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May 20, 2003

And *I* Wish Firefly Was Still On . . . You Idiots.

Posted by Mike on May 20, 2003 12:00 AM

Being a fanboy of this and that myself, I'm more than willing to admit that there's nothing soppier than the self-congratulatory, world-despising rap of a fanboy whose favorite show just got canned or moved to a kiss-of-death time slot. So it goes with The American Prospect's Richard Just, who's in mourning over the departure of Aaron Sorkin from "The West Wing":

"His was a smart show whose central message was about the virtue of intellectual passion. In its rise, it demonstrated that there is an appetite for intelligent, popular art among a wide swath of Americans -- and in its ratings decline, which led to Sorkin's well-publicized feuds with NBC, it has illustrated how fickle that appetite can be."

I'm sitting here wondering what happened to me. I remember when the show came out a few years ago and how I watched faithfully for the first two seasons, and I remember slowly losing interest as I felt more and more like the show was getting schticky. Then I stopped watching. I must have gotten dumber, too.

About as bad as Just's self-congratulatory loathing of the rest of us, though, is this bit:

". . . what has set Josiah Bartlet [the fictional president on "The West Wing"] apart from his fictional Republican rivals -- and from his real-life counterpart in the White House -- has been less his politics than the intellectually and morally serious way he approached his job. The means that Sorkin used to distinguish Bartlet from his adversaries were -- contra the widespread perception of the show as a liberal fantasy -- almost never ideological."

Right. In other words, in "West Wing" Land, the liberals don't necessarily pursue better policy, but they're "intellectually and morally serious," and Republicans are not. That was the liberal fantasy part, whether Just wants to get it or not: in "West Wing" Land, Republicans aren't scary because they're just big idiots who'll wither under a barrage of stream-of-consciousness sanctimony from their moral and intellectual betters.

When we encounter similar generalizations -- perhaps the favored Hollywood trope that all a feminist needs is a near unsurvivable situation from which she can be rescued by a muscular, pragmatic man of action -- we (meaning "people who aren't anti-feminist") don't much like it and we deplore what we take to be a cheap shot fired at a big strawman.