Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
MC Masala on Sorkin, Fannishness, and Salad
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2007 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
I thought I was a fan, even fanatical. But it turns out that Sorkin's work doesn't actually reward deep fannishness. "Star Trek," like sci-fi in general, soap operas, professional sports and opera, rewards sustained watching. The more you learn about the domain, the more you get out of it. There's a learning curve, but once you get past the first few episodes or games, you start to appreciate nuances.
But "Sports Night" and Sorkin's other work reward the casual viewer more than they reward, say, the gal sick at home who's blowing through six DVDs in two days. It's chocolate mousse, not lasagna. Continued attention only reveals the unbalanced, unfulfilling homogeneity of the thing.
The entertainment that rewards the dedicated fan more than it offers the casual viewer gets a weird rap in our society. Sci-fi fans are nerds, classical fans are snobs, and who knows what people think of soap opera fans. It's as though enjoying something that requires an investment scares everyone else, makes them worry that they're missing out on something. So, if we can't tell from the outside whether a five-minute clip is a boring bit or a deep meditation on the essence of the form, then we stick a "weird" label on it and shy away.
So, Zed, I did get your email about Sorkin! It is a measure of my horribleness as a correspondent that it is easier for me to turn my response into a column than it is for me to simply frickin' reply.