Every episode of The Newsroom is greeted with a healthy amount of criticism. It’s what you should expect when you openly go after various news outlets and take on issues that people would rather not be talked about in such a blunt manner. When waking up on Monday morning, there was the expected criticism and anger toward the latest episode of The Newsroom but it was amplified. To me, I always take the criticism with a grain of salt; I’ve always enjoyed the show and the fact that it can be heavily controversial endears me even more. I don’t always agree with what is presented but I love that there is a show that will tackle issues people are too afraid to talk about.
In this episode, one of the plots dealt with Don Keefer organizing a soon-to-be on air story about a girl that was raped in college but having no evidence to go after the two young men that raped her. She started a website that became an outlet for all young women that have been raped to identify their accusers. The new owner of ACN wanted Don to interview both sides of the story (the victim and the rapist) and bring them together in an on-air joint interview because it would make for good TV. Before I watched this episode, I knew the controversy had to do with this rape subplot and Don Keefer would be the main character in it. I immediately thought “Oh God, Don is going to say something awful while talking to the victim and that’s why the audience is enraged”. It wouldn’t be that far of a stretch seeing as Don tends to put his foot in his mouth on a regular basis and may not be the most politically correct character on the show. However, I would like to add that Don is my favorite character in this show and he has proven more than once that he has a heart of gold; he just seems to get the message wrong when the words come out of his mouth.
Nevertheless, I watched the scene where Don talked with the victim on the edge of my seat waiting to see what went so wrong and low and behold, nothing did. It was an insanely uncomfortable scene with an awfully tragic subject matter but Aaron Sorkin seemed to have achieved what he was trying to say. Don (to me) was completely respectful and on the girl’s side, he was trying to protect her from what would happen to her if she went on air with this story. He made it very clear that his boss wanted him to do this story and that he wasn’t a fan. The girl who was raped however really wanted to tell her story because this is the only way she knows how to get justice. The biggest moment watching this scene for me was her proclamation that she is scared everyday about being raped and if the site instils fear into men to not put their hands on women that don’t want to be touched then she’s happy. It was all around an amazing scene. So why were people upset? Well, Don had a couple of slips of words when he spoke to her like saying “kind of rape” but I think the main criticism comes from the fact that he didn’t want her to pursue the story. He knew as soon as she got on air with the student she accused, the audience of ACN would view as a sporting match and many viewers would take his side and she would be “slut-shamed”. He ultimately tells her that the problem with her site is that it could be used as an outlet for women (or men for that matter) to falsely accuse men and completely ruin their lives. Is it completely sexist and unfair that he said that? Yes. Does he also have a point? Yes.
The point of this scene is to show the injustice that is happening to rape victims. I didn’t walk away from watching the episode thinking “Oh man, The Newsroom is all about supporting rapists and diminishing victims”. It’s a very tough subject to bring up and I personally think it’s wonderful that some show will actually touch on these subjects and bring it to our attention. The only issue I had with the episode is that Don ultimately told Charlie that he “couldn’t find the girl”. In his own way, Don was really protecting this girl from more heartache after she’s been through so much but in the heart of it, he’s really just another man making a decision for woman. If that’s why you are upset with this episode, I understand but he was really doing it because he did care and he did believe her. Was it his decision to make? Maybe. It is his show and for what it’s worth, I believe Sloan would have done the same thing if it had been her interviewing the victim.
In one week, the finale will air and hopefully it won’t be as controversial of an episode but that doesn’t really sound like Aaron Sorkin. This wasn’t however the only plot in this episode; Will was imprisoned ad apparently had a long conversation for days on end with his dead father, Sloan literally kicked the snot out of Neal’s replacement on air, Jim and Maggie got together (bleh) and the entire episode ending in an awful and heart wrenching way. Sometimes you are just not prepared when the horrible things happen. This was one of those times. But hey, Will got out of prison and it looks like Neal can come back home so I guess the audience was due for some heartbreak. RIP Charlie.