Acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin says he has heard and absorbed criticism that he has an issue writing women and will endeavour to “do better”.
The mea culpa came on stage at Vivid Sydney in a wide-ranging talk where Sorkin covered everything from former US President Donald Trump, truth versus accuracy in storytelling, why right-wing people “hate” Hollywood, the power of music and his struggles with writers block.
Sorkin is behind critically acclaimed TV hits including “The West Wing” (1996 – 2006) and “The Newsroom” (2012 – 2016) as well as films “The Social Network” (2020), “Steve Jobs” (2015) and “A Few Good Men” (1992).
He has, however, faced backlash and criticism for writing one-dimensional, or in some cases – simply annoying – women. The criticism is his women are thin, needy, irrational and frequently patronised by the men around them.
Outlets from The New Yorker to Salon (“Aaron Sorkin Gets More Sexist Every Year”) and Entertainment Weekly (“‘The Social Network’ Has a Woman Problem”), The New Statesman (“Does Aaron Sorkin Have a Woman Problem?”), Slate (“Why Aaron Sorkin’s Woman Problem Makes ‘The Newsroom’ So Boring”), Indiewire (“Aaron Sorkin’s Female Trouble: The Women of ‘The Newsroom'”), Huffpost (“‘The Newsroom’: Women Problems Abound in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO Series) and Jezebel (“Aaron Sorkin’s Ladies Sure Do Slip on a Lot of Banana Peels”) have all written about it over the past decade.
At his Vivid Sydney talk, Sorkin was asked (by this writer) how he feels he writes women and in turn how he feels about the perception he can’t do it well.
“It’s a great question, I know what you’re asking,” he said, before turning the tables.
“As a woman, don’t you reject the idea that there is only one woman and that you have to write in a different font when you’re writing for a woman?,” he said.
Both Sorkin and this writer then both conceded neither could speak for all women, before he offered his take on the criticism.
“Listen, I have never really, I haven’t paid that much attention to whether a character is a man or a woman. I don’t use a different font for women. And whether it’s C.J. Cregg [“The West Wing”, played by Allison Janney], or Nicole [Kidman] at Lucy Ricardo [in “Being the Ricardos”] or Jessie Chastain as Molly Bloom [in “Molly’s Game”], I think I’ve written some very strong women played by great actresses,” he said.
Despite the resume he listed, he said he heard the criticism and didn’t want to defend his record.
“I hear the criticism. I hear it and I don’t want to argue with you. I don’t want to defend it. I’ll do better.”
Aaron Sorkin was speaking on stage with Leigh Sales as part of Vivid Sydney.