Aaron Sorkin is a great writer and has an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Social Network to prove it. But now he may be writing a biopic about Lucille Ball starring Cate Blanchett, and some feminists are seeing red. Here’s why.
Aaron Sorkin is a guy’s guy. In many ways, he seems like a throwback to the Mad Men era where ego-driven men just sort of did whatever they wanted and women, well, they took care of the kids and cleaned up the messes.
When you look at many of Sorkin’s films, they all tend to center on similar, self-important men that may be geniuses but certainly lack the ability to play nice with others, and often present female characters as secondary to the story. Let’s take a look at some of those moments.
1. The reason why The Social Network, i.e., Facebook was created
In the dialogue-heavy film, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to create an online yearbook of students not to “connect” them, but to determine which young women have boyfriends and which are single. Of course, this social network wasn’t Sorkin’s brainchild, it was Zuckerberg’s, but the way in which the film celebrates this quest to get the upper hand on single coeds is true Sorkin fodder.
2. The Social Network line about why his girlfriend doesn’t need to study
There’s a scene where Zuckerberg is trying to apologize to his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara), after insulting her.
Erica Albright: I have to go study.
Mark Zuckerberg: You don’t have to study.
Erica Albright: Why do you keep saying I don’t have to study?
Mark Zuckerberg: Because you go to BU!
Sorkin seems to perfectly understand his lead character’s petty treatment of the woman Zuckerberg is supposed to care about most.
3. The new film Steve Jobs celebrates the most beloved asshole of all time
Here’s where Sorkin will no doubt shine – writing about Steve Jobs and his singular quest to dominate the tech industry and become a true revolutionary, even if it costs him his friends, his family and ultimately, his health. Sorkin has the unique ability to get inside the head of these geniuses, so it will be interesting to see what he does when tackling the genius of Lucille Ball.
Now let’s talk about the leaked emails from the Sony hacks.
4. Aaron Sorkin on Cate Blanchett winning Best Actress for Blue Jasmine
In a leaked email, Sorkin said, “Cate gave a terrific performance in Blue Jasmine but nothing close to the degree of difficulty for any of the five Best Actor nominees.” He then cites Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln. OK, so Blanchett didn’t have to wear a fake beard and top hat, but that doesn’t mean her ability is any less.
5. Sorkin throws shade at Jennifer Lawrence
In the same hacked email, Sorkin goes on to say, “Jennifer Lawrence won for Silver Linings Playbook, in which she did what a professional actress is supposed to be able to do.” This quote makes us think that, like his characters Zuckerberg and Jobs, Sorkin fails to see the extraordinary charm and nuanced psychological dysfunction Lawrence added to her role as Tiffany.
6. Sorkin approves of Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep
Later in the email, Sorkin says, “Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep can play with the boys…” Mirren and Streep are powerhouse actresses for sure, but his analogy of “playing with the boys” is just so sexist. It implies that men set the bar for true talent, and it just isn’t true.
7. Sorkin admits there few great roles for women
“There just aren’t that many tour de force roles out there for women,” he says in the email. Sure, we agree that movies with amazing female protagonists are few and far between. But Sorkin is trying to compare apples and oranges. Yes, there are female politicians, activists and tech innovators, but just because a woman plays a mother or a wife doesn’t mean her story is any less valid, as Sorkin seems to think.
So, where does this leave us? Given the disparaging comments Sorkin made about Cate Blanchett, it seems unlikely she would want to work so closely with Sorkin, but here’s why she should: Sorkin is a master when writing about genius. He understands the drive, the sacrifice and the ego a genius must foster to make others believe in their vision. Lucille Ball was a similar genius. She was not only the talent behind television’s funniest show of all time, she created a new way of telling the story by using three cameras instead of one to make the most of her humor, changing the entire television industry. If Sorkin can tap into Ball’s fiercely creative and inventive mind, he will create a female protagonist that will knock all the “boys” out of the water.