#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.

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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

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The Weekend Reader – March 7ish (Toronto Comicon Apologia Edition)

First of all, even though it really slowed down the Weekend Reader, the weekend at Toronto Comicon was AMAZING. I will follow up with a post on some of the amazing artists but, for now, I will try and catch up on the week that was BEFORE the weekend…

And, of course, you probaly already know what John Travolta will call you when you meet him…

Hillary Crosley Says What We Are All Thinking (AKA WE ARE NOT IDIOTS)

Forgive me if this sounds a bit all over the place, but I’m still recovering from reading this:

Hollywood Promises Female Director forExpendaBelles, Hires Man

And, admittedly, that is not shocking. Not even a little. Happens all the time. I’m still working my way to the WTF??!!!!!??? part.

Oh. Here it is! A Synopsis:

When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator–and instead save the scientist and the day.

Oh. Wow.

The plot of the ExpendaBelles (which is a classy enough title alone, let’s face it) has the kick-ass heroes posing AS HIGH-CLASS CALL GIRLS. Folks, the shitty run-on sentence in the middle of that shit idea DOES NOT HELP IT. AT ALL.

WE CAN STILL SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. WE ARE NOT IDIOTS.

Ask yourself- has a hero male in an action flick EVER posed as a prostitute? LITERALLY, EVER!? DID I MISS SOMETHING?!

You wanna know what’s wrong with women in movies. THIS. THIS IS IT. We can do better. We have to. We are half the population. We cannot seriously be spoon feeding this shit to our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. No more. Tired of it. Done.

Listen to @MysteryExec already. It’s time. Be The fucking Change.

Sexism- Call It Out or Tune It Out? (Also, A Shakespeare Sunday Chaser)

I keep an eye out for freelance writing gigs of many kinds, mostly because freelancing for ages makes it a hard habit to break. But, hey, you never know what you’re missing if you don’t look around, right…?

Recently, I saw a very legit posting on a very legit website for a seemingly legit freelance gig. I went through and started work on the application process, part of which was going to the site in question and looking at some existing entries. That’s generally a good idea, even if it’s not required, I’d say.

In this case, it might have saved me time even just filling out the application.

You see, two of the reference articles on the very first page were 1- types of women that are easy to hate and, well, there’s no nice way to say it…

2- The first article on the first page was a list of girls who look hot with jizz on their faces.

Not joking. Needless to say, I’m not naming the publication, which was supposedly an all-ages/demographics kind of site.

Now, my original plan was to do the application and say “By the way, since you’re aiming for a wide audience, you may not want to alienate 50% of the population with misogynist content like that. And that’s not the type of content I’m interested in writing. Ever. But here are some cool factoids about Tom Hiddleston…”

So I thought about it and started the application. And then I walked away. I went back. And walked away again. Repeat x3. I think I’ve pretty much decided, aside from this commentary, to just leave it alone.

But still I wonder- Is it crazier to engage or to walk away from something like that? I know you have to engage when it’s in your face. But, when it’s online and could just die off with a lack of attention, is silence the better treatment?

In the meantime, I guess I’m going to have to post all my cool Tom Hiddleston factoids on here, instead. Thankfully, it’s Shakespeare Sunday, so I have a further excuse. Enjoy.

(Bless that man for taking the ick out of the interwebs…)

The Weekend Reader – January 31ish

There was SO MUCH GOING ON this week… And a few things I want to talk about in-depth. So here’s the oh-so brief rundown, with more to come shortly…

The Weekend Reader – January 24ish

A short and late list this week/end… But some really good reads:

1- A really interesting article from The Guardian on live theatre versus recorded broadcast of theatre productions. The article is really thoroughly thought out and well-written, but I’d like to dumb down its conclusions:

Not everyone lives in a place where live theatre is common. And not everyone can afford to travel to see theatre. Conversely, there are people who live in Brooklyn and never visit the Statue of Liberty. The stars aren’t always aligned for a live performance to meet an audience and, since we now live in an age where we can have live performances preserved, why does anyone feel the need to be an elitist prick about it?

2- An article from THR about Ride Along that seems pretty ho-hum, until you read the comments. There is a strange trend to break down movie demographics for films that appeal to women or minorities. Anyone know why that happens? Or if THR is more guilty than other outlets to do so?

3- The DGA, Lexi Alexander Getting Real and an Infographic. Women in Filmmaking at Sundance (via Indiewire) … I hate to say it, but the Sundance study seems to really lend some credibility to the hypothesis from many corners- including Lexi Alexander’s blog post- that women just aren’t given as much of a chance to work in Hollywood.

4- Yet another awesome ep of Scriptnotes. I know you’re probably already all over it but, in case you’re not, it was focused on female directors with guest Carolyn Strauss. Listen to it.

Do You Read The Articles You Publish, E!?

That punctuation is tricky to figure out- if something ends with an exclamation point and you have a questions regarding a BONEHEADED THING THEY PRINTED, what’s the proper etiquette?

I’m just gonna go with calling them on it. Hopefully, you have’t seen this.

In brief: Zooey Deschanel is on the cover of Elle Magazine Women in TV issue. In the article, she says lovely things like “If there’s one thing I’d like to graduate from, it’s girl-on-girl hate. I don’t believe in it.” and describes social media as being akin to “…the grown-up version of middle school nastiness…”

Now, I thought, that’s a bit harsh… But then I saw the writeup on the article via E!, including this:

“The New Girl actress joins Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Allison Williams in being honored for her comedic skills (and, come on, good looks!).”

So her comedic skills aren’t really why she’s being honoured, then? And those other women, had they been homely as hedge fences, wouldn’t have been deserving of being celebrated either? Or is the inference that Elle wouldn’t bother to honour any woman, funny as she might be, if she were considered ugly?

Don’t get me wrong- I totally get the slavering froth pile that is E! and their desire for an LCD audience- but I’m not accepting that as an excuse. In an public forum, can a woman not do her job well and be recognized for it without how she looks entering into the conversation? Maybe a good question to ask yourselves, rather than being kind of idiotically sexist…

Davis + Davis = Two Women Who Have The Secret to Slow Sexism in Hollywood

Two really interesting thoughts I wanted to share, from an acting point of view…

Geena Davis has Two easy steps to make Hollywood less sexist

Viola Davis says I will never see myself on screen

Both pieces are kind of sad and hopeful, somehow, at the same time. The (very simple) steps Geena Davis proposes seem to make sense… I hope every writer has tried the gender switch- in both directions- with at least a couple of characters at some point in their career. It`s such a worthwhile exercise. We can make change with quantity alongside quality.

As for seeing herself on screen, well, Viola Davis has a point there. She says, basically, that it`s because her range of humanity doesn`t mesh with the portrayal of black characters. I`d step that out even further and say almost nothing she mentions meshes with the general portrayal of women on screen, either. It`s a shame that an actor as brilliant as Viola Davis isn`t getting a flood of great roles that she has to turn down because there are just too many to choose from. It`s a shame that she`s still seeing the things we all see and that make us all scratch our heads.

And I don`t see why we can`t keep these things in mind as we strive to build the new normal. The more we write a quantity of women who are three-dimensional, the more everyone will get used to reading it. The more it gets read, the more it has the chance to get made. So, let`s do more of this. We can always do more of this. Go.

What The What oh That Thing About Sarah Silverman

Does this headline tell you anything?

Sarah Silverman’s Bad Career Move: Being as Dirty as the Guys

Sigh. It’s not going away, is it? Subtle discrimination and lowered expectations are alive and well, as illustrated in Variety this very morning. Witness this quote regarding Sarah Silverman:

“Despite all manner of career-friendly gifts – from her looks to solid acting chops – she’s limited herself by appearing determined to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys …”

The article goes on to ask why she’s making fun of rape and make a wish kids and the Seaward – which are all valid questions. After all, comedians are doing their job when they best hold up a mirror to society and make us question thoughts, actions and behaviours. If that’s what a comedian is doing, whether I approve of their message or not, it’s all good to me. It’s fair to question these things.

So… Let’s take a moment and go back to the comment above. Remember a while back when the whole rape joke thing came out against Tosh.0 or whatever that guy is called? (Full disclosure- neither of these folks are my favourite comedians, so feel free to correct me on anything that doesn’t seem right…) I read a lot about the incident, and I don’t recall one reference to whether or not Tosh was handsome/smarmy/smarmsome. He was a guy doing a job, and people either agreed with him or they didn’t.

When male comedians get written up, there’s often a reference to whatever funny looking traits the men have, but it’s generally not the second sentence of the article. And the writeups generally aren’t as condescending as this one is. I think the “Aww sweetie, leave that to the boys” tone is maybe not entirely intentional, but that’s how it reads. So, um, not sure why that’s OK to publish in a legit publication…?

Regardless, I wish all the luck to Sarah Silverman with her new special. She’s gonna need it, as it’s obvious that talent isn’t quite enough for you to make it if you’re just a lady in the business of funny…