‘The Newsroom’ season 3: Princeton story leads to debate between writer, Aaron Sorkin
One of the stories that we did not discuss too much at length in our initial review of last night’s episode of “The Newsroom” was the once revolving around a Princeton college student who, after being raped, wanted to create a website where other victims could share their stories.
In the episode, “News Night” producer Don Keefer argued against her making an appearance on the show, arguing that this website would turn these victims into unfortunate targets and cause them to live in fear. This in turn led to viewers being angry that the show seemed to side with Don’s belief, which they felt was supporting the rapists more than the victims.
Clearly, at least one person within the show agreed with some of the criticism, and that was writer Alena Smith. In a series of posts on Twitter overnight, Smith explained that she and show creator Aaron Sorkin had an extremely heated argument over the subject:
@emilynussbaum points out in her review of tonight’s ep, you can’t criticize Sorkin without turning into one of his characters … So when I tried to argue, in the writers’ room, that we maybe skip the storyline where a rape victim gets interrogated by a random man…I ended up getting kicked out of the room and screamed at just like Hallie would have for a “bad tweet.” I found the experience quite boring. I wanted to fight with Aaron about the NSA, not gender. I didn’t like getting cast in his outdated role.”
Sorkin, always one to state his own opinion or response, chose to follow up Smith’s comments with some of his own sharing his perspective. He did so in a new piece with Entertainment Weekly:
“Alena Smith, a staff writer who joined the show for the third season, had strong objections to the Princeton story and made those objections known to me and to the room. I heard Alena’s objections and there was some healthy back and forth. After a while I needed to move on (there’s a clock ticking) but Alena wasn’t ready to do that yet. I gave her more time but then I really needed to move on. Alena still wouldn’t let me do that so I excused her from the room.
“The next day I wrote a new draft of the Princeton scenes–the draft you saw performed last night. Alena gave the new pages her enthusiastic support. So I was surprised to be told this morning that Alena had tweeted out her unhappiness with the story. But I was even more surprised that she had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality. It was a room in which people felt safe enough to discuss private and intimate details of their lives in the hope of bringing dimension to stories that were being pitched. That’s what happens in writers rooms and while ours was the first one Alena ever worked in, the importance of privacy was made clear to everyone on our first day of work and was reinforced constantly. I’m saddened that she’s broken that trust.”
It’s difficult to pick a real side here. We understand Sorkin’s position that a writers room should be sacred for the sake of confidentiality, we don’t feel like Smith really revealed anything here that would hurt or shame any of her other writers. The only person she chose to slam was Sorkin himself, and obviously she had an extremely strong opinion on the subject.
As for his argument that they were running out of time, probably not the best rebuttal. Our ultimate feeling here is that the show really should not have touched the story; the reason that we did not discuss it much at length last night is that it holds no bearing to many of the other plotlines right now.
In the end, it’s important that both parties in the dispute have their perspectives on it heard, but we also don’t think this will be the end of this story.
What do you think about the controversy? Share in the attached comments.