Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing”, 1.04 “Five Votes Down”

I must say, episode titles are something I think Aaron Sorkin really does well. Usually it’s the exact right amount of information and relevance. It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing, too, you know?

So I’m watching my favorite TV series for the purpose of criticizing its tendencies toward misogyny, tendencies that are exacerbated in creator Aaron Sorkin’s later works. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Physical comedy is used to undercut a female character’s competence.
  2. A female character’s sexual appeal or sexual/romantic relationship with a male character is primary.
  3. A female character displays “feistiness”. “Feistiness” is a frequent shorthand in liberal misogyny for “See? She’s strong and independent and we find that adorable! What’s the problem?”
  4. Femininity or feminine concerns are disparaged, by male or female characters.
  5. Any character is rude to his/her female subordinate with no consequences.
  6. A male character is lauded and glorified in an unlikely way by a female character or characters.
  7. A female character screws up at her job.
  8. Anger coming from a female character is unreasonable or mysterious, either to the audience or to another character.
  9. A female character plays the Exposition Fairy. Note: Having Exposition Fairies is not in and of itself a problem. It’s necessary in most fiction. But in The West Wing, the Fairy is almost always a female character, and is almost always asking a male character for explanation, and would almost always certainly know the information she’s asking for, so that the fact that she’s asking indicates that she’s not that good at her job.
  10. An episode goes by that does not pass the Bechdel test.

And,

!. When we see evidence that Toby & C.J. are doin’ it. Not misogynist, just entertaining to me personally.

Some notes on the Bechdel test first, because it’s been coming up in the news lately. Apparently Sweden is adding it to their ratings system and also I’ve read posts here and there and I just want to emphasize that it is the view of this blogger that the Bechdel test is not the be-all-and-end-all of feminism in storytelling. It’s just one test, one way of showing that so much of our contemporary storytelling DOES NOT have something so basic. And on a show like “The West Wing,” in which romance is not at all central and there’s plenty of talking, it seems like it should be passable every single episode. If it’s not, that means there aren’t enough female characters and/or they’re not doing enough important stuff.

Anyway, here we go.

From last time, we are reminded about the contentious relationship between Vice President John Hoynes and Chief of Staff Leo, the contentious relationship between exes Mandy and Josh, and we are also reminded that Charlie! and his dead policewoman mom and his adorable “Yes, sir, I do,” which is my favorite thing ever.

A chyron tells us it’s Monday. The president is on a podium in a tux. There’s a sign behind him that says “Practical Idealism,” and a large, fancy audience at dinner tables with wine, so I’m assuming fundraiser. Everyone laughs at his line, “Bess, why do you suppose it is only sons of bitches know how to lick a stamp?” He exhorts the audience to, well, lick stamps, make your voice heard, etc.

We see Leo getting a call while the president says something about people who are dead, and that plus the reminder of Charlie’s dead policewoman mom makes me think this speech is about gun control. I am good at TV! Leo is not pleased about whatever he’s hearing on the phone, asking “How did the wheels come off this thing?” The audience claps – at the president, not Leo’s phone call – and Josh approaches Leo. Leo hangs up and informs Josh that they lost five votes. Josh is displeased and wants names. Leo doesn’t have any; he tells Josh to get on the phone.

Toby comes around to watch the speech. He is in a tux and he is tense. Ooh, baby. Have I mentioned I <3 Toby? Not the way I <3 Charlie. I <3 Charlie like he’s my little brother. I <3 Toby like I’m thinking of many ways I’d like to help him relieve his tension.

Anyway, Leo has got a phone to his ear, Josh has got a phone to his ear, and the president wraps up his speech. He gets a standing O and “Happy Days Are Here Again” plays as the president heads off, a whole brigade of be-tuxed Secret Service agents surrounding him. Behind them, Sam and Toby start pedeconference. Sam thought the speech was awesome. Toby is upset that the president blew “the D section.” C.J., looking fab in evening wear, comes up behind them and congratulates Sam on the speech. Toby objects, claiming that Sam wrote two and a half paragraphs and Toby wrote 37 pages. I think this is a little peek into the head of Aaron Sorkin, who hates sharing writing duties, but whatevs. C.J. calls it (either the speech or the two and a half paragraphs) “inspiring,” which annoys Toby. Then C.J. says she does it to see his face turn that color, like we don’t all know she knows MANY ways to change the color of his face. Mandy is walking with C.J., btw, and seems amused by this exchange.

Josh approaches from behind and C.J. informs him that his fan club is out in force tonight. Because Josh, the deputy communications director, has a fan club. That has a crush on him. Quick, who is the current real-life Deputy Chief of Staff? Can you picture him/her in your head? Okay, then. And if you did know who all the senior staff of the White House was and what they looked like, wouldn’t you be crushing on the one who’s a dead ringer for Rob Lowe over the one who looks like Bradley Whitford? I mean, especially if you were a superficial and hormonal young girl? 6. (And yes, I am aware that I crush hard on the older, balding, short Jewish one over the one who looks just like Rob Lowe but . . . just shut up.) Josh claims they like the way he looks in his tux. Him, and not Sam-who-looks-like-Rob-Lowe. C.J. starts to say something else and Josh orders her to “Stop talking.” While I only believe, and do not know, that C.J. is under Josh in the hierarchy of the senior staff, I’m giving that a 5. Then he tells her to look calm while he tells her that they’re five votes down on “802″. She proceeds not to look calm. Because women, amIrite? 8.

Misogyny Points Thus Far: 3

Meanwhile, Sam is making fun of Mandy’s choice of “Happy Days are Here Again” to cap a speech on gun control. 4. Mainly because they both have good points – Mandy’s is “Optimist is good” and “The president likes it!” and Sam’s is, “He just said ‘Kids are dead!’ and then you play ‘Happy Days are Here Again’?” –  but they let Sam make all his points and poo-poo Mandy’s, whereas Mandy’s sound weak and she doesn’t counter him. On the other hand, she appears to have zero fucks to give, so good for her. I’ll just give them for her.

MPTF: 4

The president gets in on the mitchering Toby action, an activity for which I give all the approval in the world. Toby tells the president that he, Toby, did an excellent job, and then points out that the president “got a little extemporaneous” in the D section. The president is very much enjoying Toby being bothered by this – as am I. BTW, they are now all pedeconferencing through what looks like the hotel’s staff hallways, what with the giant metal wheelie kitchen thingies and whatnot. Not as august as the West Wing halls but these people do not need glamorous settings; they are pedeconferencing pros!

They pass two hotel staff members making out in a corner, and the president razzes them, too. Toby laughs. I swoon a little.

The president calls Charlie over and asks Charlie what Charlie thought of how well the president delivered the speech, while Toby asks Charlie to focus on how well the speech was written. Charlie’s whole demeanor says, “Nope. Nope. Nope.”

Yeah, .gifs are too much fun.

Yeah, .gifs are too much fun.

It’s okay; they can (and do!) keep having their fight without him. The president tells Toby, “You’re what my mother calls a pain in the ass.” Toby says that’s what his mother calls it, too.

Charlie tells the president that the First Lady called and wishes for the president to take his back medicine, which Charlie has on him. The president claims they make him goofy, and Charlie says her tone was adamant. The president says he doesn’t need to hear a description of his wife’s tone because he is quite familiar with it. 8. Boo, Mr. President.

They exit the hotel to a crowd of people cheering, and I would have thought that this winding trip through the bowels of the hotel was to avoid the crowds, but I guess the crowd can find the motorcade just fine. The president waves and a bunch of fresh-faced girls scream out, “We love you, Josh!” because for fuck’s sake, that’s why. 6. C.J. calls, “It helps not to know him.” True dat, C.J. True dat. Of course this show was made before the advent of Twitter or Fox News. You know these days an offhand comment like that would go viral in six hours and be a talking point on Fox News for the next three weeks. “Strife among Senior Staff? Our expert on shit-stirring and middle school drama has more after these messages!”

MPTF: 6

Credits.

Senior staff are in a conference room in the West Wing with a bunch of boxes of Chinese food in front of them. Mandy and C.J. are pushing the General Tso’s on Sam and then insisting he have it with the sauce. Toby tells them to shut up about the sauce. 4. Girls are so annoying with their concern about feeding people, amIrite? It’s almost as annoying as how they want to make sure you take your medicine and eat healthily.

Leo has two names of the five they lost. Remember from his phone call? Anyway, he’s got Katzenmoyer and Wick. I also kind of adore Aaron Sorkin’s character names. Mandy could have called that, because she’s feisty! 3. Josh has a third, O’Bannon, and is floored by Wick being on the list, saying it must be a mistake. Leo reminds them that the president just made a speech about how they’re going to pass this bill and now they have to. Toby wants to know how they do it in three days with no noise. Mandy asks why no noise, and Leo quotes that “laws and sausages” thing, so that’s a definite 9 because no way the Mandy character didn’t already understand that. Her entire job, really, boils down to understanding that, and she’s supposed to be the best at it. So that was just for the 1/3 of the audience that doesn’t already know the “laws and sausages” thing. Mandy says they can’t involve the president and everyone agrees.

MPTF: 9

Leo asks what’s on tap for the press and C.J. says it’s financial disclosure time, which bemuses everyone. Sam asks Toby what he’s worth and Toby says he owns the tux he’s wearing and $23. I only report this because it’s a plot point. Mandy says it’s good to make this a big joke for the press, how little money everyone has. Josh likes this idea. Toby doesn’t. Mandy says they’ll love him for being broke. Toby says, “I find that. I find that women especially can’t get enough of my 1993 Dodge Dart.” I’d throw a 4 or an 8 up here, but it’s funny, so I won’t. I make the rules around here!

Sam also believes that Chris Wick is a mistake and believes the other two are Tillinghouse and LeBrandt. (I’m guessing on spellings, btw.) He claims that they’ll need the vice president’s help to get to one of them, preferably Tillinghouse. Leo is saying, “Nope,” but in a different way than Charlie.

nope

Anyway, Leo’s outie. He congratulates Sam and Toby, and, as he leaves, Toby again points out the 2-and-a-half-paragraphs/37-pages thing.

Leo pulls up outside his schmancy house. Because not all the senior staff are broke. He walks in to a darkened hallway and a miffed wife comes down the steps. She asks where he’s been and points out that the event was supposed to be over at 10:30 and it’s after 2 am. He tells her about the five votes down and then insists he can so do things at 2 am to help the situation. His wife – Jenny – tells him to come to bed and before he does he sees a box on the table in the front hall. It’s a wristwatch, Jenny tells him. For their anniversary. Which he clearly forgot. D’oh!

I just want a moment to say, this is not something that has ever happened in my relationship with Jason. We both tend to be sort of cavalier about anniversaries and stuff, and only lately have become more interested in them, because they are a guaranteed date night. And we always do dates, not so much gifts, so it’s not really an issue of “forgetting,” because we’ve already had the “What do you want to do that night? Okay, let’s get tickets/reservations/babysitting” conversation. I guess if we were more focused on gifts it would be more of a thing. And I would be the one who always forgot, not him.

Anyway. It’s Tuesday. I mean, I guess it was Tuesday when we left these people, because it was 2 am, but it’s really Tuesday now. The sun is rising on the White House.

A somewhat dowdy woman is in Toby’s office with him. And, like, almost legit dowdy, not just TV-dowdy. Which I mean as a compliment to the show – having a normal-looking woman do anything at all? Good job. Let’s give that a -2. She’s asking him about some stock he owns. So here’s the information we can gather from what Legit Dowdy – her real name is Leila – is asking: A year ago, broke Toby spent $5,000 on stock in some company because he, uh, liked them. Buying $5,000 worth of stock in a company because you like them is totally something that people do when their cars are worth less than that, Aaron. The stock is now worth $125,000, something Toby didn’t know until the same person who told Leila called him. Because when you are broke, you definitely don’t monitor the one investment of $5,000 you made. Aaron Sorkin, when was the last time you were broke? And if this is how you handle money when you are broke, maybe that’s why? Anyway, a huge portion of the jump happened after a certain person testified to a certain congressional committee, and is, in fact, attributed to that person’s testimony.

One of the assistants – Carol, C.J.’s assistant, I think, but I’m watching on my iPad and there’s a weird light on her face – comes in to tell Toby they’ve got all five and one of the five is, in fact, Tillinghouse. Toby nods and Carol-I-Think leaves.

Leila points out that it was Toby who got this person to testify to that congressional committee. Which was just because he’s an old friend. Leila asks, “Are you telling me you didn’t  know what he was going to say?” Toby insists that not only did he not know or care what his friend was going to say, “if he had sat in my office while I typed out his testimony for him, I wouldn’t have understood what he was going to say to the committee!” I use that line a lot to explain my total lack of understanding things. Leila asks if he knows that manipulating the stock market is a federal crime. Toby wants to know if he should be talking to a lawyer. Leila points out that he is talking to a lawyer – her. Toby makes a hangdog face.

MPTF: 8

Josh and Sam pedeconference as they exit the Oval, and Mrs. Landingham congratulates Josh. Josh says thank you but doesn’t know what for. Nor does he seem very curious. I guess women saying nice things to him is just a regular part of Josh’s day. 6. Sam and Josh continue their pedeconference about what the five will want in exchange for their votes. Sam is concerned about giving away everything. Josh wants to give away nothing. A random assistant congratulates Josh, and Sam is more curious than Josh about it. Josh says LBJ would never have taken this shit from Democrats in Congress; he would have said, “You’re voting my way, in exchange for which, I might remember your name.” We now know everything we need to know about Josh. Josh claims to own Chris Wick’s ass.

Josh and Sam enter the part of the building where Josh’s office is and a whole bunch of people burst into applause. Josh says he senses he’s being mocked. You are, Josh. Right now. By me. Donna informs him that he’s won their prize for Best Gift Valued over $25 on the financial disclosure reports. Apparently Josh received an $1189 Italian smoking jacket from a Sarah Wissinger. Ms. Wissinger also gave him a $345 scrimshaw cigarette holder, which is the runner-up. 6. For Ms. Wissinger liking Josh that much. Josh dismisses Donna, telling her that he and Sam are making important decisions and Donna has a lot of “typing” to do and lest you think I’m being unfair in my doling out of numbers, he has a definite sneer in his voice when he says it and is actively and purposefully juxtaposing “important things” and “typing”, okay? So 5.

MPTF: 11

Josh and Sam continue walking, and then realize that they were just following each other. Hee!

Josh departs and Toby appears and tells Sam they need to talk, and as they walk off the camera goes to Leo. I’ve never been to film school so I don’t know how to talk about these shots where the gang moves and the camera goes from one set to another, but it’s cool. Anyway, Leo is putting Margaret on the make-my-wife-not-hate-me project. He wants champagne in a high hat and the meal under sterling silver, and Margaret claims no knowledge of either of those things, which, no, so 9, because Margaret’s been working for Leo for a long time, and he’s got some pretty high-end tastes, and also, when he said “high hat,” I didn’t know what that was but I immediately pictured the little stand fancy restaurants put wine in. And when he said “under sterling silver” I immediately pictured the, you know, silver plate cover thingies that you see in cartoons, so . . . Anyway, Margaret suggests a violinist and Leo points out that “after the initial thing wears off there’s just a guy with a violin in my house,” which, fair. Harry Winston is sending a choker and Margaret disapproves of all this spendiness. It turns out Leo is making $40,000 a pop on the lecture circuit and Margaret is upset about it. When does Leo have time to lecture?

MPTF: 12

Josh comes in and Leo asks Josh if women like violinists. Josh at first thinks Leo is thinking of taking lessons, which is sort of funny, and then when Leo corrects him, says it’s just kind of weird. Until he learns that Leo forgot the anniversary, at which point, Josh thinks he should bring in the Julliard string quartet.

I mean . . . really? Are we just reconfirming that I am kinda a dude? Because if Jason forgot our anniversary . . . probably I did, too? And upon discovering it, I’d be more like, “Oh, okay, you wanna do something next weekend, then?” instead of needing FOUR instead of just ONE strangers in my house to play me songs.

I’m not giving numbers here because a) I think Jenny has a legit beef about her husband being unavailable and b) I don’t think the show wants me to think otherwise, and also c) maybe women who are not me do get upset about this stuff routinely? But I did think of throwing an 8 in here somewhere.

Anyway, Margaret uses this opportunity to get in a dig about the smoking jacket, and both Josh and Leo yell at Margaret. 5. Margaret leaves and Josh says he’s going to see Katzenmoyer (one of the five) and wants Leo’s permission to kick his ass. Leo is reluctant but eventually agrees.

MPTF: 13

Katzenmoyer and Josh pedeconference in front of the Capitol. D.C. is really pretty. The museum-y, government-building-y, monument-y sections, anyway. Katzenmoyer doesn’t want to vote yes because his people like their guns and he’s up for reelection. He promises to vote with them two years from now. Josh says he won’t be around two years from now because they’re going to pluck some obscure Democrat out from nowhere and endorse him in person and primary Katzenmoyer. (I mean he doesn’t use primary as a verb because 2010 hasn’t happened yet but that’s what he means.) Katzenmoyer points out that he’s a member of the president’s own party, and Josh points out that that’s not doing them much good. True that. Josh says, “President Bartlett is a good man. He’s got a good heart. He doesn’t hold a grudge. [puts on sunglasses in very cool-guy manner] That’s what he pays me for.” It’s a very cool moment. Trying very hard to be cool, but succeeding.

Sam and Toby are in Toby’s office, with the door open and the lights off, I think. I don’t know why. Sam is advising Toby on the $125,000 issue, and gloating about the whole thing because Toby’s $125,000 = Sam’s hooker. Appearance of impropriety without actual immoral behavior. Sam points out that just because it’s in the report doesn’t mean anyone knows because maybe no one read the report, but C.J. comes by to razz Toby about the $125,000 so I guess she read it, although she’s the White House press secretary; it’s her actual job to read it, so I don’t know what that proves. Also, her joke is terrible and she starts laughing in the middle of it, which I’m counting as a 1 even though maybe the normally poised C.J. is just a little giggly right now because she and Toby slipped away right after Toby got the news and she’s just got some post-coital high going on right now.  Sam promises to have Toby’s back. Toby believes he’s screwed.

MPTF: 14

C.J. is amusingly disclosing some financial stuff to the press, including that the president gave a gift from his brother-in-law to the Salvation Army. The press enjoying themselves. A journalist asks about the property value of the president’s farm in Manchester, which has gone up due to Secret Service improvements and “the ability to run a global war from the sun porch.” Man, I want a sun porch. On a beautiful old farm in Manchester. The press continues to be amused when C.J. promises them that the next briefing will be about Josh’s forms and that they’ll want to save column inches.

She gets off her podium to pedeconference with Josh, who tells her he’s got Katzenmoyer back, as well as O’Bannon and LeBrandt, and that Chris Wick is waiting for him right now, but that he can’t get Tillinghouse without Hoynes. C.J. says get Wick and then they’ll worry about Tillinghouse. C.J. leaves and Josh is greeted by Donna, who says Chris Wick has been waiting for Josh in the Mural Room for 20 minutes. Josh already knows this. He also knows about next two meetings she brings up. Graciously she says, “Well, then this whole conversation has only served as a reminder,” and he says it was in fact a “colossal waste of time and energy; keep up the good work.” 5. He then goes into the mural room, where Chris Wick is waiting with a bunch of guys. Josh dismisses them without allowing introductions to go forth and then gets rude with Chris Wick, who keeps calling him “dude”. While a camera swirls around their heads, Josh quizzes Chris Wick about the bill, as it becomes clear that Chris Wick could give a shit about the bill, and wants more attention from the president. Josh says he’s so sick of Congress he could vomit and then gives in to Chris Wick’s demand that he get a photo op playing chess with the president.

Sorkin, you think you’re sick of Congress in 1999? Come talk to 2013 us. If only personal vanity were still our biggest issue.

Leo has called C.J. and Mandy in to admire the Harry Winston choker. Because women like shiny things. 4. Sam comes up behind them and admires it, too, but his admiration is not met with smiles by Leo. Is it because Sam hit on Jenny that one time, Leo? C.J. wants to try on the necklace and Mandy wants to rub it against her teeth (? Is that a thing with pearls?) 4 and Toby is pissed and wants to talk about himself. C.J. thinks Leo won’t let her try on the necklace because of the size of her neck (?) which is the second time this concern has come up this episode (the other time was during the hotel pedeconference) and I’m going to go ahead and give that a because why is C.J. worrying about her neck this episode?

MPTF: 18

Leo is continuing to not want to go to Hoynes to deal with Tillinghouse and thinks he will instead go to Richardson. But Richardson’s caucus is already upset with them. Leo promises to do this quietly and immediately.

Sam points out that Toby can now afford one of those chokers and Toby says there’s no one he doesn’t hate right now. I love grumpy Toby.

Now Leo and Richardson are pedeconferencing outside what I think is the Lincoln Memorial. Richardson is black. I guess that’s the caucus that’s upset with the White House. Richardson guesses Leo’s talking to him because he doesn’t want to get Hoynes to talk to Tillinghouse. But Richardson doesn’t care. He doesn’t like the bill not because he likes guns but because the bill doesn’t do enough to get guns off the street. Leo lectures Richardson on the needs of the black community vis-a-vis gun control. “The bodies being wheeled into hospitals are black!” Leo says. Richardson quite appropriately shuts him down and calls him an idiot. Nice.

Mandy is in Josh’s office being feisty at him. 3. Donna puts Leo on the phone with Josh and Mandy intuits that Leo needs to talk to Hoynes. So Mandy was in that scene only to be feisty? Okay.

Leo sees a cab outside his front door. The entryway is dark. He goes to an empty dining room, set for a romantic dinner. Jenny is behind him and says she’s sorry he went to all this trouble but she can’t do this anymore. Their marriage, she means. Leo says this (his job) is the most important thing he’ll ever do and she says it’s not more important than his marriage. He says it is, during these few years while he’s doing it. He says he made the time for this date he arranged, and Jenny says she knows he has a meeting with the veep that night. Jenny tells him she’s leaving and staying at the Watergate for right now. Leo offers to carry her bag to the cab. She shakes her head. He asks her to call before she goes to sleep and she says okay.

You guys, I just don’t know how to feel about this. On the one hand, you knew he was going to be the president’s Chief of Staff and that’s not a nine-to-five gig? On the other hand, Leo, how could you say your marriage isn’t important? In any event, the show handles this very well. You’re not being asked to side with one of them over the other and there’s no sense that women, amIrite? And it’s just two mature, loving people who can’t get what they need from their relationship but still love each other and shut up I have ALLERGIES, OKAY?! IT’S VERY DUSTY IN HERE!

A blurry woman announces Leo at what I’m guess is Hoynes’s home, and Hoynes says to send him in. Hoynes is being pretty nice to Leo. Leo starts to explain what he needs but Hoynes notices that Leo is not okay. He invites Leo to sit down and asks the blurry woman – Jeanine – to get Leo a glass of ice water. I swear we never see her face. Is this a SAG thing? Is it like not having an actor saying a line? Anyway, Hoynes agrees very quickly to see Tillinghouse and Leo thanks him. Leo reveals that Jenny left him. Hoynes asks if he’s been to a meeting, and Leo says, “AA?” and then asks where he could possibly risk going to a meeting. He seems kind of surprised that Hoynes knows, but not that surprised, and also too shaken to worry about it. A+ acting from John Spencer here. I mean, also, always, but here especially. The VP reveals that he has his own AA meetings with, like, senators and judges and shit, so the anonymity is taken very seriously, and an agent stands outside to make it all look like a card game. Hoynes invites Leo to attend these meetings. Leo seems to consider it. He asks Hoynes to call him about Tillinghouse and goes.

The chyron tells us it’s Wednesday. Mandy is bothering Josh about Sara Wissinger, giver of the smoking jacket. Apparently the presents were given while he was still dating Mandy and Mandy is pissed about this 8. They enter the senior staff meeting still bickering about it. Josh says he thought that since they weren’t going out anymore, Mandy wouldn’t yell at him anymore and Mandy tells him that’s unrealistic. I can’t decide on an or a 3 so I’m going with both.

MPTF: 22

Leo enters the room and is confused about everyone asking him about “last night” and then lies that Jenny loved everything. Some more A+ acting. They ask about the president and Leo says his back is pretty bad so he’s staying in bed and making some calls. But the president is not in bed! He is entering the room from the outside hallway thing (portico? is that what that word means?) in his jeans and Notre Dame sweatshirt and it is clear fairly quickly that he is out of his mind on painkillers. He wants to participate in the discussion about Toby’s financial disclosures. When asked which of his pain killers he took, Vicodin or Percoset, he looks confused and asks if he wasn’t supposed to take both. You guys. I took Percoset for my wisdom teeth. It was way too pleasant. But I also couldn’t have gotten out of bed, never mind walked somewhere on my own power and had a conversation. I also took a muscle relaxer when my back was bad – Flexorall, I think? – and it made me so miserable and bitchy and I didn’t even attribute it to the medicine. I just screamed at Jason a whole bunch for doing things like breathing. Then he was like “Hmm, side effects?” and I was like, “No, it’s you, you asshole.” Then he started reading the side effects, which, in addition to “irritability,” included dry mouth and fatigue and headaches, all of which I was also experiencing. So I stopped taking them. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, the president being all goofy on his pain meds. He still wants to help, by saying that he loves them all very much, and then says, “Tell me what the problem is, Toby,” while looking at Sam. For some reason Toby fills the president in on the problem. The president says Toby is a nice name, but still insists he’s able to focus. He is not. Martin Sheen is delightful in this scene, btw.

Mandy says let’s consider each option from the bottom and starts with resignation. The president likes this idea until they tell him they’re talking about Toby’s resignation, not the president’s. Sam suggests that Toby gives up one year’s salary and cash out his stock issue. Toby hates this idea. Everyone else loves it. The president tells Toby that Toby is a great writer and insists on giving Toby a hug.

Best hug ever.

Best hug ever.

Charlie comes in and chastises the president and wants to take him back to bed. The president first wants to announce that he’s seriously considering getting a dog and then leaves.

Sam asks Toby how he feels and he says he feels like he just got screwed with his pants on. I feel like that was a silly set-up for a bad line. But there are enough silly set-ups for good lines through the course of the series that I’ll let it go.

Hoynes is having breakfast with Tillinghouse, an extremely cantankerous old man who insists he’s voting his conscience. Hoynes basically agrees with his pro-gun rhetoric. Tillinghouse also takes exception to how Josh handled the other four. Hoynes continues to be completely sanguine, but asks Tillinghouse to vote yes, anyway, and relate the conversation to the other four, because Hoynes intends to be president of the United States some day.

We get a swooping shot of the capital at night while we listen to journalists call this a victory for the vice president, and we learn that Richardson had no comment, and is maybe snubbing the president.

Inside the Josh area (I don’t know what all these sections of the West Wing are called for real), the staff are watching the journalists on several different TVs and talking about how incredible it is that the vice president is getting all the credit. It’s like the Veep wrote two-and-a-half paragraphs and they wrote 37 pages and now the Veep is getting all the credit. See what we did there?

Leo says it was hubris and they got what they deserved but I don’t really know what he’s talking about. I mean, sure, he lectured Richardson on how to be black, and Josh ran roughshod over a few people, but in the first case, only Leo was being hubristic, against the advice of everyone else, and in the second, Josh (whom I rarely defend) was being a solid political strategist. I mean, sure, part of the strategy was hubris, but I think he was also doing his job and doing it well, right? And also, the “we” is still just Josh and Leo, why is Leo saying this to Toby and Sam and Mandy and C.J. and Donna?

Toby wants to wake the president and C.J. wants to leave it until tomorrow. Because she wants to get it on right now? No, even I can’t read sexual tension into their body language right now.

Another faceless assistant – or possibly the same faceless assistant – tells Hoynes that Josh is there to see him. Josh comes in, and they joke about the smoking jacket, and Josh says the bill is a crappy bill in the same way Richardson thought it was, and says he knows because he helped write it. He congratulates Hoynes for being the only one to do well in this whole situation. The faceless assistant – it is the same one and we get a very brief glimpse at her backlit face – comes in to call Hoynes away, and Hoynes says to Josh “Welcome to the NFL” before leaving.

I am not that politically astute. I didn’t understand the thing with Hoynes’s quote with C.J. in that other episode, and I don’t really understand what is happening now. I get that they passed a bill but it looked like the veep’s victory more than theirs, and I get that that’s a little disappointing, but it’s reading like a huge defeat and I don’t see why it’s a huge defeat. Especially since politics is perception and can’t they just get C.J. to drum up some, “Isn’t it great how the president and the vice president are working so well together now?” stuff tomorrow and make that the story instead? Haven’t they already established that the press knows there’s tension there and therefore a “Yay to working together!” story would totally fly? No?

Leo walks down a small, empty corridor and approaches an agent outside a closed door. He tells the agent he’s here for a card game and the agent opens the door. We see him standing next to a coffee urn for a few minutes before closing the door.

At no point in this episode do two named women speak to each other about something other than a man. I don’t think two named women speak to each other at all. C.J. and Mandy both speak to Sam at the same time about Chinese food and to Leo at the same time about a necklace but they address all comments to the men in these respective conversations, and none to each other. 10. And I sort of forgot about this and added it in after I had already considered this draft finished. Which is sort of the point of the Bechdel test; that even though it’s not comprehensive, it’s this weird little misogynist quirk of our current media that you don’t notice unless you look for it.

Total misogyny points for the episode? 23

3 thoughts on “Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing”, 1.04 “Five Votes Down”

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