My sister sent me this link. Unless you're an Aaron Sorkin fan, the specific contents of the video might not mean much to you, but I'm not posting it here to reminisce about West Wing, The Social Network, or other walk-and-talk dramas from Hollywood's number one dialogue master.
What really got my attention was the repetition over the years of these so-called "Sorkinisms". Is he plagiarizing himself? Is he lazy? Has he forgotten to back up his hard drive over and over and over again?
No, and I suspect he's only barely in touch with the answer himself. Love him or hate him, Sorkin is an artist. He creates because the act of creating helps him figure out his world. He revisits similar characters over and over again because those are the kind of characters that help him refract his own life. In visiting the same kind of people repeatedly in his scripts, Sorkin plays with familiar lines over and over again just like a painter plays with similar colors and shapes and concepts. Matisse repeated the same two-dimensional paper cutout dancer shapes many times; the abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell revisited a crudely bulbous and angular design over and over again. We recognize Pete Townsend's guitar playing with just a few notes; Mozart sounds like Mozart.
Artists create to make the world whole. Or, perhaps more accurately, artists create in often mighty attempts to make their own worlds whole. Repetition of various themes are just efforts not quite perfected, not finished being poked, not quite out of mind. Sorkin finds his artistic voice through familiar rhythms and emotions he puts into the mouths of his dramatic proxies. Others try other themes.
The funny thing is that even as we may collectively smile sometimes, even deride, repetitive been-there-done-that thematic references from specific artists, I find that if someone doesn't have a distinct enough voice to be recognizable, they may very well not have a voice worth listening to closely. Certainly there are plenty of risible creations by wannabes who endlessly continue to take pictures of pretty swans floating serenely beneath stone bridges at sunset, but I'm speaking about something else. That something else is, of course, intangible; there's never a solid dividing line between the repetitive artist when he or she has run out of things to say, and repetition because an artist is still speaking about an idea that continues to produce fruit, that's not done growing yet.
Either way: Sorkin. Fascinating, creative, gutsy, nuts-y. And yes, my DVR is set to record The Newsroom. Who cares if he's said it all before? It's what he's talking about and the way he does it that really grabs me.
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