Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing,” Episode 1.13, “Take Out the Trash Day”

In case you’ve forgotten, I do, in fact, love this show. It has become a ritual now that when my dad visits, we stay up late watching and eating ice cream. Sometimes, it’s ice cream I made, like the brown-sugar-bourbon ice cream I made him last time.

But loving and criticizing are not mutually exclusive activities! 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  11. Lip service is paid to female power or agency or simply the existence of females in this world without, oh, say, actually casting one or giving one something cool to do.
  12. A male character or characters act(s) as white knight to a female character or characters.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia

And a ! for every piece of evidence that Toby and C.J. are FwB, and a TNFTS for every time the boys are Too Noble For This Shit.

Last time on “The West Wing”: evil-looking dudes had records of Leo McGarry in a rehab facility, even though that shit is supposed to be confidential; C.J. made out with Danny; Leo made a public statement about his addiction.

It’s Take Out the Trash Day! C.J. is in the press room, telling the press that, weather permitting, they’ll be in the Rose Garden, and “weather permitting” means “not actually precipitating.” The reporters are unhappy because it’s going to be cold but the president ain’t trying to hear that, or so he told C.J. He is a hardy New Englander, gosh darn it! C.J. goes on to say that there will be 15 bill-signing souvenir pens, and Danny wants to know how, since Josiah Bartlet only has 13 letters. But he’ll use separate pens for dotting the i and crossing the ts. C.J. calls Danny “freak-boy” for asking, because that’s how you show affection in an Aaron Sorkin teleplay.

C.J. goes on to announce that the parents of Lowell Lydell will be at the signing, and, as Mandy begins to hover ominously, a reporter expresses surprise. Apparently there’s a rumor that the Lydells don’t support the president, even though the president is signing a hate-crimes bill, and Lowell Lydell was beaten and killed for being gay back in episode 10. Got to give them points for continuity here. C.J. dismisses the rumors of non-support, even when another reporter seconds it. C.J. promises that the Lydells are coming and will be available to the press. Mandy, in I guess the control room?, looks chagrinned.

We move to the control room, or whatever that room is, as C.J. gets off the podium. She and Mandy pedeconference through the C.J. area while Mandy says she wishes C.J. hadn’t promised the press the Lydells. Mandy is feeling uncomfortable because Jonathan Lydell, the father, “doesn’t say much.” C.J. thinks that’s a ridiculous concern. I think it’s a ridiculous concern to be bringing up after the briefing rather than before, and I have to imagine that Mandy knows when C.J.’s briefings are, but never mind, the Bechdel test is being passed! C.J. and Mandy are talking about their job! Well, they’re talking about a man, Jonathan Lydell, but still! Right? -10

Then C.J. talks to Carol, thanking her for the bit about dotting the i and crossing the ts, which is also a Bechdel pass (but the rules that I made up are, only one point for or against in any given episode) and then immediately chastises her for misspelling “Senator.” Sadly I have to give a -5 for that one because while a female underling is experiencing her boss being rude to her, that boss is also female. Oh, C.J.

Josh comes in to C.J.’s office and C.J. correctly assumes that whatever he’s coming in for, it’s going to involve her staying late. “I’m a woman in her prime, Josh,” she says, which is interesting, because at no point do any of the men who work here ever object to staying late because it’s putting a crimp in their love life. Even the one who’s getting divorced as a result of it. In fact, Leo even used Sam’s love life to make a point about how sometimes you gotta work late, and Sam never objected, even when he discovered that it was all a ruse. 2. Josh does not care about C.J.’s love life, but cares about everyone else’s – he wants C.J. to read a report about how abstinence-only ed doesn’t work. The White House is trying to pass a bill to get more teachers on the ground, but some in Congress want to stipulate to that bill that the sex ed classes in the schools that benefit be abstinence-only. It’s one of those situations on this show where it becomes easy to forget that this aired a decade and a half ago. C.J. complains that she would have no trouble passing an abstinence-only class, which, still a 2, but also, hah. Josh leaves on, “By the way, pages 27-33? A couple things every girl should know.” And he smirks. And I am simultaneously offended and amused, as I so often am when it comes to this show. But it gets another 2. I know it’s a stretch, but I don’t care. I’d be happy to debate this point in the comments.

Credits. Rob Lowe for real does not age.

Danny comes in to C.J.’s office and asks what she’s up to. He’s excited by the answer (reading a report on sex ed) because everyone who works here is thirteen. He wants to get dinner with her and insists they have to go on a date sometime; C.J. can’t just keep grabbing him and kissing him. Really, Danny? The first four months of my relationship with my husband consisted of me grabbing him and kissing him. It works out sometimes, is my point.

But Danny didn’t come to C.J.’s office to flirt. He came to ask her about an advance man for the vice president taking a Navy helicopter to Pebble Beach to play golf. When I first saw this episode, I did not understand what any of those words meant. I mean, I understood what they all meant individually, but strung together in a sentence, they did not make any sense to me. They make sense to C.J., though, who is shocked and dismayed and a little annoyed that Danny won’t give up his source, which of course he won’t. Then Danny claims that he has a pilot who sat around for “four hours” while the advance man “hit every sand trap in Carmel.” I am not terribly familiar with golf, but wouldn’t 18 holes take at least four hours to play even if you were really good at it?

PS. As a teenager, I was mortified when my dad took up golf. He didn’t take it up too seriously, just as a thing he had to do sometimes with his clients, but I still made fun of him mercilessly. But then he said, “Look, golf is a walk in a lovely park with your friends. Sometimes, yes, you have to swing a metal stick in the direction of the ball. But it’s that swinging of the metal stick that allows you to stay in that park all day.” So now, even though I don’t play or anything, I do get why people like it.

Oh, then C.J. grabs Danny and kisses him. I think she’s probably a very good kisser.

In the Josh section, Donna calls to Josh and then asks the person carrying food – who may or may not be Sam’s assistant whose name may or may not be Carol? – if Josh’s burger is burnt, because that’s the way he likes it. Yet another reason for me to not like Josh.

Josh comes by and asks if it’s burnt and then beckons Donna to follow him, leaving her to carry the food, which she points out. This is a sort of feature of liberal misogyny that I find interesting. “Look, I’m not going to be chivalrous and gentlemanly to you because feminism, right? You ladies don’t want that, right? Haha.” And then it’s the one example of “equality” they’re willing to actually, you know, perform. I might decide to give this a number; I know it shows up in Sorkin’s stuff a lot.

Donna wants to play exposition fairy by asking, “What’s Take Out the Trash Day?” 9. Josh explains that, if there are stories they don’t particularly want the press dwelling on, they dump them all on Friday. All at once, because if they’ve got x column inches to fill, they’ve got to divide that x by whatever number of items are being dropped; Friday because no one reads the paper on Saturday. Then Josh sends Donna to deliver C.J.’s salad.

Sam comes in to Toby’s office. Everyone’s office seems awfully dark, today, by the way, even C.J.’s, and she was reading a report on paper, so one might think she needed light. Sam is upset because some town in Alabama wants to get rid of all laws except the Ten Commandments. Toby doesn’t so much care and asks Sam what he actually wants. It turns out the Georgetown student newspaper wants to get Sam’s comment on a professor spouting stuff that right-wingers seem to think doesn’t make them sound blatantly racist – welfare, single moms, etc. They want Sam’s comment because Zoey Bartlet is taking the class. Sam is concerned that this might become a thing. Sam promises to talk to Zoey but doesn’t leave the room and Toby is annoyed until Leo calls them into his office. Leo also doesn’t care that much the town in Alabama that’s got Sam so steamed.

Josh is already in Leo’s (very dark) office, eating. Leo says this sex-ed report could not come at a worse time, since they want that teacher bill passed. Then there are some sentences exchanged about the thing with Leo and all the things these boys are too noble for. TNFTS!

A bunch of assistants are clustered around Margaret’s desk. The woman who may or may not be Carol is arguing with Donna about someone who knew something either “for sure” or “in her heart.” No, wait a second. C.J.’s assistant is Carol. And there’s the one played by Martin Sheen’s daughter, who may or may not be Bonnie. No, wait, I think the black girl who is sometimes near Toby is Bonnie. She’s not there. Whatever, Mrs. Landingham comes in and asks what they’re doing. Gossiping. As girls do. 4. Mrs. Landingham chastises them and leaves, at which point Donna and Not-Carol continue arguing. Josh comes out of Leo’s office and says, “Well. Here’s a group of federal employees.” Yeah, Josh. You were a federal employee when you were telling Dan about how C.J. likes goldfish. Or the times you were talking about Sam and his call girl. 5.

Donna peals off and asks if she can talk to Josh and Sam. In Sam’s office, Donna brings up the vice president’s advance man, whose name, improbably enough, is Chad Magrudian. I do love Aaron Sorkin character names. Especially tertiary characters. Apparently old Chad used to work for them, and was in the habit of using his “advance” trips to go have a good time then, too. Anyway, Donna brings it up because they know who leaked the story.

C.J. is reading on her couch with a blanket on her feet. She finally turns on the light behind her when Toby comes in to talk about Chad Magrudian, who, I swear, they only talk about because they want to keep saying that name. When Toby asks how C.J. heard about it and C.J. reveals that Danny gave it to her, Toby says, “As long as it’s not the other way around,” and then quickly insists it was a joke. 5, Toby. And 2. For real, dude. Saying it was a joke doesn’t really make it less rude. Also Toby tells her about Zoey. Aw, it’s really tense in here. Probably because their FwB arrangement is on hold while C.J. works out her shit with Danny.

For real, though, I can’t think of another reason for this scene to be there. Definitely bolsters my theory. !

Josh, Sam, and Toby are on the couches in the Oval. Josh is telling Toby that the leaker is one Karen Larsen. She worked on the Veep’s campaign and later in his publicity office, then was moved when the Veep’s aides thought she was getting a crush on Hoynes. 2. Toby instructs Sam to have a talk with her when he gets back from the Hill.

Leo and the president pedeconference through that outdoor hallway on their way into the office. They’re talking about bananas. Mrs. Landingham mistakes their talk of trade and bananas for the president wanting to eat a banana and orders an assistant to go get the president a banana, over his protests. Because men, they talk about important things like trade agreements, whereas women, they just want to feed and fuss over you, all annoying and shit. 4. Also 5 for the president rudely saying to Mrs. Landingham, “I’m done talking to you now.” Although, full confession, that’s sometimes how I end phone calls with my husband. But that’s because he’s really bad at taking hints. Hints like, “Okay, well, I’ll see you when we get home,” and “I can’t talk right now,” and “Seriously, I need to hang up the phone this very moment.”

In the Oval, Leo and the president continue to talk bananas while the senior staff minus C.J. wait for them to be finished. The president wants to talk to Toby about appointments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that are being held up. Toby’s got a meeting and he’s all set for it, thanks. He was raised on Sesame Street and Julia Child and Brideshead Revisited. C.J., who has come in, laughs at Toby for having watched cooking shows. 4, C.J. Come on now. You don’t have to be one of the boys. Then Toby defends himself by saying, “I watched Julia Child,” which is a lot like guys who scoff at chick flicks but make allowances for When Harry Met Sally.

C.J. is being asked about the Lydells. Leo and the president think the father might be ashamed that his son was gay, even though said son is dead, which flabbergasts C.J., which, no. No, it doesn’t. 9. Because first of all, it’s actually C.J.’s job – and Mandy’s – to be attuned to these nuances, and usually, she is. And second of all, Leo and the president’s supposition that a person who “sells dental supplies in the Twin Cities” could not possibly be enlightened I don’t think rang necessarily true even back in the Dark Ages when this aired. Or maybe I’m forgetting exactly how far we’ve come.

C.J. also wants to talk about the sex ed report but the president hasn’t looked at it yet. Toby and C.J. leave and the president asks Josh and Sam to talk to him in the hall. He wants them to act to preempt a hearing to save Leo from the mud-dragging. Nothing that is offered as a deal should be rejected without talking to the pres! TNFTS!

The president goes back in to the Oval to ask Leo why he’s meeting with a Simon Blye. The president rejects Leo’s assertion that Simon is a good friend and is offended that Leo is not exclusively seeking counsel from within the West Wing. He advises Leo not to be so trusting. Leo agrees and urges the president to read the sex ed report.

C.J. approaches Danny and asks if they’re off the record. After some banter about whether they’re on the record or not which is only a very little bit charming and only because Allison Janney and Timothy Busfield are really pretty good at this. C.J. asks Danny if he thinks it’s possible that a man could be embarrassed about his son’s gayness even after that son has been murdered. Another 9, then. Danny says that it is, in fact, possible. I think making C.J. so astounded by what seems to be common perception is shitty, but I also think that the common perception is a little bit old-fashioned, even for 2000. It’s not that I think that it’s impossible that a father in 2000 might feel that way; it’s that I don’t think it’s as easy and obvious an assumption as the president and Leo and Danny are making it sound.

Danny wants to know about Chad Magrudian, and C.J. promises him the story, and Danny says, “So you’re dumping it with Friday’s trash?” Further evidence that the idea that Donna wouldn’t know is a little absurd and insulting. C.J. points out that it is, in fact, trash. Then there’s a moment where it seems like they’re going to kiss, even though she said they’re not going to kiss anymore, and then she tells him to go and he points out that this is his office and wasn’t there recently a scene where Danny had to tell C.J. that the room they were in was her office, like, why does C.J. need this kind of shit pointed out to her? It’s because girls are dumb, that’s why. Especially when they’re in lurve. 2.

Leo and Sam are on the Hill with Bruno and two other guys. This is not a legal proceeding, Bruno assures them, even though people in Congress want a legal proceeding, so, in order to avoid a legal proceeding, why don’t Sam and Josh tell him what’s up?

Margaret ushers Simon Blye into Leo’s office and it’s a total HITG! After two seconds of pleasantries, Simon offers to talk about Leo’s problems, and then I realize we’re doing a flipping back and forth thing between Josh talking to Bruno and Leo talking to Simon and I love this kind of thing as an audience member, but as a recapper, Jedediah Horatio Christiansen, is it irritating.

So Sam and Josh start telling Bruno about how Lillienfield announced that one in three White House staffers was on drugs, so Toby asked them to investigate-but-not-investigate what was going on. Then Claypool – the evil-looking guy from the previouslys, I think – subpoenaed the records of this not-at-all-an-investigation. Bruno has those depositions and wants to talk about them.

Back with Simon and Leo, Simon believes they won’t succeed in holding off a hearing and it’s all going to be awful. Simon thinks Leo should resign. But Leo tells Simon that the president is TNFTS! Leo correctly guesses that Simon’s got an Op-Ed in the next day’s Post that will say Leo should resign, and not so much because he cares about his country, but more because he wants to up his Q rating. (Leo doesn’t say Q rating. I am saying it.) Then Leo dings Simon for lobbying for an oil company, which, I’m not sure what that has to do with the price of tea in China, and also, Leo, I don’t think he can feel the sting of that comment through the layers of Benjamins. Although he claims to be insulted. And Leo doesn’t care and kicks him out of his office. Almost literally. Then Leo mutters, “Oh, God,” as the lights go down.

Back with Leo and Sam, we learn that Bruno will hold off on a hearing if they keep the lid on this sex ed report until after the midterms. Josh gets on his TNFTS horse and Bruno takes him down a notch. He calls them teenagers and it’s adorable. “I’d like to hold hearings into the two of you being stupid. But I don’t have that kind of time.” I want him to be on my dream spin-off with that retiring Supreme Court justice.

Toby is arguing with some people about PBS. They think it’s subsidizing television for rich people. Toby thinks it’s not. C.J. is with him but Carol comes by to call her out because the Lydells are here. C.J. asks Carol to get Mandy out of the Oval. So Carol and C.J. talked about Mandy. Very clear Bechdel test passing. But, as I said, Bechdel tests are pass/fail. This episode has already passed. No further points will be awarded.

The president is talking to Mandy about the sex ed report while Mandy takes notes. Other than the president being adorably grandpa-ish (“I’m not going to say that word.”), I’m not sure what the point of this is. But Mrs. Landingham comes in to get Mandy out to see C.J. and the Lydells.

Mrs. Landingham asks the president if he’d like to share with her what’s in the report, and he declines, because he’d rather not be in therapy for the rest of his life. I’m pretty sure this attitude is sexist so 5 but also it’s terribly childish.

Mandy and C.J. come in to meet the Lydells, who are in some beautiful room. As predicted, Mr. Lydell says very little until C.J. very uncomfortably asks if he’s embarrassed by his son’s sexuality and do they support the president? Mr. Lydell says they do not, over his wife’s objections. It’s not the hate crimes bill; he doesn’t care one way or another. But he’s pretty damn insulted that he’s being asked if he’s embarrassed by his gay son, when this president is taking such a “weak-ass position on gay rights.” You go, Mr. Lydell. He wants to know where the president is on gays in the military, same-sex marriage, gay adoption, etc. And I listen to this list and feel really good about how far we’ve come. Gays in the military? Check. Same-sex marriage? It’s coming. In about a month, right? Less? I don’t know where we are on gay adoption but maybe it’s next.

C.J. and Mandy step out. C.J. wants to let them talk to reporters and say whatever they’re going to say. Mandy is like, no fucking way, remember what our actual job is here? C.J. goes in to tell them they have to go home.

Toby is still with the PBS people. One of them calls Fozzie Bear Fuzzy Bear and Toby is incensed. Toby says, “At at time when the public is rightly concerned about sex and violence on TV, this administration is going to protect The Muppets! We’re going to protect Wall Street Week, we’re going to protect Live from Lincoln Center, and by God, we’re going to protect Julia Child!” I agree with the sentiment and Toby continues to be adorable but I’m not really sure what we’re doing here.

C.J. knocks on the door and Toby gets up to go talk to her. He tells her that Josh and Sam cut a deal on the Hill and there isn’t going to be a hearing. She’s happy because she doesn’t know what the deal is yet. “I gotta get back in there; this is too much fun,” Toby says and I love him so hard.

Cathy! Cathy is Sam’s assistant’s name. Cathy has been called in to Sam’s office so he can bellyache about the town in Alabama that wants to have the Ten Commandments be the only laws. Cathy is not super-excited to play. She says, “She’s here.” The “she” is Karen Larsen, better known to me as Paris Gellar. You know, she also had an arc on “Scandal” and looked exactly like a young Elizabeth Shue. Anyway, Sam invites her in and then accuses her of being the leak on the advance man. Then he reveals that he doesn’t care about the advance man, he’s looking for the leak on Leo. Which Karen did. She starts to say, “Mr. Claypool is a family friend,” but Sam calls for Cathy and instructs Cathy to take Karen to her office and stand there while she empties her desk. “Security’s gonna throw you out of the building in fifteen minutes,” he jaw-clenches at her, and then leaves the office. I’m sure my panties are supposed to be melting from the self-righteous anger of Sam right now, but I just kind of see a White House senior staff member threatening a kid. Who did something really bad, true. But a kid, nonetheless.

The president comes to Mrs. Landingham’s desk. “You’re not going to believe this but I think I’d actually like a banana,” he says to her. “I’m afraid not, sir, no,” she returns. He was snippy before and now he will not be getting one. You go, Mrs. Landingham. -5. I particularly like where he starts to argue and she, in her very even voice, is like, “Yeah, no. C.J.’s waiting for you.” Like, I’m sticking to my guns, not angry, changing the subject. It’s the kind of parenting I try to do.

C.J. wants to ask about the sex ed report and the president says they’re going to stick it in the drawer because it’s incendiary and it’s not going to go down well at PTA meetings. I think I should join a PTA. Or something. Because honest to God, I want my kid to get a fact-based, useful education, on all subjects, including sex ed. (The question did sort of come up, btw, the where do babies come from question, and I’ll admit, I didn’t get into it. But what I said was, “That’s a pretty long story, and I’ll tell it to you if you want to, but I’m not sure you have the attention to listen to it right now. Do you want me to tell you?” And she said, “Maybe later” and went back to her television show.) Anyway, C.J. protests, and the president yells at her, and it’s finally revealed that it’s the deal Josh and Sam made. C.J. says she understands but she is clearly pissed. Actually, I would describe her as disappointed.

C.J. is now sitting in a darkened back stairwell when Danny finds her. She almost leaks the Lydells but Danny won’t take it. Not from her, because he wants to make out with her more. Which is why it’s a bad idea for a press secretary and a reporter to date, on both their ends, but whatevs. He promises that if there’s a story, he’ll find it, but she says they won’t, because they’ve gotten very good at this. How good? He knows about the Friday trash dump. He knows the Lydells were supposed to be at the bill signing and now they’re not. How hard does he have to try to call them up and ask why?

Margaret announces Karen Larsen to Leo. She comes in with her box of office stuff and a suspicious expression. He says he wanted to meet her and have her meet him and asks if she’d like to talk for a minute. She doesn’t seem to, particularly, but she does put her stuff down. He asks her what she thought when she read in his personnel file that he had been treated for a drug and alcohol addiction. She won’t answer at first, but he says, hey, I’ve already fired you, what do you have to lose? So she says her father drank a lot. So did Leo’s. It’s a nice moment because it’s easy for young people to forget that old people were once children themselves and have, like, fathers and stuff. Anyway, Leo goes on to say that his father died as the result of his drinking. Well, he committed suicide, but while he was very drunk. “Is that why you drank and took drugs?” she asks. No, he says, he drank and took drugs because he’s an addict. She asks how he got cured and he says it doesn’t work that way. She doesn’t really understand the nature of addiction and Leo says it’s okay; hardly anyone does. He asks again what went through her head when she saw his personnel file, and she says she thought about all the important decisions he has to make. He says that what she did caused a lot of problems, “but I’m not sure it wasn’t a little bit brave.” TNFTS! He gives her her job back. Sadly, dear readers, this does not mean we will see more of Liza Weil in this show.

We watch from overhead Leo watching C.J. on his TV throwing out stuff with the trash.

I am 100% in favor of watching Toby yell at straw men about Julia Child, but this episode felt a bit flabby and unfocused. A bit like they were taking the trash out of the writing room.

Total Misogyny Points: 13

While the total count is low, I feel C.J. making fun of Toby for watching Julia Child is a sort of classic in the “This is what liberal misogyny looks like” field.

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing,” Episode 1.12, “He Shall, From Time to Time…”

Okay, people. I’m having a super-shitty night. I’m chasing it with some bourbon & Dr. Brown’s cream soda and I’m going to take my anger out on Aaron Sorkin’s characters. I think it’ll make me feel better.

As always, 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  11. Lip service is paid to female power or agency or simply the existence of females in this world without, oh, say, actually casting one or giving one something cool to do.
  12. A male character or characters act(s) as white knight to a female character or characters.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia

Previously on “The West Wing”: Josh is ready to go to bat for Leo; C.J. for some reason felt romantic attachment to a guy who was being pretty shitty and oblivious to her (or, “Any Aaron Sorkin script ever”); Sam and Leo’s daughter Mallory had a similar obnoxious-off as related to dating (or, “Any other Aaron Sorkin script ever”); and we should all be very grateful that a rude, drunken British lord is on hand because brown people have weapons and that’s a disaster.

A chyron tells us it’s Monday night. The president is orating grandly to a room of senior staffers and presumably non-senior staffers. It becomes clear pretty quickly (in case the title wasn’t enough of a clue) that he’s practicing the State of the Union, which, it seems, is pretty good. The state of the union, I mean, not the speech. Although I’m sure the speech is fine. The president gets hung up on a fairly minor mistake that Toby points out, but he’s uncharacteristically non-combatative about it. Jed is actually looking kind of shitty and then he coughs a few times and the staffers look worried.

Josh and C.J. are watching him on a screen in another room – presumably to see how the speech looks on TV – and they agree that he looks kind of shitty. Josh wonders if the president’s glands are swollen. “Damn,” says C.J.

“What?” says Josh.

“You know what I forgot to do today?” C.J. answers.


“I forgot to feel the president’s glands,” C.J. answers, with A+ perfect deadpan delivery. I love you, Allison Janney. I want to drink bourbon with you.

Then Josh asks if her sarcasm makes it difficult for her to keep a man. A giant 2 and I think a 5, too, even though it’s still not clear to me that C.J. is Josh’s underling. I mean, she has to be, right? She’s Toby’s underling and Josh and Toby are at the same level. Right?

Anyway, they’re both concerned that the State of the Union is 44 hours away and the president doesn’t look so hot.

Isn’t the State of the Union usually on a Tuesday night? How is it Monday night and 44 hours away?

Back in the room with the president, who is back to his old self and being snotty about a couple of typos. Leo calls a break. Josh and C.J. approach and ask how the president feels. He wonders why everyone is bothering him about this and he’s fine and taking the pills that his wife gives him. Well, not so much taking them as carrying them around, which C.J. points out is less effective. I gotta be honest; I’m with the president here. Do you know how many times I’ve assumed that wondering really hard where my Advil bottle was located would in fact fix my headache?

The president continues to correct what I think is a typo but it turns out it’s, like, a policy thing – moderation has spoken, and we’re only supporting the American Dream for those “who work for it”. This being back in the ’90s when getting a job was possible! Not that Republican rhetoric has moved anywhere on these issues.

Josh also announces that the era of big government is over. When did this happen, Toby wants to know. Josh tells him it was this morning; they had a meeting. Okay, fine, Josh. Hah. I still hate you, but hah.

Toby wants to know why they’re offending poor people and Josh offends them some more by saying that poor people don’t watch “The West Wing.” I mean the State of the Union! They don’t watch the State of the Union! Silly me.

Toby says, “Alright, but when you get visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future, don’t come running to me.”

“Damn, Toby, because you were exactly who I was going to come running to.” You guys. You’re killing me. I’m trying to stay in my pissy mood and you’re making it really hard.

Toby also feels the president doesn’t look so hot. Everyone is nudging him. This is a lot like going to one of my family’s gatherings when I’ve got a bit of a head cold. Truth: As much as it used to annoy me, I would now give almost anything to hear my grandmother say to me, “Ooh, ooh, ooh, I don’t like the sound of that cough!” Though her husband and sons are filling in for her on that front.

Great. Now I’m getting maudlin. Moving on.

The president agrees to take his pills, with water from a pitcher given to him by some Christian association because he’s so not Scrooge, Toby, and goes into his office.

When he turns, Sam points out that they haven’t technically be invited to give the State of the Union, and that it’s protocol that they be invited by the Speaker of the House. Sam agrees to take care of it and they’re all giggling over the typos until they hear a loud crash from the Oval and rush in to find the president lying on the rug, passed out, with the broken pitcher of water next to him.

Very inspirational music! Damn, bourbon does make me kind of weepy. This is not working out really well for me.

In the Oval, a uniformed doctor is telling the senior staff the president has the flu but wants to take the president to the hospital anyway for some tests. The president doesn’t want to go and anyway, he has to go to the Sit Room.

Fitzwallace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is exchanging some military info I don’t understand with other uniformed dudes. He doesn’t have the jacket of his uniform on, which I think in military culture is like being in yoga pants and a stained sweatshirt in the regular world. The president comes in and asks whether the Celtics won that night, because showing yourself to be cavalier in the face of the world going to hell in a hand basket is adorable and charming.

I cannot tell what is going on but as far as I can tell, the ceasefire is not going well. Fitz has a plan that I’m sure is a very good one and the president is going to bed. But not before he learns that the Celtics lost in over time.

Mandy and Danny are in C.J.’s office, flirting. C.J. comes in and she’s not amused. She sends Danny off. Mandy thinks it wouldn’t kill C.J. to be friendly to Danny and C.J. says it doesn’t seem to be killing Mandy. Rowr! Oh, you girls with your jealousy. C.J. claims to be kidding but I’m still giving this an 8. 

Mandy informs C.J. that the Leo thing – that he was once addicted to pills – is going to break tomorrow. Does this pass the Bechdel test? They’re talking about Leo. But to them, that’s work, not “a man.” But Leo is a man. And it’s kind of more about his personal shit and less about his professional shit. But it does affect both of them professionally. But the point is, their work lives revolve around men, right? Like, Leo can (and does) have any number of conversations with Josh or the president in which a woman’s name never comes up at all, whether in a professional or a romantic or familial capacity. Right. So no -10 here.

Margaret is asking Leo about the whole being-invited-to-give-the-State-of-the-Union thing and he’s being characteristically rude to her. 5. Then he tells Margaret to remind Josh about “picking a guy” and Margaret is uncomfortable about not knowing what that means and Leo is rude to her again. 5. He shoos Margaret out and the C.J. comes in. C.J. asks about the president and then says, “Leo,” and he concludes that the story is going to break. They say a few things to each other that basically indicate that they don’t need full sentences to understand each other, which was nice.

The president is in bed being treated by his military doctor. He’s on the phone about the speech and then Charlie is fussing over him. The president says, “This isn’t the worst of it. The worst of it is coming up the stairs right now.” He’s of course referring to his wife, because wives, they are the fucking worst, aren’t they? 4. The first lady takes the president’s charts from the military doctor and asks a bunch of questions and orders some treatments. The president looks utterly entranced by his take-charge wife. The first lady asks to be left alone with her husband and her husband flirts with her. Abby is worried and fussing, albeit in a has-an-actual-medical-degree way. She asks if it was like the time in Nantucket, in a way that makes us think the time in Nantucket is more significant than just the flu. I mean, I already know it’s more significant because I’ve seen this show before, but there’s definitely musical foreshadowing notes and, like, acting cues, so I’m not just reading what I already know into the scene. The president, after telling his wife about all the things that are happening and insisting that he could jump her right now, finally drops off to sleep, whereupon the first lady sinks into the chair that’s been placed next to her bed and looks sad and worried. It’s a nice scene of married people being realistic and loving to each other. But my practical mind is on her uncomfortable stilettos and her uncomfortable suit and that uncomfortable chair. The president is asleep now, Dr. Bartlett. Go get on your pjs and worry about him from the comfort of your bed.

A chyron informs me it’s now Tuesday morning. Josh is on the phone about the non-invitation-thing, which I thought Sam was taking care of. Donna comes in to tell Josh that Margaret asked Donna to remind Josh about needing to pick a guy. Donna is similarly annoyed that she doesn’t know what that means. Josh actually deigns to answer her. He says he needs to pick someone in the line of succession to not be in the building when the president delivers the State of the Union. Donna asks why. 9. Even Josh is shocked by this level of Exposition Fairy-ing and just says, “Donna.” Donna catches up and says, “In case someone blows up the building?” which is, yes, of course the reason. Donna wants to know who he’s going to pick. Josh asks who she thinks he should pick and she suggests herself. Josh asks where she thinks she falls in the line of succession and she says, “If someone blows up the Capitol Building during the State of the Union, I imagine I’d move up a few slots.” Line of the night. Also, for once, the interaction between Josh and Donna is coming off as genuinely friendly banter rather than Josh being rude and Donna being whiny, so A+ to both of them here.

Anyway, it’s not going to be Donna, it’s going to be Roger Tribby, the Secretary of Agriculture. Then Josh reminds Donna to be nice to Margaret and Leo since today is going to suck for them and Donna agrees and this conversation continues to be fine with me. Huh. Weird.

Josh goes in to Leo’s office, where he’s practicing his mea culpa with C.J. and Sam. They give him some practice questions and are surprised to hear that Leo still attends A.A. meetings. It’s going pretty well until Leo gets pissy and says he’ll be fine. Then Sam tells Leo that Sam wrote a draft of the president’s statement of support, which pisses Leo off because Sorkin Men are Too Noble For This Shit. Also Sam is Too Noble For This Shit. Leo sends them back to work with an order not to defend him.

Okay, now Abby is in bed with her husband although she’s still in uncomfortable clothing. She’s checking on him and he’s insulting her medical knowledge although it is really just cute marital banter so I’m letting it go. He wants to go back to the office and she says he can, knowing full well that he can’t even get out of bed successfully. He discovers this himself and lies back down while Abby smirks. Kindly.

We’ve got an overhead shot of Leo in a vestibule, which is interesting. Then Carol comes to call him in to the press conference. Leo makes his mea culpa statement and tells the press corps what we already know about his stint in rehab and his addiction issues. We fade away to a shot of the White House.

Donna and Josh are pedeconferencing about why the Secretary of Agriculture? Josh says because the other Secretaries (or some other Secretaries) are famous enough that they want the camera to find them. Donna is concerned. Josh is not, because if the Capitol Building blows up, he’ll be dead, too, and he won’t have to have Roger Tribby, Secretary of Agriculture, as his president. Their bickering is getting a little closer to their usual rudeness but not quite there.

Donna peels off and Josh finds Sam. They agree that Leo did well at the press conference and then Josh says he thought Sam’s statement for the president is great and it’s too bad no one’s going to read it. Sam says the president is, in fact, reading it right now. Josh observes that Leo is going to kill them and Sam does not care. And neither does Josh. Because they are TNFTS. That’s going on the list, not with the misogyny things, but with the exclamation point for C.J. and Toby. TNFTS!

We move into a meeting room with portraits of who I think are both Roosevelts. So I don’t think this is the Roosevelt Room but it seems to be Roosevelt Room of some kind. In the room are Toby and some people who are some sort of Democratic caucus but maybe moderate? Because they don’t like big government? Toby, as usual, looks like he’s playing Anywhere But Here in his head. There are two men and a woman as part of this group, by the way, and the woman just keeps smirking at Toby but not saying anything. 11. Toby wants very much to be done with these people and move on to the next group of people who want to complain at him, so he says, “Just pick a section.” They pick the NEA, which Toby informs the audience is the National Endowment for the Arts. He does not look pleased, but he does look resigned.

Leo’s working in a dark room with a TV behind him (a ginormous TV – ah, the year 2000). The TV is showing his press conference. Uncomfortable! Margaret comes in to announce Mallory. Mallory is very concerned and they share a moment. Then Mallory mentions that she’s seen the president’s statement of support, that it’s floating around the press room, and that it’s very moving. Leo is pissed. He leaves his supportive daughter to go yell at his supportive surrogate sons.

Sam and Josh are whining about Toby going to bat over the NEA when Leo comes in to yell at them. Josh is trying to be conciliatory but Sam is not. Because TNFTS!

Then an assistant – Bonnie? – tells Leo that the first lady is in his office.

Abby is indeed in Leo’s office bothering Mallory about her “itch” for Sam. Ew, that is a bad fucking choice of words, Sorkin. Leo comes in, Mallory leaves, and Abby talks to Leo about postponing the State of the Union. Leo asks what he should know that he doesn’t know. Leo points out that grown men don’t need their wives to cancel trips because of a fever, nor are doctor wives supposed to prescribe drugs or give shots to their husbands, as Abby is doing. Abby finally reveals that the president has MS, and tells Leo with tears in her eyes that a fever could be life-threatening. I forgot that this was revealed this early in the series; I thought we had a few episodes yet.

A soap opera is playing on a TV. The president asks Charlie if any of these characters have jobs. Charlie answers the phone and tells the president Leo’s outside. The president asks Charlie to step out, and Leo steps in. The president knows Leo knows and starts telling Leo about his MS stuff. Leo is pretty pissed about being kept in the dark about this, even going so far as calling Jed “Jed” and not “Mr. President.” See, Leo is upset that he couldn’t be there to support the president the way the president had been there to support him when he was going through his addiction stuff. The way Josh and Sam want to be there for Leo now. See how that all works? Character development, it’s a beautiful thing!

Toby is still talking about the NEA with the two men and the silent lady. One of the men becomes the idiot straw man who confuses Hart with Hammerstein and Arthur Miller with Arthur Murray, the former of which did in fact need the NEA – which was then the WPA – to write Death of a Salesman. He trails off and still they can’t even give that woman the line, “Toby?” What are they, depriving her of her SAG card? Toby announces that the meeting is over; apparently, he has a Plan.

Lord John Marbury is recommending Exotic Remedies from his Imperialist Travels in Asia to the president while pouring tea. Most of these Exotic Remedies are to be taken with a strong shot of whiskey. Hey, that’s my cold remedy of choice, too! Actually, my very favorite is a combination of what he recommends – my Aveda tea (which has licorice root, from his first remedy) or a ginger tea (ginger is his second remedy) with lemon, honey, and a strong shot of whiskey. Lord John Marbury, getting down to business, thinks you should just buy them off. Then he goes on about some bullshit colonialist imperialist shit that Britain used to do to keep those pesky brown people in line. I mean, for real. The president complains that the Indian ambassador paints him with the same imperialist colonialist brush as their mutual former colonial overlords, the British, and then takes advice from this Kipling parody of a British lord. I don’t even know what the fuck because I don’t know enough about these issues to speak intelligently about them but I do know enough to say BLERGH!

Anyway, Leo thinks Lord Marbury is a dumbass and Lord Marbury condescends to him and I think we’re supposed to be a little on Lord Marbury’s side here, but you know what? Getting a Cambridge education when you’ve got a British title impresses me about as much as the fact that George W. Bush graduated from Yale. And for the same reasons. Basically, he thinks we should pay for an infrastructure that would allow India a computer industry. Leo stupidly asks why they should pay to avoid war halfway around the world, which I have to give a -9, because come the fuck on, Leo knows this. They were all wringing their hands last episode about how nuclear war would affect everyone. But Leo is not a girl, so that’s why it gets the negative number. Lord John Marbury’s answer is that it’s the price you pay for being rich, free, and alive at the same time, and also for allowing the proliferation of nuclear devices to go on. Yeah, when Britain had an empire, they ran it right, damn it. I hate this dude and this plotline SO HARD.

Charlie ushers Lord John Marbury and Leo out and lets Toby in. The president describes an episode of Jerry Springer in as snotty a way as possible – because poor people are gross! – and then Josh comes in, apparently at Toby’s request. Toby wants to talk about the era of big government being not at all over, that they should be celebrating big government instead. Have I mentioned lately that Toby is my boyfriend?

A chyron brings us to Wednesday night. Josh, Sam and C.J. are in some room where drinks are being served and Josh is sing-songing, “You’re jealous ’cause Danny was flirting with Mandy!” The fuck? 2. C.J. is denying it and Sam takes this opportunity to complain about how unclear Mallory is being about her feelings for him. Because this is TV, at that moment Mallory walks up and asks Sam if he wrote the statement defending her father. He says yes and she gives him a big kiss. Right on the lips! Because if you do something good, women will offer you sexual favors! That’s how life works! 2. Then she leans in for a much sexier kiss and damn, I think Rob Lowe is a pretty good kisser. I mean, from how it looks on TV. C.J. peels away from this conversation to ask Carol to bring Danny to her office. I’m giving that a 2, too.

Abby and Jed are in the residence. Abby wants to take Jed’s temperature one more time and, as she fixes his cufflinks, he offers to let her take it recreationally. I’m pretty sure the president just suggested his wife peg him. Hey, you two get on with your bad selves; you won’t hear a word of judgement from me.

Oh, my God, Gail’s got her own little press secretary podium. (Gail is the goldfish Danny got for C.J.) That’s freaking adorable. Danny is playing with Gail’s little American flags when C.J. knocks. On her own office door. That is weird and deserves a number and I’m not sure which one so I’m going with 1. Danny is confused, too. C.J. calls her attraction to Danny “girlish” 4 and Danny tries to rush her along which is crazy rude and I guess I’ll give it a because even though C.J. is certainly not Danny’s underling, they kind of set up that vibe with her knocking on her own office door and waiting for Danny to give her permission to come in. Then C.J. informs Danny that she’s decided to kiss him to get him out of her system. I am an aspiring romance professional and avid TV watcher, so I know that’s a little bit of dramatic irony right there. They kiss, and it’s awkward because he’s a lot shorter than her and not a very good kisser, but she tries to sell it. Then she gets all flustered afterwards, still holding her fish bowl and then knocking into a door, and he’s condescending about it, so a 1 and a 5 and a general, “Hey, Aaron, most women don’t actually like it when guys are dickheads to them.”

Lord John Marbury and Abby are talking about cold remedies that involve shots of whiskey, and then the president and Leo present him with photos showing that his plans worked and Lord John Marbury actually remembers Leo’s name and then says he’s off. Bye, Lord John Marbury. Don’t let the White House door hit you on the ass on the way out.

The president and Abby walk into a room with a  bunch of staffers, where the president expresses gratitude for their hard work on his speech. “I say thee yea, Toby Ziegler, and I say thee yea, Sam Seaborn!” I love it when he goes all old-fashioned like that. Everyone claps. Charlie tells the president the motorcade is ready and the president goes to greet Roger Tribby, who is in the Oval. OMFG, it’s the Mayor! I mean, listen, I already knew it was the Mayor, because I’ve seen this episode 197 times, but the first time I saw it, I went, “OMFG, it’s the Mayor!”, and I wanted to recreate that experience for you. You’re welcome.

He has brought the president a copy of the Constitution in Latin, which is the perfect present for President Bartlett. IIRC, The Mayor was also pretty good at picking out presents for Faith. The president, at The Mayor’s request, translates the passage about the State of the Union, and they shake hands manfully. The president instructs Roger Tribby on what to do in the case of an actual emergency, and we see that Leo can hear him from the other room. After a bunch of stuff about national security, the president asks if Roger Tribby has a best friend, who is smarter than him, and with whom Roger would trust his life. To all of these, Roger answers, “Yes, sir.” The president says, “That’s your chief of staff,” and from the other room, Leo has feels. Then the president goes into toilets that need handle-jiggling and Charlie pulls him out. Inspirational music swells and Roger Tribby looks around the Oval Office, clearly feeling the power of those strings. (I don’t even know if what I think is strings is, in fact, strings. Musical theory is not my strong suit.)

Despite my bad mood and my harshness, the misogyny in this episode was pretty light, wasn’t it? At least, I didn’t feel the need to do mid-episode tallies.

Total Misogyny Points: 15

Yup, pretty low! Good job, show!

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing,” 1.11, “Lord John Marbury”

I am using these posts to a) recap a much-beloved (by me and in general) TV show, and b) point out the misogyny in it. Because I like to combine my two favorite activities – watching TV I love, and hate-watching! 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  11. Lip service is paid to female power or agency or simply the existence of females in this world without, oh, say, actually casting one or giving one something cool to do.
  12. A male character or characters act(s) as white knight to a female character or characters.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia


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

Previously, on “The West Wing,” Josh was riding to Leo’s defense about a pill addiction; Charlie and Zoe met cute; C.J. obnoxiously asked Danny on date and he obnoxiously accepted.

A chyron tells us that we’re at the National Reconnaissance Office in Washington Navy Yard. A nerdy due sits in front of many computers which looked old-fashioned to me. Then I remember that this aired in 2000 and probably didn’t then. Then I realize that a) technology is moving super-fast, like, for realz, and b) I am super-old. He calls another nerdy man over to look at a map on one of his screens. They zoom in on something and the first man claims that what they are looking is “two CVEs and four destroyers.” They look like dark smudges on the screen to me, but I am not a nerdy man at the Washington Navy Yard. The second man seems to think this means they need help.

Next we are at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. A uniformed man says some military things to another uniformed man and a sweater-vested man. I am having trouble keeping up. I do recognize the word “Pakistan.” The second uniformed man says he’s going to call the C.O.s and the sweater-vested man is going to call the White House.

You can see the Washington Monument from his office.

Now we’re in the West Wing. Josh is trying to convince Donna to caddy for him. Donna, is he going to pay you? Because that’s totes not in your job description.

A schlumpy man in the foyer (?) is there to serve Joshua with a subpoena. Josh is predictably dickish to him. Then, without even asking, he signs the subpoena on Donna’s back. The fuck? I think it’s a moment that’s supposed to illustrate how seamless their work style is, but I’m reading this as, he’s literally using her body as an object of convenience. 1. It may not be comedy but it’s physical.

They walk away and Josh says he’s become a professional hostile witness.  Oh, you’ve been professionally hostile for a long time now, Josh. Donna wants to know if she gets to drive the cart. No. No carts. And no being paid. And he wants her to start practicing with the bags right away. 5. Seriously, Aaron, are we supposed to find Josh charming?

Josh walks in to the outer office of the Oval – the Mrs. Landingham area. She expresses sympathy about his latest subpoena and offers him a cookie. I want to give this some sort of number but I kind of find it adorable. Still, in the interest of fairness, I’m going to go with 2. Because Mrs. Landingham is being put in a primarily feminine role that has little to do with her job. (Usually two is for sexual/romantic roles being at the fore, but I think the cookies in this case serve a similar function.) Josh thinks he’s coming to see the president, but the president and Leo have gone to the Situation Room.

And now so have we! The president asks Fitzwallace what’s up, and Fitzwallace tells him that the Indian army has launched an invasion of Pakistan-held Kashmir territory. The president wants to know what “army” means – “Five guys and a Humvee?” Fitzwallace invites “Mitch,” the uniformed dude next to him, to tell the president what “army” means. He uses many words I don’t understand but the take-away is, no, not five guys and a Humvee. The president is pissed that the Indian army could have moved so many people/things without them noticing that India was preparing to do so. “All I’m trying to do right now, I’m trying to avoid making eye contact with the CIA director.” The CIA director concedes that they “dropped the ball.” “Pick it up again, would you, please?” the president replies, all restrained politeness. I’m pretty much loving Martin Sheen’s delivery in this sequence.

More words I don’t understand happen, the gist of which is, the ball is being picked up.

Credits! Moving music to remind me that this is a Very Important T.V. show!

Misogyny Points Thus Far: 3

Sam and Toby pedeconference in the outdoor-hallway-thing. Sam wants to know what the Pakistani ambassador has to say. Toby asks the legit question, “Our guy there or their guy here?” question, but I do have to note that there’s no question that it’s a guy. That’s probably accurate. But I’m in a mood so I think I’ll give it a 5. Because it’s rude to your female employees not to promote them. (Yes, I know that’s not how ambassadorship appointments work, but I don’t care.)

Turns out we don’t have one there.

Sam and Toby enter the Mrs. Landingham area as Sam notes it’s been over a year of not having an ambassador in Pakistan. Maybe that’s why they got invaded, Sam suggests. Toby infuses his “Yeah” with all the sarcasm I love him for.

Leo is explaining things to the president, Josh, Toby, and Sam. Not C.J., I’m noting. Josh is pissed about the CIA. The president informs them that the U.N. Security Council is having an emergency session to get a ceasefire. Toby seems to have little faith in the U.N. Security Council. Since I understand little about foreign relations and less about military stuff, I am focusing on grammar. Why is it CIA but U.N.? What determines whether a set of initials gets periods or not? Is this something I learned in 10th grade and forgot?

Anyway, the U.N. Security Council sucks, the CIA sucks, and a war between India and Pakistan would probably, eventually, go nuclear, which would suck.

C.J. enters. In a pink coat. Yeah, gonna give that a 2, too. Maybe I need a new number for “stereotypical femininity” but I’ll think about that later. They all turn and look at her like she caught them watching porn. Leo says she can tell the room there’s a full lid, and when she leaves, he promises to brief her in the morning.

And before you go all, “What do you have against pink?” let’s note that, obviously, in real life, a woman may or may not be wearing a pink coat at any given moment, and it would not say anything about her or her performance at her job or the perception of her performance at her job. But this is a television show, and they can control for all these details, and they do. This isn’t just the first clean coat C.J. found this morning, this is a decision made by the show runner, Aaron Sorkin, the costume designer, and possibly a bunch of other people. The decision to put her in pink at a moment when she’s very obviously not being trusted at her job – when she is the girl standing on the outside of a group of guys – was deliberate.

Zoe enters the outer office and smiles flirtatiously at Charlie. Then she totally asks him out and he is adorably awkward about it. Even I am not in a bad enough mood to give this exchange a 2.

The boys leave the Oval, and Josh tells Sam he’s been subpoenaed for the paperwork related to his non-investigation of drug use at the White House. Sam thinks he should bring a lawyer. Josh says he is a lawyer. Sam thinks he should bring a real lawyer. Teehee.

Mandy comes up behind them and asks to speak to Sam in his office. She wants to take on a “moderate-to-liberal” Republican as a client. So cute! The year 2000 – when our computers were enormously bulky and there was such a thing as a “moderate” Republican! She thinks Sam can help smooth this idea over with Josh and Toby because she feels Sam is the one of them that is more focused on getting the job done than beating the other guys. Hey, now. I think that’s way more true of Josh than it is of Toby. It’s a little true of Toby, but with Toby, it’s because of his lefty idealism. With Josh, it really is just because he wants to clobber them. Anyway, Sam says he admires her “pluck” 3 and she’d owe him one. She scoffs and he says, fine, they’ll be even. She still scoffs and he says that he’ll do this and many more favors until they are even. This was a fairly light scene in terms of 3s when it comes to Mandy, but I still have to give this last exchange a and an 8. The 8 especially because it is never explained what Mandy did for Sam that he would have this huge backlog of favors. So I’m just chalking it up to, “She’s a woman and women are irrational like that!”


Rob Lowe is crazy good-looking, btw.

C.J. is trying to send the press home but a journalist named Bruce says his source at the Pentagon told him about India. C.J., who doesn’t know about this, laughs it off. Toby, off to the side, looks guilty. As well he should.

Fitzwallace stands in front of a screen in the Sit Room, explaining things I don’t understand. Another guy reports on India’s prime minister’s speech about Pakistan’s thuggery and how they’re not going to take it. And a third guy says Pakistan basically feels the same way. They’ll get the nuclear briefings at 1500, or 3:00 pm.

Donna and Toby are pedeconferencing about Josh’s deposition. Toby also thinks Josh should bring a lawyer. He breaks from Donna and is escorted into Leo’s office by Margaret. C.J. is already there. In a pink shirt. Just saying. 2. C.J. asks if he knows what this is about. He says he does and tells her he stopped by her office. I guess he’s trying to set up that he was totes *going* to tell her. Because he’s her secret lover. ! Leo comes in and tells C.J. what’s going on. He’s very casual about it but C.J. looks crushed. She reminds him that he told her the lid was on just when this was all happening. Leo is unapologetic, even when C.J. tells him she got the question. He tells her to just tell the press she didn’t know and seems oblivious to, or at least uncaring about, the fact that the press thinking she didn’t know about is precisely the problem. Toby is not oblivious, though.

I am going to assign a 5 to this whole thing, but I also want to point out that, while the show seems to be supporting the idea that sometimes the press secretary has to not be told things and hey, bitches just shouldn’t get mad about that, it is also very much acknowledging the gendered imbalance here and the way C.J. has to swallow what is obviously a bullshit situation. So just one 5 instead of the barrage of numbers this storyline would be getting if they were not, in fact, trying to point out how fucked up it is.

A shot of city streets with the Washington Monument in the background indicates that we’re not at the White House. We are, in fact, at the deposition. Josh is being smug and unpleasant. So, you know, same old, same old. He insists his investigation was not serious and that there are no records. The guy questioning Josh asks if he told anyone he was coming to this deposition today and acts like it’s weird that Josh did. Wouldn’t he . . . have to? Because they’d ordinarily expect him to be at work? Also, isn’t it a deposition a matter of public record? Anyway, Josh is mad about this whole thing.

Two communications guys who I think we’ve seen before are giving C.J., Toby, and Sam the least helpful briefing possible, in that it contains information from a 5th grader’s report on India. C.J. is pissed and storms out.

Sam pedeconferences out of the room with Toby and brings up the Mandy thing. Toby is not pleased. They enter the Oval, where what I assume is the nuclear briefing is happening. A dude is talking about whatever systems India and Pakistan have. He says he’s getting to the truly terrible part, and Toby says, “Good. ‘Cause we were waiting for the truly terrible part.” That might be the line of the night. I also want to note that there has been this woman in the Sit Room both times and now here, wearing a truly hideous blazer, and she has yet to say a word. 11.

The people who are not senior staffers leave the room and the president says he wants to bring in an India expert. Leo asks who, the president doesn’t answer, and Leo, drawing the correct conclusion about who the president means, is not at all pleased, calling him a certifiable lunatic. He is, as you may have gathered, our titular character, Lord John Marbury, former British ambassador to India. “You’re really going to let him loose in the White House, where there’s liquor and women?” Leo asks. Ugh, Leo. 1 for women-as-objects. “We can hide the women, Leo, but the man deserves a drink,” answers the president. WTF? What on earth am I watching? How did this bit of dialogue get into a show written at the turn of the millennium? It’s something Spencer Tracy should be saying to a fuming Katherine Hepburn. 1 and and 5 and a giant Blech.

MPTF: 15

Then there is a kind of absurdly long and awkward shot of Toby and Sam leaving the Oval. I don’t usually notice things like that, but it’s pretty weird in a show that’s renowned for its on-point camerawork and pacing.

Sam still wants to talk to Toby about Mandy representing a moderate Republican. Toby is not interested. Toby wants to apologize to C.J. but Sam thinks that would be patronizing, and that not saying anything would show C.J. that Toby thinks of her as a professional. Oh, Sam. Toby ignores him. Rightly. But also because Toby isn’t (only) trying to mend their professional relationship. !

C.J. calls Carol in to her office to complain about a typo. I’m pretty sure this episode has just passed the Bechdel test. -10. Toby comes in and says, “I was warned that coming to talk to you might be insulting to your professionalism.” C.J. sarcastics, “Well, you wouldn’t want to do that.” Toby says it wasn’t ready for the press and C.J. rightly points out that they still should have told her because it undermines her credibility with the press when they know that she is not told important information. Toby says there’s a concern that she’s too friendly with the press. You know what? 2. Because they showed us in the previouslies about her asking Danny out. And they’ve showed us Danny scoffing at her reservations about dating him specifically because of their jobs, AND Josh gave Danny advice on how to get with C.J., EVEN THOUGH JOSH IS APPARENTLY CONCERNED ABOUT C.J. BEING TOO FRIENDLY WITH THE PRESS. Let’s give this another 2. What the hell, one more. 2. That’s one for the previouslies, one for Danny scoffing righteously, and another for the Josh thing. Blergh!

C.J. is pissed. “You sent me in there uninformed so that I would lie to the press.” Toby corrects her. “We sent you in there uninformed because we thought there was a chance you couldn’t.” BLERGH! I don’t have enough numbers. 11. And 7. And 5. And another 2 for implying that her flirtation with Danny would interfere with her ability to do her job.

MPTF: 21

C.J. is silent for a long, and really well-done moment, and she pretty much dismisses Toby.

Toby runs into Josh and advises Josh to take Sam with him the next time. Josh wants to know if C.J. is pissed and Toby confirms that she is. I’m giving this an 8. Of course she’s pissed, Josh. You guys don’t trust her to do her job.

Charlie announces to the president that the Chinese ambassador will be in the Mural Room in a few moments. Then Charlie asks the president if he can go out with his daughter. The president does not want to talk about it. I know that it might be considered incredibly sexist to ask a girl’s father if you can date her, but he’s also asking his boss if he can date his daughter, so I’m giving it a pass. Charlie leaves and the president mutters to Leo, “He wants to date my daughter.” Leo says nothing, but says it loudly. The president tells him to shut up. It’s kind of cute, even if I do hate the trope of fathers not wanting their daughters to date.

On further thought, I do in fact have to give this a 2 for that very dynamic.

The president and Leo enter the Mural Room and greet the Chinese ambassador. The president says they’ve got to work out a ceasefire and a pullback. The Chinese ambassador is like, yeah, totes, except we’re not letting India get away with this. The president and Leo make “Oh, shit” faces.

Monument. White House. Sam and Toby section. Mandy asks Sam if he talked to Toby and Sam is like, yeah, there’s no way. Josh comes to get Sam and Mandy asks Sam to talk to Josh. Josh is similarly not having this shit.

A Hey! It’s That Guy! is greeted by Leo and the president as Mr. Ambassador. They’re not in the Mural Room. It might be Leo’s outer office. This guy is the Pakistani ambassador. He’s got the coolest accent. Also, he’s pissed. He wanted the president to condemn India’s action more strongly. Other things are said that I’m not sure I’m totally following. I know that the president wants there to be peace, and this dude ain’t trying hear that.

The ambassador and his people leave, and the president tells Charlie he’ll take the Indian ambassador in the Oval Office. Is this seriously how foreign relations are conducted? The president going from room to room, exchanging a few unhelpful words with various diplomats? Charlie Yes, sirs at the president, and then the president says, “Then, if you could, ask the Secret Service to step in and kill me, please.” I know it’s kind of trite, but I love it when Jed complains about his job. Also, Martin Sheen continues to kill it.

The president complains again to Leo about his daughter asking Charlie out, and accuses Leo of “trying to cover up the fact that you’re enjoying this.” Leo says, “I’m not trying to cover it up at all.” Again, I hate the trope, but I love these actors and this banter is kind of fun. I gave it a number before; I’m going to leave it alone now. Leo asks if this is a racial thing and the president is offended. He claims he’s Spencer Tracy at the end of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. You all appear to be Spencer Tracy in this episode, Jed.

The Indian ambassador comes in. My first response is that he’s another Hey! It’s That Guy! and then I realize he is, in fact, Principal Figgins of “Glee”! “Kee-dollar-sign-ha!” Hi, Principal Figgins!

Anyway, the president tells the ambassador he’s a little pissed about them trying to invade Kashmir.

Then we’re with Josh and Sam at the deposition. There continue to be no records of Josh’s non-investigation. The guy doing the questioning brings it around to Leo, and Josh refuses to answer. Sam backs him up. The guy brings out a document about Leo that Josh insists was obtained illegally. Sam gets them out of there, saying they’re postponing the deposition. The guy insults Leo and Josh almost punches him. Sam stops him but calls the guy a cheap hack and threatens to “bust you like a piñata.” Okay, Sam. That is convincing. You are very tough and scary.

The Indian ambassador is kind of taunting the president, saying that India can’t be controlled by economic sanctions anymore. The president says India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and “a tendency to get cranky.” Whoa, talk about patronizing. The Indian guy is basically, “We are determined to remain POST-colonial.” Then he leaves.

Seriously, two sentences with each ambassador, full of posturing and bullshit, and then that’s it. For real now, is this the way we conduct foreign relations?

The president tells Leo that he feels like telling the Indian prime minister that America is also a former colony of Britain that “threw off its colonial masters”. Yeah, dude. Totes the same circumstances.

Charlie announces Lord John Marbury, another Hey! It’s That Guy! But not the guy who was in Showgirls and played Charlotte’s first husband on Sex and the City, like I always think he is. Lord John Marbury is soused, as we had been prepared to expect, and doesn’t remember who Leo is, despite having met him several times. This seems to be sticking in Leo’s craw. Lord Marbury calls Leo the butler and asks for a light, then gets shirty when Leo tells him he can’t smoke.

Lord Marbury promises that if he can help, he will. The president says “the world is coming apart at the seams,” and Lord Marbury says, “Well, then. Thank God you sent for me.” Leo and I fail to find this charming.

We switch to C.J.’s office, where she is for some reason sitting on the wrong side of her desk (with her back to the door), explaining to someone on the phone who Lord John Marbury is. She is no longer wearing pink, btw. She says it all sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. A) True, b) Sorkin loves him some Gilbert and Sullivan, and c) personal anecdote blathering time! When my dad and I went to London back in 2003, with the purpose of being either in a theater or an art museum at any given moment (a purpose we fulfilled with vigor), one of the shows we saw was H.M.S. Pinafore, which we chose because neither of us had ever seen a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. We enjoyed it thoroughly. I especially enjoyed the chorus guys in sailor suits. I keep trying to get Jason to bring a sailor suit home with him from work, but apparently stealing a uniform is, like, a federal offense, and they might hang him.

So Carol comes by with Toby. C.J. is not particularly thrilled to see him. Toby wants to apologize without apologizing, but C.J. says, “Either I’m a trusted member of the communications staff or I’m not. Which is it?” You go, girl. Hold him to the sticking plate. (What in the hell is a sticking plate?) C.J. crosses her arms and waits for the actual apology and Toby does, badly. C.J. asks whose idea it was to leave her out and Toby confesses that it was his.

Josh comes back and is greeted by a sympathetic Donna, who takes his coat. Then Josh ushers Toby and C.J. into his office and closes the door. I forgot until this moment that they hadn’t been informed yet what documents Lillienfield has that could get Leo into trouble.

Hey, is this supposed to be some sort of, “See? There’s stuff we don’t tell Toby, too! It’s not just ’cause you’re a girl!” moment? Because if so, :-P and also nope.

A weird shot of one of those TVs that hangs from a ceiling of war footage, and then Sam sighing heavily, although whether it’s about the war or about Leo is unclear. Mandy stops by and asks Sam if he talked to Josh. Sam isn’t trying to hear her, because of the Leo stuff. “You’re a political consultant,” he tells her. “You’re job isn’t to stop the fight; it’s to win it.” I’m pretty sure this should get a 7, even though the screw-up hasn’t actually been made yet.

Josh comes by and calls Sam away.

Leo tells Lord Marbury that whatever Lord Marbury says is ridiculous. Lord Marbury patronizes at Leo some more, and patronizes the U.S., and also patronizes India and Pakistan. “It is about religion,” he claims and also, “They do not share your fear of the bomb.” If I were dealing with race/ethnicity/nationality, this would get numbers. But I’m not.

Lord Marbury gets a telegram and goes somewhere else to answer it. I am reminded of a joke about prestige, but I fear that to tell it here would strain your patience. If you want to hear it, message me or ask in the comments. While he’s gone, the president informs Leo that Lord Marbury will be staying a while. Leo complains that Lord Marbury thinks Leo is the butler. “For the first few weeks, so did I,” says the president. Rude, Mr. President. Rude enough to get a -5, as it’s a man being rude to his male subordinate.

Margaret comes in and whispers in Leo’s ear, and Leo excuses himself. Turns out Toby, Sam, C.J., and Josh Anyway, Josh is basically warning Leo that this is all about to become public, like, now, and also vows his ongoing loyalty.

The president and Charlie are chatting. The president is trying to think of a quote from Revelations about horses. Charlie doesn’t know it. The president assures Charlie that his hesitation about Charlie and Zoe dating is not because Charlie is black. But Charlie already understood that it was just about Charlie being a male human being. The president gives his blessing to the relationship, which is nice, but still 2, but not another 2, just the same old 2 as above. The president also warns him that, although he’s fine with Charlie being black and dating Zoe, other people will not be. “You know what to do with the mail, right?” he says. “Yes, sir,” says Charlie. But I don’t! Mr. President, what should he do with the mail?!

The president asks Charlie to look for that Revelations quote and sends him off. The senior staff enter from Leo’s office and Leo tells the president what all is going on with him and drugs and the shit that’s about to hit the fan. (I never think about that expression without thinking about 10 Things I Hate About You, by the way, and adding Shakespearean “-eth”s to the ends of the words.) The president also pledges his loyalty to Leo. Lord Marbury enters and reports that a two-week ceasefire has been worked out at the U.N. Which is not a lot, but it’s two weeks more than zero. The president asks Lord Marbury to stick around, and he agrees to stay as long as they need him. Then Lord Marbury pontificates to the room about the backwards, medieval, psychotic attitudes towards religion that these stupid brown people have half a world away. The music swells so I guess I’m supposed to think this is intelligent or inspiring. Lord Marbury also already knows the Revelations quote, about horses and death and the end of the world. He says he thinks they can stop this war but he’s going to need a light (for his cigarette) and the president smiles.

I’m going to be straight with you all. A) I don’t know enough about anything to know why what Lord Marbury says about India and Pakistan is so offensive and wrong. I only know it makes my skin crawl. B) The first time I watched this episode, I went to sleep immediately afterward, and I woke up in a dead panic. India and Pakistan were on the brink of nuclear war! It took me a little while to remember that this was fiction.

Total Misogyny Points: 23

Misogyny & Aaron Sorkin – “The West Wing,” 1.10, “In Excelsis Deo”

There are many things I should be doing right now (like going to bed) but I am choosing this instead.

To remind you, I am using these posts to a) recap a much-beloved (by me and in general) TV show, and b) point out the misogyny in it. Because I like to combine my two favorite activities – watching TV I love, and hate-watching! 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 (or other emotions/behaviors) 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.
  11. Lip service is paid to female power or agency or simply the existence of females in this world without, oh, say, actually casting one or giving one something cool to do.
  12. A male character or characters act(s) as white knight to a female character or characters.
  13. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! – A display of homophobia


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

Previously, on “The West Wing,” Danny brought C.J. a goldfish; Sam tried to save his escort friend from her degrading lifestyle; and Leo revealed to Josh, after a Congressman named Lillienfield started talking about drugs at the White House, that not only is he addicted to alcohol, he has also gone through addiction to prescription medication.

It’s Thursday, December 23 at 7:30 am. Oh, shit, it’s the Christmas episode. You guys, I have to warn you, I have . . . allergies, okay? Hay fever.

Anyway, we’re in the foyer and there’s Christmas decorations and Mandy is telling C.J. something to do with Christmas media event plans. Dickensian costumes and Santa hats. Yeah, I’m agreeing with C.J. that they will, in fact, clash. But already we passed the Bechdel test! Go episode! -10!

And then Toby grouses about why he has to be there because caring about Christmas stuff is for girls. 4. 

Sam seems significantly less cranky about Christmas planning than Toby. Then Sam and Toby get into a stupid fight about the year 2000 not being the actual start of the new millennium. I didn’t care in 1999 and I’m certainly not going to care now. Toby is adorably grumpy, though.

As they are pede-arguing, one of the assistants – Bonnie, I think? – stops Toby because she’s got the D.C. police on the line. Shit. It is this episode. I have a dust in my eyes, people! Dust!

Toby peels off and Sam tries to get C.J. to care about when the millennium starts. She does a decent job of seeming like she cares, until she informs a Secret Service agent that she’s on her way to the Oval Office and the Secret Service agents says into his wrist-thingie, “Flamingo is on her way.” I’m giving a 1 to this Flamingo-as-C.J.’s-code-name thing. It’s not exactly slapstick but it’s using her body for comedy.


Misogyny Points Thus Far: 1 

Park. Park bench. Dude sleeping on park bench. Toby approaches a total “Hey, it’s that Guy!” I know he was the dude in “Fringe,” the, like, head of their department or something? And other stuff but I don’t remember what right now. Anyway, he is the D.C. police guy, and he reveals that it was not a dude sleeping on a park bench. It was a dude dead on a park bench. A dude by the name of Walter Hufnagle. Because Aaron Sorkin loves his names. Toby doesn’t know the guy, but apparently he had Toby’s business card in his jacket pocket. Because Toby gave a coat to Goodwill and the coat had his business card in it.

Toby is sort of horrified that the dead body is still there, and is also disgusted that the guy, despite being a veteran (as evidenced by a tattoo on his forearm), isn’t receiving a whole lot of respect.

We’re back at the White House, in Josh’s section, where Donna has greeted Josh. Donna has apparently prepared a list of things she’d like Josh to buy her, all ski-related, despite the fact that she doesn’t ski. Because girls, right? 8. Then Josh tells Donna he has to meet with Leo to talk about Donna’s Christmas present and Donna goes, “Really?”, all hopeful, like she believes him. 8. Then he promises Donna to think about the skis and, as soon as her back is turned, he throws her list in the trash. 5.

Leo is at Margaret’s desk, signing Christmas cards with Margaret and being irritable with her 5 despite the fact that Margaret is no happier about this activity than he is. Leo sends Margaret out of the room so that he and Josh can talk about Lillienfield having the information about Leo and his pill addiction. Josh speculates that Lillienfield is going to wait until after Christmas, when people are paying attention, to drop the other shoe. So he wants to go on a preemptive strike – using Sam’s escort friend. Ugh, Josh. Just ugh. Let’s give this a 2 and see if there are any other numbers we can use as this plot line progresses.

Leo is against this plan, because “we don’t do these things”. Good for you, Leo.

Josh is about to leave when Leo fills him in on a recent hate crime against a gay teen. I’m assuming this is the fictional version of Matthew Shephard. Although Matthew Shephard’s assailants were not thirteen years old, as these fictional assailants are. So, Leo tells Josh, they are going to have to talk about hate crimes legislation, and C.J. is going to send up a “test balloon” at her briefing to get a feel for where the public is on this.

Josh goes and Leo bitches at Margaret some more. 5.

C.J. is giving the press the president’s holiday schedule, with a cute line about how he’s leaving at 5 a.m., no delays, so that means probably noon. One of the journalists brings up not-Matthew Shephard – whose name is Lowell Lydell – and C.J. confirms his condition and, in response to a question about whether this will bring up hate crimes legislation, C.J. says she supposes it would have been better to bring it up before Lowell Lydell was assaulted.

Toby is on the phone trying to get information about Walter Hufnagle. It’s not going well. Mandy is knocking on his door. Toby tries to explain what’s going on and Mandy doesn’t care because she’s soulless. 8? Apparently she wants to talk about the Dickensian costumes/Santa hats issue. Toby mocks her. 4 & 5. Not because he’s wrong, but because what function does this exchange serve other than to illustrate that Man Toby is dealing with Sensitive, Important Things like Homeless Vets whereas Stupid Girl Mandy is dealing with Stupid Girl Stuff. Toby goes back to his phone call.

MPTF: 10

Josh is walking and Donna joins him for a pedeconference. Only they actually stop walking because Donna does not, as Josh assumes, want to talk about her Christmas list, but instead wants to know what’s going on with Leo. Josh closes the door to his office and gets a little pissy that Donna was talking to Margaret about this but Donna does not feel bad and Josh doesn’t really look that surprised or angry. Donna is disappointed that Josh isn’t doing anything about it. Josh feels bad about that. It’s the first exchange EVER between Donna and Josh that hasn’t set off my Misogyny Meter.

C.J. is leading a group of kids into the foyer with all the Christmas stuff and instructing them on how to talk to the president. The president enters and the kids, as instructed, give a hale and hearty, “Good Morning, Mr. President!” The president makes dad jokes at them and it’s adorable. C.J. smiles and is also adorable. But then Charlie gestures and C.J. escorts him away so that Charlie can inform them that Lowell Lydell has died of his injuries. Everyone is sad. Then the president has to go back and make some more dad jokes at the kids.

In a hallway, C.J. is walking when Sam joins her. He feels she didn’t so much send up a test balloon as a test firework. She doesn’t see why that’s bad, and Sam says they’re not sure where they stand on this. C.J. knows exactly where she stands on people throwing rocks at the heads of gay teenagers. Sam tells her to pull back anyway.

C.J. wants to know what Sam’s new Secret Service nickname is. It’s “Princeton.” C.J.’s is, as you may recall, “Flamingo.” Yeah, I’m keeping the going for this. Sam is trying to extricate himself from this conversation because 8 and they peel away from each other.

MPTF: 12

Another assistant – who is actually maybe Bonnie and the other one from before is Nancy? – asks Sam how he’s doing. Sam claims he is 27 hours from Bermuda and therefore doing fine. I, having watched TV before, am going to bet a whole lot of money that he will not, in fact, be in Bermuda in 27 hours.

Josh approaches Sam and follows him into his office. Josh wants Sam to introduce him to Laurie, his escort friend, so that he can get information from her. Sam initially protests, but then Josh reveals the thing about the pills and that it happened while Leo was Secretary of Labor. Josh reminds Sam that they “owe Leo everything,” and Sam agrees to call her and go see her with them.

In the office that’s right outside the Oval Office, Mrs. Landingham reminds Charlie to remind the president that the president is allergic to eggnog. Charlie agrees, and comments on how festive the White House looks. Mrs. Landingham looks disinterested, which is, of course, why Charlie brought this up. He notes that she seems a little down this week.

You guys. Allergies. Mrs. Landingham reveals that her twin sons chose not to defer when they were drafted for Vietnam, instead joining as medics (as they were in medical school at the time). Then they were killed in battle on Christmas Eve. “It’s hard when that happens so far away, you know, because, with the noises and the shooting, they must have been so scared. It’s hard not to think that, right then, they needed their mother.” ALLERGIES, YOU GUYS. IT IS SO DUSTY IN HERE. I cannot praise Kathryn Joosten (Mrs. Landingham) enough for her work in this scene. She’s so matter-of-fact, so plainspoken in her description. It’s spare and quiet and I’m going to be crying all night now.

Toby is at a memorial – I think the Vietnam one? But then it must be the Korea one because that was where Walter Hufnagle fought? There is a Korean War memorial, right? Toby talks to a vendor about Walter to get more information. The vendor tells Toby that Walter had a community that hangs out at “Capital and P”. Toby asks if the vendor is a veteran and, when he says yes, Toby introduces himself and shakes his hand. God, his puppy eyes in this storyline break my heart.

Mandy is in the Oval Office yelling at the president for not letting her send a couple of (press) guys to photograph him shopping at a rare books store. 3 for her general demeanor and 4 and for the president’s dismissiveness towards her for trying to do her job. Josh comes in and the president asks him to come along. Josh is astounded that the president manages to sneak out for excursions like this every once in a while. The president asks Josh if he knows about the underground tunnels out of the White House. Josh does. The president says he hasn’t found them, even though he looks almost every day. Hee. Josh for some reason is hesitant to go because these people I guess don’t want to write books or have any fun. I’ll go with you to a rare books store, Mr. President. Josh asks if he can be dropped off the Washington Monument instead. The president gets in the line of the night when he says, “It’s Christmas, Josh! No reason we can’t do both!”

C.J. is pulled into a pedeconference by Danny, who knows all about the president’s secret excursions, because of course he does. He’s like the opposite of 9 in that he’s a male character who should actually be kept in the dark about many things but of course knows them anyway. So any time he does that I think I’m going to give it a reverse 9. It’s my system and I can do what I want, that’s why.

MPTF: 16

Anyway, Danny didn’t want to talk to C.J. about work, of course. He wants to talk to C.J. about the list he put together on why they should date. C.J. tells him to give her a few hours to put a list together of why they shouldn’t and complains again about the code name “Flamingo” 1. Danny goes and Sam comes up and C.J. asks what Sam and Josh have going on tonight. Sam assumes she knows about their plans with Laurie but in fact C.J. was inviting them over for dinner. This is stupid. Why wouldn’t she ask Josh separately if that were the case? I mean, why would she assume that Sam would know what Josh’s plans were for dinner? And now, because Sam is acting suspicious, C.J. knows something is, in fact, up. Sam is not super-quick. But Sam insists that it’s nothing, again, and the scene ends.

At the rare book store. The president is very excited about a book he’s found and Leo is not really entertained. Mandy complains to Josh that they couldn’t bring some press, and Josh complains about how boring the selections here are, while describing what sounds to me like a perfectly interesting book.

The president wants Leo to come up to Manchester with him for Christmas, but Leo wants to stay back and work. Then Leo tells the president that after the holidays, they’ll have to deal with his Lillienfield situation, but the president ain’t tryin’ to hear that. Charlie ushers the president out while very politely making fun of the president’s gift of choice for Zoe. Leo reminds Josh not to talk to Sam’s escort friend and they go.

Toby walks down to Capital & 9, where bunch of homeless guys are in line for soup. One of the homeless guys points out Walter Hufnagle’s brother and tells Toby he’s a little slow.

Toby finds the brother under a bridge or overpass or something, where George Hufnagle identifies himself. Toby tells him his brother is dead and George Hufnagle reacts like a slow, sad man in a Frank Capra film. Toby very awkwardly tries to explain what he’s doing while George Hufnagle focuses on the northeasterly winds off the Chesapeake and does not understand at all what it means that his brother was a veteran who got a purple heart. (Purple Heart?) George also reveals that he slept at the shelter to avoid the winds but there weren’t enough beds for Walter.

Toby decides to tell George that Walter deserves a proper funeral and very uncomfortably tells George he is very influential and wants to make sure Walter gets that funeral. One of the other guys – the guy who pointed George out to Toby – assures Toby he’ll make sure George is there to be picked up for the funeral the next day and then refuses to take Toby’s money.

We’re in C.J.’s office with Danny and C.J. is reading her list. Danny, it turns out, only made a mental list. Danny gives C.J. fish food as a Christmas present and tells C.J. that he’s going to ignore her list because he thinks it’s ridiculous (his words!) and because he has a crush on her. Blergh. Argh. Danny, it’s not even remotely within the vicinity of “ridiculous” that the press secretary doesn’t think she should date a White House reporter. 4. And calling her “ridiculous” is rude. 8. Also, you have a crush on her and that’s supposed to make your total disrespect for her professional and personal boundaries okay? 12 and STFU! (I’m using 12 for now but I may need another number for Nice Guy phenomena. We’ll see.)

Leo comes in to C.J.’s office (wouldn’t she normally be called in to his) to tell her to dial down the hate crimes talk. He doesn’t know what side they’re on when it comes to hate crimes. C.J. continues to know what side she’s on. Leo understands her argument – that this was a crime of entertainment, fueled by pathological homophobia – but isn’t sure we should legislate how people think.

You guys, when I first saw this episode, I thought this was a valid argument on both sides. Now I know it’s kindergarten stuff. The issue with hate crime legislation is not “legislating how people think,” it’s about whose jurisdiction the crime is in, since a community with citizens that hold virulent enough homophobia (or racism, or sexism, or anti-Semitism, or what have you) may also have police, judges, lawyers, and jury members that hold virulent homophobia and therefore they may not be able to be trusted to investigate and prosecute the case fairly. And it annoys me when this show, with all its pretensions of high-minded debate and intellectual rigor, goes this immature on important and substantial issues.

But this is not about misogyny. Although now two men who are higher on the totem pole than C.J. have told her to sit down, shut up, and keep her opinions to herself. So maybe I think it’s time for an 8.

MPTF: 21

C.J. is also dismayed that Leo has no plans for Christmas and offers to come cook him something. What? And Leo is dismissive of this. 4.

Oh, good, the boys are at Laurie’s place. She looks suspicious. As well she should be. Sam explains the situation condescendingly and Laurie, who gets more than he thought she would, is fucking pissed, as well she should be. Then Josh gets really rude and threatening and Sam tries to defend him and then Josh tries to pretend he didn’t mean to be rude. Then he actually does apologize and Laurie tells him they’re the good guys and they should act like it.

I don’t even have enough numbers to throw at this scene. A 6 for her calling them the good guys. A 2 for the entire plan and maybe an 8 for how Josh talked to her and a 4 for Sam being surprised that she understood what was going on and an extra for when Josh said he didn’t want to take civics lessons from a hooker. Good God, y’all, that was bad.

C.J. is arguing with Leo some more about hate crimes legislation and it continues to be the junior high debate team version of this issue. Then Sam and Josh come in and Leo sends C.J. out and then hollers at the boys for going to Laurie. Which is great but I’m also giving this a 7 because this should be two guys who screwed up at their jobs by doing something boneheaded and stupid and mean and awful that their boss told them not to do. But of course, they are valiant, noble guys who were only doing it to protect Leo. Josh says they meant well. Leo asks, “Is that supposed to mean something to me?” Josh says, “No,” but then Leo says, “It does.” They proved their loyalty. A screw-up but for a good reason.

Sam leaves but Josh stays to talk more to Leo about how miserable this is all going to be. But Leo knows. And Josh will be working through Christmas.

C.J. says Merry Christmas to the press corps then pulls Danny over. She is looking for him to agree with her on hate crimes, in exchange for which she will go on a date with him. Ugh. 2. He does not agree, even more vehemently than Leo didn’t agree. For some reason, C.J. wants to go on a date with him anyway. 2 again. And then she fixates on the Flamingo thing again and glares at him. Women who have interest in men in Aaron Sorkin scripts behave in the oddest ways towards them. 1. For the Flamingo thing.

Josh is right outside C.J.’s office and asks how Danny is doing. Danny doesn’t know. Because women, they are so confusing. 8. Donna opens her present from Josh, which is a rare book about skiing. He tells Donna he wrote a note inside. He wrote on the inside cover of a rare book?! The fuck, Josh?!

Anyway, Donna starts to read the note and she gets weepy because it’s sweet, even as Josh tells her not to get weepy. 4. “You see? You spend most of your time being, you know, you, 3 and then you right something like this to me.” And she goes in for a big hug and then says, “Skis would have killed you?” 8.

MPTF: 35

The president comes in to some room where there are Christmas decorations and a choir and people clapping.

Mrs. Landingham wishes Toby a good morning and says the president would like to see him. She asks if he used the president’s name to arrange a funeral with a homeless veteran. Yes, in fact, he did. Mrs. Landingham tells him he shouldn’t have done that but I think the looks that pass between them indicate that she’s really glad he did.

As they listen to the choir sing “Little Drummer Boy” (which, incidentally, is Zoe’s favorite Christmas carol. I myself prefer Bruce Springsteen Christmas – although I am also fond of my sister’s fiancé making fun of Bruce Springsteen Christmas – but of the traditional carols, “Little Drummer Boy” is my favorite, too.), Mandy continues to natter on about the rare book shopping excursion and the PR opportunity the president is forcing her to miss and he’s telling her to can it. A 3 and a 5, I should think.

Then the president brings Toby into the Oval. He kind of gives Toby a little shit for arranging things in the president’s name but he’s obviously not really angry. Toby explains what happened. The president says, “You don’t think if we pull strings like this every homeless veteran will come out of the woodwork?”

“I can only hope, sir,” Toby replies, quietly. I swoon a little.

Mandy comes in to tell the president his absence in the other room is conspicuous. They leave the office, and Mrs. Landingham, already in her winter gear, asks Toby if she might come along. You guys. THERE IS DUST. So much dust.

So now we cut between scenes of the military funeral, and the choir of children singing “Little Drummer Boy,” and also the rest of the senior staff gathering, lined up in profile like a Norman Rockwell painting, listening to the choir. I give it up. It’s not dust or allergies. I’m openly sobbing in front of my computer at midnight. Heartstrings? Effectively pulled.

Total Misogyny Points: 37. A pretty heavily misogynistic episode. But also a great one for Richard Schiff and Kathryn Joosten.


Oscars 2015!

Kate: It’s here it’s here it’s here!!!

Erica: Tonight, we will be joined for a few looks by my resident fashion expert, Zoe. She drew some pictures of outfits, and of the hairstyles and jewelry she thinks they ought to have worn. I will present them below, but first, since we’re not including them in the official look, here are her drawings of Kelly Osbourne’s dress:

oscars 2015 zoe kelly osbourne

Zoe: The back of her dress could use a little cut. It could just take away one frill. The shoes should be a high heel.

Erica: But they are a high heel.

Zoe. I mean like a total high heel. And less black.


Erica: – and Giuliana Rancic’s:

oscars 2015 zoe giuliana rancic

Zoe: I feel sort of weird that her body shows. I think it needs to be a little more covered up. It could be a little trimmed — a tiny bit, but not too much. Her hair should be in a bun-braid. The earrings should be a little fancier and longer.

Erica: And also Jason has a comment or two to make.

Kate: Ian does too, when he’s not having an aneurysm while watching Illinois basketball. My favorite Oscars ever is still the one Billy Crystal hosted when Titanic was nominated 30000 times.

Erica: Was that the same one that had Matt Damon and Ben Affleck nominated for Good Will Hunting and he sang, “Matt and Ben/You are so young” to the tune of Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”? Because that was my favorite, too.

Kate: I believe so.

Erica: Also, one quick question for the evening: Am I the only person in the whole wide universe who sees Bradley Cooper and goes, “Fine”? “Fine” as in, “I mean he’s nice looking and all, but does absolutely nothing for me,” not as in, “Fiiiiiine.”

Kate: Stop it, he’s sexy. And awayyyyyyyyyyy we GO!


America Ferrera

oscars 2015 america ferrera

Zoe: I think that wherever it needed to be sewed or patched, there should be a gemstone line, silver, like the middle of her dress.

oscars 2015 zoe america ferrara

Erica: I think the dress is really, really lovely. I am impressed.

Kate: Really? I don’t like it at all. I’m not completely sure why, but I don’t. Her hair looks like Katharine McPhee’s at the Grammys, a.k.a. half up and bad.


Anna Faris

oscars 2015 anna faris

Kate: Oh this is just so sparkly and pretty. She looks like a twinkly glass of champagne and stardust.

Erica: Yeah? I mean, I think she looks nice enough but I’m not enamored.

Kate: I don’t like her hair that much, but the dress is so freaking adorable I almost don’t care. (Almost.)

Erica: I like her a lot, but I feel like her hair always looks a little meh.


Anna Kendrick

oscars 2015 anna kendrick

Erica: Damn, she looks good.

Kate: GORGEOUS! Omg I love this. It’s kind of Ancient Grecian/Egyptian? Love!

Erica: I think it’s more modern than anything else, but it is really flattering on her.

Zoe: I think there should be an opal-studded belt at the middle and a silver necklace with an opal at the end, with a gold frame around it. I think there should be another opal at the top of the neck triangle.

oscars 2015 zoe anna kendrick

Kate: Too much opal, Zoe, and you know how I feel about belts. In some pictures the dress looks pink/coral, in others it looks more red/orange, and the red/orange looks better. The hair is a little more structured than I like hers to be, but she probably had to do that because of the neckline of that fabulous dress. Best dressed nominee?

Erica: I’m not actually as enamored of this. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it (except that the color looks weird with the red carpet). It looks flawless on her. I just…I don’t know. I don’t love it.

Kate: Giuliana Rancic and Khloe Kardashian were discussing this dress on the pre-show and Khloe said it’s not an “Oscar color” and it looks like she’s “going to a dance”. DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON WHAT YOU WEAR YOU EFFING HORRENDOUS DECREPIT PIECE OF GARBAGE! I’m back on my I-want-to-kill-a-Kardashian rant.

Erica: Oh, I am fast-forwarding but I thought I heard someone say that. It sounded to me like someone looking for something negative to say.

Kate: Well I’ve got lots of negative things to say about the person who said it!


Cate Blanchett

oscars 2015 cate blanchett

Kate: Not my favorite from Ms. Blanchett, but she might be close to if not already in that “I don’t give a f*ck” category with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep.

Erica: I kind of love the statement necklace.

Kate: The boring dress would look a lot worse without the statement necklace, but I think the necklace itself is more I’m-going-to-brunch than I’m-going-to-the-Oscars, so I’m conflicted about it. Don’t like the hair and makeup.

Erica: I think her lip gloss is flawless and I think, once you put the necklace with the dress, you’ve got Oscars.


Dakota Johnson

oscars 2015 dakota johnson

Kate: Remember Er, she didn’t write 50 Shades, and she is not actually Anastasia Steele. She just chose to be in the movie. Let’s leave that aside and be objective in our judgment of her outfit.

Erica: I can put that all aside (although, if she wanted me to put aside her 50 Shades connections, maybe she shouldn’t have worn a silver rope on her dress). I still feel like, meh.

Kate: I think this is a little too night-out-on-the-town and slinky for the Oscars. Also, that ponytail? That’s what my hair looks like when I’m in my apartment and I know no one else will see it (minus the bangs, thank God I got rid of those).

Erica: Yeah, I’m not super-excited about the hair or anything to do with the outfit.

Kate: I am overall a little bored by her, I just don’t think she’s that pretty or interesting. But her mom is Melanie Griffith, apparently?

Erica: Yeah, I know that. Her and Don Johnson. She actually looks a lot like Melanie Griffith.


Emma Stone

oscars 2015 emma stone

Erica: Oh, man.

Kate: Hate it.

Erica: I don’t hate the hair but I hate the dress A LOT. She continues to be a charming and pleasant person, though.

Kate: Hate the hair, hate the color, hate the silhouette, very upset about the downhill-ness of her red carpet looks from year to year.


Felicity Jones

oscars 2015 felicity jones

Kate: Hmmm…I don’t think I love this as much as her Globes and SAGs dresses.

Ian: She’s wearing the wedding cake from Seinfeld.

Erica: So, it’s interesting. And, like I said in our Grammys coverage, I’m into not boring lately. But…I don’t know. I don’t like it. But it is interesting.

Kate: Let’s see. I like the color on her. I think it’s a beautiful and dramatic gown that looks expertly made — very Alexander McQueen — but something about the overall look is just not doing it for me. I’m sad about having that feeling because I love her.

Erica: You know what, maybe I do like it. The more I see it, the more I think, you know, it’s glamorous and well-made and a little cutting-edge and I am looking forward to her red carpet future.


Gwyneth Paltrow

oscars 2015 gwyneth paltrow

Kate: Ewwww!

Erica: Heehee.

Kate: That was my exact reaction upon seeing the first picture of this dress: EW. You can do better, Gwyneth!

Erica: My first reaction was, Heehee!

Kate: That shade of pink looks nice against her skin and hair but it’s so yay-we’re-having-a-girl, I can’t stand it on the Oscars red carpet. And that SLEEVE? No.
Erica: I do not like it but I am massively entertained by it. She’s looking kind of orange, no?

Kate: Orange and wearing ice blue eye shadow. I canNOT with you right now, Gwyneth.


Jennifer Aniston

oscars 2015 jennifer aniston

Kate: Well this just knocks it out of the park now doesn’t it?

Erica: Very sexy.

Kate: I love it. I don’t love it enough to give her a best dressed nomination because I wish she had done something else with her hair, but I love it.

Erica: I feel like it’s a little too boring for best dressed, but I like her hair. It’s her, you know?

Kate: It must be tough to show up after getting a nomination snub. #TeamJen forever. Why is the world so out to get her?!


Jennifer Lopez

oscars 2015 jennifer lopez

Kate: Holy cow. Now that’s an Oscars dress!

Erica: For real.

Kate: I sort of wish one of the nominees had worn this — maybe Felicity Jones, or someone with flat boobs — but it looks great on J. Lo. I really like her high bouncy pony. Makeup is a little too neon.

Zoe: That’s a winner for the night, don’t you think?

Kate: I like it a lot, Zo!

Erica: Me, too. And you know, I like that she usually looks like a sex goddess, and this is more princessy (albeit with a lot of cleavage), but it also looks amazing on her. And it’s my kind of dress, you know? I like Elie Saab. Although Emma Stone is in Elie Saab, too, and I hate that.


Jessica Chastain

oscars 2015 jessica chastain

Kate: Ooooh I like. I think?

Erica: I love. I really really really love. She looks fantastic. I already love that color, and I thought I loved it best on blondes but it looks damn good with her red hair.

Kate: It’s very sexy and flattering, and yes the blue looks great on her. Very Christina Hendricks. But the hair and makeup may be a bit too casual/plain, and I do not think she needs the necklace.

Erica: No way, no way, no way. This is in the top five for me.


Julianne Moore

oscars 2015 julianne moore

Kate: There’s something about that curved strapless silhouette that is very flattering. I just wish it only had the embellishment on top and bottom and not near the hips; the one near the hips breaks up the dress in a weird way.

Erica: Oh, I think the embellishment at the hips is very flattering and glam.

Kate: I am not so into this color on her, but the sleek low bun with the deep side part might make up for that. Yeah, I think the hair is making up for the color. #Weddinghairpossibility

Erica: I totes think your hair should look like that for the wedding. I mean, except, yours should be brown.


Keira Knightley

oscars 2015 kiera knightley

Kate: Her Golden Globes gown was atrocious, then she almost redeemed herself with the SAGs frock. Now she’s back to sucking. I hate this whole entire situation.

Erica: Really? I like this one. It’s romantic and pretty. I would like it if the color were just a little more fine-tuned — it looks like Silly Putty, a bit — but I love the look. I like romance and floral and embroidery. Also, pregnancy is looking good on her.

Kate: Completely disagree.


Kerry Washington

oscars 2015 kerry washington

Kate: Oh I’m so glad the peplum is back on the red carpet, said no one ever.

Erica: The thing is, she looks great, even if the dress does not.

Kate: This dress is half mother-of-the-bride, half quilt. Hate it. I feel like Anthony Marantino on that episode of SATC when he goes wedding dress shopping with Charlotte: “HATES IT!” I like her hair, though.

Erica: Yeah. I don’t like the dress. But her hair and makeup and general personality are flawless.


Lady Gaga

oscars 2015 lady gaga

Kate: Theeerreeee’s the Gaga we all know and love. She looks quite out of her mind.

Erica: No, but for real, what is going on with her face? I know she’s never been stunningly pretty or anything, but something is happening that looks severely unhealthy.

Kate: I think she has just gained weight, she was alarmingly skinny before. Alas, I hate the gloves. Way to start a stupid trend, Amal!

Erica: Please. On Amal, they were classy and glam. Lady Gaga’s are just…Well, whatever. She’s Lady Gaga. That’s what she does. Most of the time.

Kate: I just don’t like the looseness — elbow-length gloves should fit you right.


Laura Dern

oscars 2015 laura dern

Kate: Wow! This is much more interesting than what she usually wears. We never even include her in these posts even though she is at every single award show, but I felt like we had to include her tonight because she is nominated.

Erica: That is interesting. I don’t like it, but it’s interesting.

Kate: I don’t think she needs that big necklace with so much going on all over the dress, and the clutch is too matchy-matchy. Hair also a little too casual, very Jennifer Aniston, but this is overall a good look. Not the BEST, but good.

Ian: She looks like she’s going into a joust match. She’s dressed in a medieval suit of armor.

Erica: In that case, she’s leaving a lot dangerously uncovered. I actually like her hair. I mean, yes, I guess it’s casual, but it also looks really nice.


Lupita Nyong’o

oscars 2015 lupita nyong'o

Kate: She would be the one to wear a dress made partially of pearls, and I would be the one to say I do not like it, not one bit.

Erica: I want to like it, I do. I like the concept. And I love stark white on very dark skin. And I like her. But yeah, no.

Kate: There’s a scene in the truly amazing film Burlesque during which Christina Aguilera’s character performs a sexy routine in a shorter version of this. I like the Burlesque dress better. Worst dressed nominee.

Erica: I can’t do it. I can’t give her worst dressed. I like her too much.


Margot Robbie

oscars 2015 margot robbie

Kate: Smoke show.

Erica: She looks like sex walking.

Kate: This dress could be too old-ladyish, but I think the hair, makeup, necklace and deep V actually prevent that and make it pretty hot.

Erica: Yeah, totes agree with all of your points.


Marion Cotillard

oscars 2015 marion cotillard

Kate: I think you cannot look like this if you are American. There is just something about Europeans, they have an extra layer of elegance and chicness Americans can never even hope to achieve. Maybe that’s why Audrey Hepburn was so perfect.

Erica: She looks amazing and perfect. The dress is daring and interesting and high-fashion. It looks great on her and it’s interesting and glamorous.

Kate: This dress is actually pretty extreme couture — like, it would be great on an American at the Met Ball, but on Marion Cotillard at the Oscars? Effortlessly striking perfection. Best dressed nominee!


Meryl Streep

oscars 2015 meryl streep

Kate: Her usual flawless black-and-white, I-don’t-give-a-f*ck elegance. Could do without the belt, but Meryl does not give a f*ck about what I could do without.

Erica: She is the Grand High Duchess of Not Giving a F*ck.


Naomi Watts

oscars 2015 naomi watts

Kate: I do NOT like that it looks like she’s wearing a bandeau under her dress. I hate bandeaus. If you’re wearing one, you’re wearing a shirt you bought knowing you couldn’t wear a normal bra under it, and that’s just too silly for me to approve of. I get that the bandeau may just be part of her dress, but I still don’t like it.

Erica: Is she at all comfortable? Like, isn’t she awfully itchy in that? I was reading something regarding what to dress little ones in for weddings (for no particular reason) and it advised that a whole bodice with sparkles, while pretty, was going to itch under their arms like crazy. And that’s all I could think about looking at this.

Kate: I don’t like the dress at all, and I really don’t like the dark purple lipstick against her fair skin and light blond hair. It doesn’t even match the ugly dress!

Erica: Naomi Watts is very pretty but I hate all of this.


Nicole Kidman

oscars 2015 nicole kidman

Kate: So I still really enjoy her long bob, but I cannot help but wonder if she has worn this dress before?

Erica: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t much like it.

Kate: I’m also not sure if it’s white or gold or iridescent or all three? The hideousness of that clutch is making me very angry. I blame Covet for my noticing the clutches more than I usually do.

Erica: Blame? Or thank? I really hate the color on her.



Patricia Arquette

oscars 2015 patricia arquette

Kate: This dress is nice and she looks fine, but I was really hoping for something else from her. She knows she’s going to win!

Erica: But I think her thing is to look, basically, fine. I get the sense that she just tries to look appropriate for the occasion, and not, like wildly sexy and glam and amazing. That said, her hair? Not really acceptable for the occasion.

Kate: Agree on the hair. This is actually a very Meryl dress, and Meryl she is not.

oscars 2015 zoe patricia arquette

Zoe: I think there should be better silver earrings. I want the purse replaced with a necklace and a bracelet. I think there should be a repeating frill on the higher sleeve.

Kate: I am not sure how I feel about “repeating frill”.


Reese Witherspoon

oscars 2015 reese witherspoon

Kate: The hair, the makeup, the jewelry and the dress are all so very Reese. It’s interesting that she chose to wear white to every award show this year, white is a bold choice.

Erica: She really looks flawless.

Kate: Many will say this is boring, and maybe it is a little bit, but she still just looks so good. I love her. I can’t wait to watch Wild.

Erica: I don’t know, it’s just so smooth and perfect. Her hair, her makeup. It’s not a remarkable dress, but it’s a really great look on her.


Rosamund Pike

oscars 2015 rosamund pike

Kate: I do like me some red on the red carpet.

Ian: I likes it!

Erica: Holy moly she looks AMAZING. Very, very, very tiny, but I FREAKING LOVE THIS DRESS. And this whole look. LOVE.

Kate: Agree, she looks fantastic. I like that the dress is less “out there” than most of her other choices, and her body looks hot-damn incredible. I also really like the very simple makeup and hair. Another best dressed nominee! (So far it’s Anna Kendrick, Marion Cotillard, and Rosamund Pike. Just so we’re keeping track.)

Erica: So for me, it’s Rosamund Pike, Jessica Chastain and Marion Cotillard. And maybe Jennifer Lopez, though I agree with you that the makeup is a little much. But I have to say, I feel like these ladies brought it tonight.


Scarlett Johansson

oscars 2015 scarlett johansson

Kate: The color and silhouette are fantastic on her. I cannot figure out what is happening on her neck.

Erica: The neck thing looks weird.

Kate: The neck thing is probably too much for me, and the hair is way too punk for the Oscars, but if I just focus on the dress, it’s perfection.

Erica: I don’t know. It’s a good color but the neck and the neckline just look super-weird.

Jason: She looks like an alien.

Erica: And Jason usually loves her.


Sienna Miller

oscars 2015 sienna miller

Ian: Ooooh! What’s she in?

Kate: She played Chris Kyle’s wife in American Sniper, and we like her better as a brunette, remember?

Ian: Oh yea.

Kate: I like this dress and extremely fierce makeup. The multiple bows are a little much, but it’s overall nice on her. I HATE the hair — what is this, Little House on the Prairie? When they zoomed in on it during the pre-show it was either a) still wet, b) hairsprayed within an inch of its life or c) both, and that irked me. A lot.

Erica: I’m not sure why I can’t stand her and have, like, visceral euch reactions to her every time I see her. I might be a bad person.

Kate: When do you see her besides at award shows? But that’s how I feel about all the Kardashians. And Miley Cyrus. And Rihanna and Beyonce. Hmm…

Erica: I think you are carrying a lot more anger towards all of those people than I am towards Sienna Miller. But there is something about her that just makes me go bleh.


Zoe Saldana

oscars 2015 zoe saldana

Erica: She looks amazing.

Kate: The color looks absolutely beautiful against her skin, but the detail on the hips and the necklace and the hair are extremely unflattering. The spaghetti straps make it look like lingerie.

Erica: Really? I think this is so flattering on her. She doesn’t look as twig-like. This is actually on my best-dressed list.

Kate: No, we have to remove it from that list. She is not twig-like because she just had a baby.

Erica: Oh really? Mazel Tov! The extra pounds look GREAT on you, hon!


Kate: So, Best Dressed?

Erica: Rosamund Pike! And I say this without really knowing anything about her. I didn’t see (and probably won’t see) Gone Girl and I don’t know anything else she’s done and I have never read an interview with her or anything. I just love, love, love her dress.

Kate: I am ok with that, but can Best Dressed be a tie between her and Marion Cotillard?

Erica: Yes. Absolutement.

Kate: Yay! Worst Dressed?

Erica: You know, I really feel like they all stepped up their game tonight. I’m not giving it to Lupita, partly because she has too much credit with me and partly because, yes, I don’t like the dress, but, I feel that the dress accomplished what it meant to accomplish. I don’t want to give it to Gwynnie because, as stupid-looking as it was, it made me laugh. Kerry Washington’s done worse, and her hair and make-up were perfection. I think that leaves Naomi Watts for me.

Kate: Or Emma Stone?

Erica: Yeah, but I liked Emma Stone’s hair and make-up better than I liked Naomi Watt’s hair and make-up. It should be noted, though – the credit Emma Stone has as my dream bff DOES NOT COUNT toward red carpet looks. And she has ZERO credit there.

Kate: Well then who do we give Worst Dressed to!?

Erica: I want to give it to Naomi Watts. You can give it to Emma Stone if you like. Or we can have another tie.

Kate: Ok, I can give it to Naomi Watts. That does it for us for award show season, folks — sad face! But don’t you worry, the dynamic duo will be back this summer for So You Think You Can Dance season 12 — auditions are already under way!

Erica: You guys, I’m doing Zumba now, so by May, I might think *I* can dance!


Greetings, friends! If you can’t wait until Sunday (well, Monday morning) for another dose of my wit and wisdom, head on over to Land of Lost Books, where Lynne and I have been talking first love. Book first love. http://landoflostbooks.com/portfolio/the-potential-hazards-of-re-reading/