Aaron Sorkin needs to clear a space on his cluttered mantle. The king of the walk-and-talk recently signed on to adapt Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography — and considering how many awards The Social Network won, it’s safe to guess that Sorkin’s next peek behind the computer screen will be similarly celebrated.
But even though Sorkin snagged an Oscar for writing about the technorati, it’s still deeply weird that he somehow became Hollywood’s go-to tech biopic scribe. Sorkin has long had a love-hate relationship with computers — accent on the hate.
After getting into a string of online arguments with Television Without Pity posters in the early ’00s, Sorkin wrote an episode of The West Wing that featured a subplot about how horrible Internet users are. (Josh to C.J., on a certain site: “It’s a crazy place. It’s got this dictatorial leader who I’m sure wears a muumuu and chain smokes Parliaments.” C.J. to Josh: “The people on these sites, they’re the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest!”) An episode of Studio 60 also revolved partially around the characters’ reactions to a critical blogger; as one opined, “It’s like we’ve all spent the last five years living in a Roger Corman film called Revenge of the Hack.” Another dismissed the blogger as someone with “a freezer full of Jenny Craig” who sits “surrounded by her five cats.” Even the new trailer for Sorkin’s upcoming HBO drama, The Newsroom, includes a moment in which Jeff Daniels’ character reacts with disdain when Dev Patel’s character mentions his blog.
And then there are the various Internet bashing comments Sorkin himself has made over the years. Here’s a sampling of his greatest hits:
“One of the things I find troubling about the Internet, as great a resource tool as it is, and as nice as it is that we can all communicate with each other, and that everybody has a voice – the thing is, everybody’s voice oughtn’t be equal.” — Chicago Tribune, January 19, 2007
“And the Internet [doesn’t help]—it’s a bronchial infection on the First Amendment. Nothing has done more to make us dumber or meaner than the anonymity of the Internet.” — GQ, August 12, 2008
“There’s just too much bad information getting out there, and I have to believe that’s mostly the fault of the Internet, which isn’t held to any standards of accuracy…I have to tell you, I don’t feel like I had any trouble getting information before. Every morning two newspapers were literally thrown at my house. All I had to do was open the door and get them. Anyway, I’m not quite getting the Internet.” — New York, September 17, 2010
“You are witnessing mad men and mad women…It only takes five [comments] before you find somebody with a severe mental disorder.” — Vulture, September 30, 2010
“I do think that socializing on the Internet is to socializing what reality TV is to reality.” — The Colbert Report, September 30 2010
“The homepage on my web browser is Yahoo, which I’m told it shouldn’t be, but I’ve just been too lazy to change it. From time to time I’ll read some of the comments under stories on it to get a sense of what it must be like at a Klan meeting.
“The upside of web-based journalism is that everybody gets a chance. The downside is that everybody gets a chance. I can’t really get on board with the demonization of credentials with phrases like “the media elite” (just like doctors, airline pilots and presidents, I prefer reporters and commentators to be elite) and the glamorization of inexperience with phrases like ‘citizen journalist.’ …As the saying goes, the problem with free speech is that you get what you pay for.” — The Atlantic Wire, May 18, 2011
All in all, Sorkin writing a movie about computers is like Garfield writing a movie about Mondays. And while Steve Jobs’ story isn’t as Internet-heavy as Mark Zuckerberg’s, it’s still odd that a near-luddite like Sorkin is the one who was picked to bring the book of Jobs to the big screen. (Sorkin proudly abstains from both Twitter and Facebook.) Does taking on this project mean that the writer is changing his stance on technology? Maybe — but it’s more likely that Sorkin is merely interested in penning another screenplay about a pioneering iconoclast. The whole “computer genius” thing is merely coincidence.
(A side note, to Aaron Sorkin: If you read this, please don’t make fun of me on your new TV show. I only have four cats!)