The West Wing

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Name: The West Wing
Abbreviation(s): TWW, WW
Creator: Aaron Sorkin
Date(s): 1999-2006
Medium: Television series
Country of Origin: US
External Links: IMDB
NBC
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Contents

Following the experiences of the Bartlet Administration, The West Wing is a behind-the-scenes look at life inside the White House. President Jed Bartlet, his wife Abbey Bartlet and his staff Leo McGarry, Josh Lyman, CJ Cregg, Toby Ziegler, Charlie Young, Sam Seaborn, Will Bailey and Donna Moss make up the core cast. Although mainly a drama, West Wing was known for its fast-paced and often witty dialogue, a trademark of creator Aaron Sorkin.

The show ran for seven seasons; creator/writer Aaron Sorkin left after four, at which point John Wells took over. Fandom is divided as to the merit of the "Wells seasons". A general consensus is that the show suffers in season five when the new writers fail to accurately mimic the Sorkin style, only to improve when the focus of the show changes (with significant cast overhaul) to the Presidential campaigns to replace Bartlet. However, it is not uncommon to find active members of the fandom who have either never seen the "Wells seasons" or actively deny the events that occurred. It is also not uncommon to find people who prefer the later seasons.

In addition to the large cast overhaul that takes place in the "Wells seasons", West Wing has a massive secondary cast of characters who appear and disappear from the show seemingly at random.

Timeline

The West Wing takes place in a subtly altered timeline from our own. Arguably an alternate universe, the most noticeable changes include a changed Presidential election timeline, with election campaigns occuring in what would be midterm years in our universe. Common shared fanon is that a special election was held after Nixon's resignation, although every President up to Reagan is mentioned in the course of the series.

In addition, world-changing events that did occur in our universe during the course of the show did not happen. The most notable of these is 9/11. Fictional countries in the West Wing universe include Qumar and Equatorial Kundu.

Fan Fiction

The West Wing has a fair amount of gen, including many missing scenes, as well as a healthy amount of pairing-oriented fic. Due to the show's basis on the American Presidential cycle, several special labels exist in this fandom: pre-administration (or pre-admin) - fic which explores the backstory and mostly unseen first Bartlet Presidential campaign, and post-admin, speculative fic on what happens to the characters after the end of the Bartlet Presidency.

It is important to note that much post-admin fic in this fandom was written prior to the fifth, sixth and seventh seasons, when the focus of the show changed to the campaign to find Bartlet's successor. Fics dealing with this era of the show are known as "Santos Campaign" or "Santos Administration" stories.

Due to the show's roots in the American political process, the fandom has strong ties to pundit RPS and Political RPF. It is also frequently crossed over with the wider Sorkinverse.

Pairings

With a huge, diverse, and highly overworked cast of characters, almost everybody on the West Wing has been shipped or slashed with everybody else. [1] However, there are some dominant ships. On the homosexual or slash side, Sam/Josh is probably the most widely written, though there are many Jed/Leo fans also; both of these often extend into threesomes: Sam/Josh/Donna and Jed/Leo/Abbey. Popular femslash pairings include Amy/CJ and CJ with Gina Toscano, who was on Zoey's security detail in the first season. On the heterosexual side, pairings include all the canon ships and some noncanonical ships, including: Josh/Donna, Josh/Amy, CJ/Toby, Sam/Ainsley and others. Fan reviewers (such as on Television Without Pity) joke about Josh Lyman/Matt Santos.

Fanzines

Gen:

Het:

Slash:

Vids

The West Wing is often considered a difficult fandom to vid, possibly because of the "walk and talks". However, there have been some vidders up to the challenge, and there are also many many shipper vids, particularly Josh/Donna shipping vids.

  • Circles by Laura Shapiro: a daring instrumental vid that uses the interplay of instruments to orchestrate the complex emotional dynamics between the characters during the MS plot.
  • One Week by Apocalypse West: uses the rapid-fire lyrics of the Bare Naked Ladies song to capture the fast-paced Sorkinesque action of the show.
  • I Hear Bells by Xandra: the upbeat lyrics of Mike Doughty contrast with the viewer's knowledge that Josh's PTSD is set off by music.

Real Life & The West Wing

From the beginning, West Wing employed several famous former staffers and pundits to add realism and verisimilitude to the show's politics and storylines. Among these were Dee Dee Meyers, President Clinton's former Press Secretary (and inspiration for CJ Cregg) and Lawrence O'Donnell, a former speechwriter and MSNBC pundit. At the height of the show's popularity, creator Aaron Sorkin was often lobbied to include issues on an episode of the show to influence the political debate.

Much like Star Trek and NASA, West Wing is also said to have a positive influence on encouraging people to pursue courses of political science and civics.

The sixth and seventh season Presidential campaign arc is noted for the eerie ways it seems to foreshadow actual events in the 2008 Presidential Election. President-elect Barack Obama was the inspiration for the character of Matt Santos.[2] Clinton's former Deputy and Obama's former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel is said to be the basis for Josh Lyman.[3]

Archives

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References

  1. List of pairings from The Big Block of Cheese.
  2. Obama Model for 'Wing', article from New York Post.
  3. West Wing's real-life 'Josh Lyman' becomes Obama's Chief of Staff, article from the UK paper the Daily Mail.
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