) singular racist joke. (Granted, it was about a sitting president of the United States of America. Obviously not cool.).

There has been perhaps less emphasis on Scott Rudin’s racist (see president joke above), sexist (Remember, Angelina Jolie is a “minimally talented spoiled brat” and his speculation on Megan Ellison’s mental state? Anyone else spot a trend of Mr. Rudin not liking the powerful ladies so much…?) and downright boorish behaviour, in general.

But it took Aaron Sorkin to put the real cherry on that pile of crap and call it a sundae. (Emphasis is mine.)

“If I turned in a terrific draft of Flash Boys, why would it have a better chance of getting made than Steve Jobs? The protagonist is Asian-American (actually Asian-Canadian) and there aren’t any Asian movie stars. There’s no precedent for stories about high frequency trading creating a stampede to the box office. Aren’t you asking me to spend another year writing a movie you won’t make and sign a contract you may or may not honor?”

Woah, woah, Mr. Sorkin! One issue at a time:

1-Why would Flash Boys have a better chance at becoming a film than Steve Jobs? Hmm… Anyone? A diverse cast leading a story that hasn’t been told, adapted from a solid book versus a bunch of white dudes in a re-imagining of a story already made into a movie starring Ashton Kutcher? Tough call.

2- There aren’t any Asian movie stars? Oh. Then stories involving asian characters should be disregarded by Hollywood entirely? I missed that memo, but that’s a good note. Gotcha.

3- No stampede for films about wall street? Oh gosh, another memo I missed. Darn! (Also, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio must’ve missed that memo too… I’d bet their faces sure are red today!)

I must have also missed the memo that there is a MASSIVE stampede for films about dickish weirdos from Harvard who invented Facebook by accident, also hot chicks from Colorado who invite Ben Affleck to play poker.**

(And on the topic of dickish dudes and Facebook, I’m far from the first person to point this out, but I think the movie-going public made it pretty clear that they don’t care for Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield or Armie Hammer as “movie stars”. But, hey, at least they’re not Asian! AMIRITE?)

4-Oh noes! Aaron Sorkin might spend time writing a movie that won’t get made? The injustice! I’d bet that’s never happened to any other screenwriter in the history of ever!

Also 5- Aren’t the creatives supposed to be bringing in the new and wild and fresh ideas, while the grubby and terrible studios are forcing the white male agenda down our collective throats through apathy?

If you’d asked me prior to #SorkinGate, I probably would have agreed with Mark Ruffalo :

 “There’s been a huge disrespect to what the talent brings. Where does the value really lie? In the people making the deals or the people making stories? There’s been a perversion of that with agents and managers and producers.”

But Aaron Sorkin flipped this dynamic, single-handedly! So it’s the reverse now? Damn. I sure am missing a ton of memos. A stampede of memos, if you will…

But the hits just keep on coming. Like this headline and excerpt from The Examiner:

It’s not just ‘The Newsroom’ – Aaron Sorkin really doesn’t understand journalism

“There have been some serious news stories that have come from this hacked info and despite what Sorkin argues, the fact that Jennifer Lawrence makes less money than male counterparts matters. We’d be writing about this if someone inside the studio had merely leaked the news to a lone reporter, so how do we justify ignoring it because it was stolen by some third party?”

Does it matter that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were each offered 7% in profit participation in American Hustle while Christian Bale AND Bradley Cooper AND Jeremy Renner were at 9% each, though? We already know, like, men are way awesomer than women, even in Hollywood! Right, brah???

Anyhow, I am but a mere woman, worth two full percentage points less than any man who doesn’t have an Oscar, so it’s a real struggle to understand these things. Not to mention getting through books like Flash Boys and Molly’s Game.

Head to head, both books could be seen as varying degrees of dead boring. No matter how you slice it, the only angle to Molly’s Game that could draw more potential movie-goers than a story like Flash Boys would likely be the salacious “This is how the other half lives” telling of celebrity-soaked tales behind the scenes of back-room poker games.

Does that mean Aaron Sorkin would be using his vast writing talents to help in making a film based almost entirely on private business that celebrities and public figures don’t want you knowing about? “Doing it”, as it were, “for a nickel.”

Wait a second! Isn’t Aaron Sorkin against the entire nickel business? Or is he only against those “in the media” making the nickels for telling tales? Makes sense. He’s a real writer. And a dude! That makes him, like, way awesomer than, like, everyone.

OK, deep breath. Let’s start over.

None of the above is fair. All this stolen information and resulting opinion isn’t of interest to the rarefied air of Aaron Sorkin. Back to the Op-Ed, then…

Maybe Mr. Sorkin didn’t have time or space to refute allegations of racism or sexism in his seemingly spacious Op-Ed. Or maybe he did. He sure had time and space to address whispers of a rumoured affair with Molly’s Game author Molly Bloom with this: (I wish.)

HE REALLY SAID THAT. IN PRINT. IT’S THERE.

Le sigh.

Let us set aside both Flash Boys (for aforementioned lack of available Asian-ness, sure) and Molly’s Game (still girl cooties brah- even if the chick who wrote it is a smoking fox, brah! AMIRITE?) for the moment.

Instead, perhaps consider adapting other true stories: Tales of African-American children being murdered in the streets, like Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice. You get the idea. There are lots to choose from. You could remake Fruitvale Station instead of Steve Jobs! But maybe there are no young African-American movie stars?

(At least the story would be about an American and not – GASP! – A CANADIAN! NNNNOOOOO! How could anyone even find an actor to say SOORY enough times to pretend to be Canadian anyway? There are no Canadian movie stars! Geez!)

Or, adapt a recent piece from the LA Times about how the tomatoes you spend your hard-earned dollars from writing tone-deaf Sorkinesque scripts on at Whole Foods might be harvested by child labour. Though, there may not be any Mexican-Mexican movie stars, so that may not cause a box office stampede either… Your move, Mr. Sorkin.

Wait, should it be his move? Should anyone get a free pass, not for a solitary transgression, but for what comes across as an utter disregard for women and minorities in Hollywood?

No one is even talking of boycotting Aaron Sorkin, or demanding he never work again? Not even after all this? I like A Few Good Men and The West Wing as much as the next person, but come on!

To anyone who still wants to be in the Aaron Sorkin business, at the risk of sounding like an advice columnist from the 1960s: You deserve better.

We all deserve better.

There are lots of really great screenwriters who do brilliant work. Some of them may even be women, minorities, or others who don’t jump to mind. Many people can write thinky/talky/smart/fun movies. People other than Aaron Sorkin do it every day – even WITH roles for Asian people and women and stuff! (It sounds crazy, but it’s true!)

And for all the innocent, decent and hard-working folk at Sony, this all truly sucks. You deserve so much better. You deserve to work with people who are not racist or sexist or self-serving or cruel. My sincerest wish is that, in our lifetime, that will happen. That, someday, there will be no one left wanting to be in the Aaron Sorkin business.  Not even Kim Jong Un.

 

*This is not an allegation that racist horses exist. I have never met a racist horse, personally.

**#NoDisrespectToBenAffleck

Colour And Gender-Blind Casting… What’s The Real Issue?

Ladies and gentlemen, lock up your internets!

Someone made the mistake of announcing the cast of a comic book movie.*

To quote the great Ben Affleck: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”**

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reaction has been… er, mixed. (HA HA. NO PUN INTENDED.)

As an aside, I would like to take this time to come really, intensely clean on this topic. I generally don’t care who gets cast in what. Anything can happen between casting and opening weekend. The only time I have ever really been openly peeved about casting was when they announced casting for…

Captain America.***

And I was wrong about that. I was so wrong. I could literally not have been any wrong-er and survived until now. I am still sorry. Chris Evans won me over… In approximately 38 seconds.

It bothers me to this day that I was so judgmental and harsh on a process I wasn’t privy to or involved in. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I still felt the need to complain. Loudly.

But it seems no one really admits to this wrongheadedness- before, during or after filming.

Especially the pseudo-trolls. Listen, I know enough to not read comments on the world wide web but, wow, I’ve been feeling like I can’t get away from them in the last 24 hours. The biggest online complaint?

Michael B. Jordan isn’t white.

Usually followed up with “Now, I’m not a racist, but…”

Oooookay.

The mighty Mister Jordan (from my favourite movie of 2013, Fruitvale Station) will supposedly be playing Johnny Storm, brother of Sue Storm. Sue Storm, if you believe the hype, is to be played by Kate Mara.

Most of the online chatter seems to emanate from the fact that the two don’t look closely related… But, as many others have countered, Jessica Alba and (in a strange coincidence) Chris Evans didn’t look enough alike to play siblings in the previous incarnation of the FF. Nor were the two actors even of the same ethnicity/background.

“Now, I’m not a racist, but…”

Oh, wait, I got ahead of myself. Did I mention that The Fantastic Four is A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS?

I won’t go into detail (the backstory is on Wikipedia if you’re not familiar) but, yeah, this is the root of the story we’re talking about. Based on this, why would anyone argue about who’s not supposed to black or not supposed to be a woman?

Oh, yeah, also forgot that the main FF villain might be re-imagined as a woman. Though to some, a female Doctor Doom is still less credible than A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS?

Wait, ladies can be DOCTORS?! When did that happen, y’all?

OK, it’s now serious time. Please listen to my plea, nerds, geeks, fans and lovers of comics and movies and everyone in between, however you may self-identify:

I am one of you. I hear you. I really do. You love these people and you love their story they way it was first told to you. You want them to be exactly the way you’ve always known them to be. You are invested in these characters and what becomes of them.

Being against change, in the context of any form of fandom, makes total sense.

But it doesn’t change the fact that what you’re ultimately advocating is really against the spirit of the characters and, honestly, the medium itself.

I’m not going to speak on behalf of Stan Lee, co-creator of The Fantastic Four. I’ll let him speak for himself:

“For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.” -Stan Lee (Also, ironically, a quote reused on the FF Wikipedia page.)

The characters in The Fantastic Four were created to allow readers to enjoy the adventures of people they could identify with. People can read the stories and see themselves in them. That’s what the best comics do, after all.

So, can we allow the next generation to have the same experience? Maybe even do it up a bit better? Can we expand the mirror image of characters to blacks and hispanics and women and minorities of all shapes, sizes and stripes? Why can’t Donald Glover be Spiderman? Why can’t Sam Jackson be Nick Fury? Why can’t Idris Elba be Heimdall?

Why can’t Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan be siblings?

Why can’t we expand the characters we love to encompass other realities and make new fans feel mirrored and welcome in spaces that have always been safe for white boys? Why can’t women see real representatives of themselves in comics? Why can’t people of colour be whoever they want to be in comics? Why can’t we, when it comes to casting the films, be open enough to re-imagine the characters we love into something new?

Why can’t we be generous enough to transform art we love into a gateway for someone else to enjoy it as much as we do?

Any story, even one re-imagined with a black superhero, blended family and a female villain, shouldn’t be more foreign to any of us than A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS.

Just a thought.

*Based on the Variety article, this doesn’t necessarily seem to be firm casting. (Offers seem to still be pending for just about everyone.) Are these notices leaked to try and scare off talent? It scared that guy off 50 Shades.

**No disrespect to Ben Affleck.

***No disrespect to Chris Evans. I owe that man a beer. Or a case. Or, honestly, a brewery. (Or a Wahlburgers franchise? I’m open to negotiations on this.)