Will McAvoy sits in a panel at a university. It’s an opportunity to garner publicity, to be inspiring to journalism students and preach to the choir, where you’re likely to get only a positive reaction. He sits between two fellow panelists, who are having a verbal face-off over the others definition of the term ‘socialist’. He zones out for a second, he thinks he sees someone. He comes back, and is asked a few questions, questions sure to have polar opposite opinions on. He answers them flippantly, not giving a definite answer, getting a few laughs from the audience from his unwillingness to leap into an argument like his fellow panelists. He’s known for being diplomatic, unopinionated, to quote the moderator, “popular because you don’t bother anyone”. He then sees the same person in the crowd again, Mackenzie McHale. She holds up two pieces of paper that bear a total of six words:
It’s not, but it can be.
When we see Mackenzie’s prompts of sorts and then Will’s speech, we see what The Newsroom is really about – idealism. It’s aspirations, dreams, striving for something better, more accountable. Is it easy, shared by everybody, and, in some cases, profitable? No. But is it passionate? God, yes.
Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, in its short history of two years and three incredibly brief seasons, has been a battle cry from the first scene, which is a stinging wake up call for the modern day person, who is more ‘informed’ than ever, but unable to recognise the problems right in front of them. The message of first of many fast-paced, shouted sermons delivered in the show is simple, and provoked as many dissenters as those who found it to be an articulation of what they’d been thinking – “America’s not the greatest country in the world anymore”.
Sorkin’s never been concerned with being a Will McAvoy. He’s not out to find middle path, to be non-confrontational and soft. The Newsroom has always been a thinly veiled platform for Sorkin’s views, whether Republicans, bureaucracy, the internet, or many, many other both trivial and global issues. He’s in for waving a red flag in the face of the bull, telling a whole bunch of people who fiercely believe it that “America’s not the greatest country in the world anymore”. Who? A lot of people, but for different reasons. Firstly, the modern media. The fear mongerers, the entertainment hungry, the complacent, the ones he knows will talk and complain, giving the show attention and reinforcing his views on them. Secondly, the Will McAvoy’s who stand to the side, suppressing their views from the world. He begs them to take a stand, to change things, strive for more, take leaps, be passionate idealists.
Anyone familiar with Sorkin’s work knows his free speech loving, occasionally sentimental, often optimistic, always crazily passionate and fast-paced sensibilities well. They’re not for everyone, and The Newsroom, arguably due to the internet, has drawn more criticism than any of his previous work. Not from me, however. I’ve loved this screwball, Don Quixote-spouting, musical theatre referencing show where characters can go from being 100 miles away from a relationship to getting engaged in 5 minutes at such a pace you are left reeling from how fast it happened, since Will McAvoy shouted “BELGIUM!” during the opening diatribe. It’s smart, it’s funny, and damn, it never failed at making me feel better on the worst of days. It made me feel energised and feeling like I could do anything, which, goddammit, was something I needed in my final two years of high school, and still need now. You see, when you’re at school, university, work, it can feel neverending, like you’re forever condemned to a monotonous, unfulfilling life. But then you see something, and it starts a fire in you that burns constantly, fuelled by promise. You’re reminded that it can happen, your dreams are achievable. That the monotony will end, and you can move onto something else. The present is never infinite. You see that the work, even when it seems when no one’s watching, listening, caring, is worth it. The naysayers don’t matter, they too are only temporary. They may not understand you now, but one day, they will. They’ll understand you, your dream, and your passion. You’ll find your people, where you belong, your family, the ones that share your passion.
In today’s world, where sometimes I think that being passionate has become passe, this has been more important to me than ever. Being outwardly excited about things is not seen as ‘cool’ or ‘professional’, which makes us slip into this state of constant, ambivalent, aloofness, where we don’t seem to be affected by anything. God forbid we actually show a shred of concern for something, show to people that we really love something, whether it be a cause, film, character, book, actor, show, whatever, that it keeps that inner fire burning, inspiring us to WORK FOR SOMETHING MORE, to be idealistic and more than a face in the crowd, a passive consumer.
Was I satisfied with the finale last night? No, not even close. The show didn’t benefit from hindsight, like it had until the last two episodes. But are my feelings on the lazy revisionist history where we simply revisited old scenes and details with no new insight, and the fact that there’s probably a lot of fans that could have written a finale better, indicative of my love and experience of the whole show? No, definitely not. The Newsroom may be over, its constant critics may move on to another show to relentlessly badger, remembered as the most divisive work of Sorkin’s career through late night reruns and postings of that first scene on YouTube, mostly without context or desire to watch any more of the show. I, however, will be remembering it for those six words and how they were felt within the series, and my life:
It’s not, but it can be.
From the first to last episode, from Sloan’s economics rants that made me so happy when I knew what she was talking about to whatever the hell happened in the final 10 minutes of season 2. The ping-pong dialogue, the shouting, the Japanese, the speeches. From the greater fool to Camelot to The Sweet Smell of Success and so much more. To the characters, the cast, and, yes, Aaron Sorkin, farewell and thank you, so, so much, The Newsroom. You are inspiring, empowering, and so, so important in my journey the past two years. You will be greatly missed.