What the Television We Watch Can Tell Us About Our Politics

unfettered equality

In 1999, NBC premiered Aaron Sorkin’s new series The West Wing, a television show that follows the life of fictional President Josiah Bartlet and his staff. It was two years before 9/11, and television audiences were enamored by Sorkin’s portrayal of a “utopian” White House. Premiering shortly after the Clinton impeachment, The West Wing debuted during a partisan political climate that split the American electorate. Sorkin’s goal was to humanize the executive branch and combat the cynical beliefs viewers had of politics. He created relatable characters and a President without moral ambiguity, giving audiences an alternative view of public service than what was they saw on the daily news. This optimistic approach definitely became more apparent as the Clinton presidency came to a close and the presidency of George W. Bush began.

Most of The West Wing’s run coincided with the Bush presidency. The turmoil of the Bush years…

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