Aaron Sorkin

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Name: Aaron Sorkin
Also Known As:
Occupation: screenwriter, director, producer, showrunner
Medium: Television, Film, Theatre
Works: West Wing, The Social Network
Official Website(s): Aaron Sorkin
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages

Aaron Sorkin is an American screenwriter and playwright.

Sorkinverse is a term is used by fandom to unite his work into one broader fandom. It is mostly used for the television shows Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The Social Network is not considered to be part of the Sorkinverse.

Fast-paced and often witty dialogue is known as a trademark of Sorkin's.

Relationship to Fandom

Sorkin is know for his contempt for fandom, a relationship which soured over time. The majority of his most contentious interactions with fandom stem from his time posting on the Television Without Pity forums.

Television Without Pity was a website know for accurate, cynical, often hilarious recaps of episodes, which had extremely active fandom and slash-friendly forums. Aaron Sorkin posted on the forum during the early years of The West Wing as "Benjamin," his middle name. Rob Lowe also posted under the name "Sam Seaborn."[1]

Sorkin's activity on Television Without Pity during the first three years of The West Wing is covered fully in the blog post The long back story of Aaron Sorkin, West Wing, Televisionwithoutpity and the "U.S. Poet Laureate" episode. There is also a timeline of his activity. At times "Benjamin" posted to defend Aaron Sorkin and at times Aaron's personal feuds played out on the boards. Throughout The West Wing's run, there are plot elements which clearly address internet culture or which can be interpreted as written in reaction to discussions on TWoP.

Notable events:

  • September 2000: Aaron monopolizes acceptance speech time at the Emmys when he and co-screenwriter Rick Cleveland win "Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series." This is received negatively on TWoP.
  • June 2001: "Benjamin" "disses" Rick Cleveland on TWoP. The comments are picked up by the media and the feud becomes public. The feud is resolved publicly on TWoP with Sorkin posting an apology and Cleveland accepting both on the boards. After the incident, Aaron says that there are people in his life prohibiting him from posting anymore for his own good.
  • February 2002: The West Wing episode "Night Five" airs. In it Sam and Ainsley discuss workplace sexism and come to conclusions which many viewers disagree with and attribute to Aaron's male perspective; discussions on TWoP are critical. "Benjamin" posts, arguing that Aaron is not sexist, and tells other users, "Wednesday nights at nine there are like 168 things on television, you should watch something else 'cause I don't think this show’s your cup of tea."
  • July 2005: Sorkin's assistant, Lauren, starts posting on TWoP as "Donniene."
  • A number of episodes of the West Wing which seem to call out and/or insult fan culture.

From a post on a "Troll Tales" thread:

Apparently he posted there infrequently talking about the show, and most members of the site were fans so everything went quite well. Then, at the Emmys, he and Rick Cleveland won for best writing in a drama series for the episode In Excelsis Deo, but Sorkin hogged the mike when making the acceptance. Rick was annoyed by this because he had told Aaron that he wanted to speak and dedicate the episode to his father, and when the fans on TWoP found out about this they asked Aaron why he didn't let Rick speak. Aaron responded by being very dismissive of Rick's work on the episode and claimed that he writes all the episodes and that Rick's name was only on the script because Aaron was gracious enough to give him co-writer credit. People started pointing out to him that guild rules don't allow for Aaron to do that, that for Rick to have his name on the script it meant that he had to be involved in writing it, and that Aaron's claim was absurd.

Aaron came back and said that Rick wrote the original draft for the episode, which had the First Lady looking for a missing cat, and that Aaron rewrote it and turned it into an emotional episode about a Korean veteran that died at Christmas. Then Rick showed up on the site and rebuffed Aaron's claims saying that he was the one responsible for the veteran story because it was based on his father, who was a veteran of the Korean war that died in a flophouse. At this point, some newspapers picked up on the fact that Aaron Sorkin was on a fansite insulting writers he used to work with, and once that happened he was forced to apologise to Rick in order to make the bad news story go away.

Later, in the third season, he wrote an episode containing this subplot about internet fandoms. Apparently, the people on the TWoP forums weren't happy about it.[2]

As summarized in 10 Absolutely True Stories About Writing For Television Without Pity, published March 31, 2014:

4. The greatest thing that happened to Television Without Pity the entire time I worked there was that Aaron Sorkin got so mad at us that he wrote an entire B-plot of The West Wing about internet forums with draconian moderators (that was us!), in which a character hypothesized that such people are probably "women in muu-muus smoking Parliaments." We found this almost intoxicatingly delightful, it was the moment I personally felt that the site had arrived, and muu-muu/Parliaments jokes became recapper-to-recapper standards.

Fans have reflected on how Television Without Pity and these interactions changed the relationship between fans and TPTB:

... For many TWoP fans – and detractors – the true legacy of the website is its forums. They were the birthplace of numerous online fan communities and one of the first online spaces where a fandom’s collective voice was heard – and sometimes engaged – by a TV showrunner. Aaron Sorkin’s well-documented passive-aggressive relationship with social technology and online culture was born in his relationship with West Wing fans on TWoP, so you could say it indirectly inspired his Oscar-winning film The Social Network...[3]

As stated in Mutually Assured Destruction: the shifting dynamics between creators and fans, a 2014 article by Elizabeth Minkel:

Eulogies for the recently deceased “Television Without Pity” website have dredged up Aaron Sorkin’s unfortunate attempt to wade into the discussion – he was so irate afterwards that he wrote a subplot into an episode of The West Wing about a fan site for one of the main characters, suggesting that people who frequented that site’s forums were “women in muu-muus smoking Parliaments,” which is a beautifully incoherent insult.


  1. ^ September 26, 2006 at 4:48:00 PM GMT-5 by Anonymous/mjforty
  2. ^ TheGodBen, Sep 9, 2010
  3. ^ Television Without Pity’s Vanishing History – and Why We Should Care, Archived version by Keidra for The Learned Fangirl (March 29, 2014)