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March 30 2011

The family we make: chosen families of Whedon and Sorkin. A comparison between the two wordsmiths.

Lovely subject. Though I disagree on a few points the author makes, the basic line does tell why these two writers are my two clear favorites in a word filled with talent. They do share a lot of themes, and I'm always slightly surprised there's not more overlap between fans of these two writers. For me, their works are among my all-time favorites (though I have yet to see Sports Night as it never aired around these parts - but I have now ordered the DVD before I forget yet again :)).

As for the points made here - I absolutely love the chosen families on these shows. Analyzing my third favorite show, The Shield, I find that that's a major theme there as well (although, in that case, it's an incredibly disfunctional family ;)). And, like the author, I have assembled these chosen families in real life as well (often sharing the same vocabulary, and such) - I wonder if other people who love both these writers are the same in that respect.

I also agree that Whedon and Sorkin are two of the best writers of dialog out there. Not sure about the remarks in the final paragraph, though, that Whedon could write a Sorkin-show more easily, than the other way round.

Their styles are very similar, yet distinct enough. Sorkin is a bit more in-your-face intellectual, while Whedon seems to have a better developed sense of, for lack of a better word, cool. I do have a harder time imagining Sorkin doing a genre-show, than I have Joss doing a straight-up drama - though neither have ever done these things. I do have trouble, however, imagining Joss writing something like 'The West Wing', and having it turn out like the Sorkin show. A Whedon West Wing would probably also be great (I'd pay good money to have Joss write a political drama), but it would probably be a very different animal.

All in all, I'd say their dialog is just about on par. Plus, they've both shown that they are also capable of reigning in their well-known style. Sorkin does that for his movie scripts. Take a look at Charlie Wilson's War, for instance, or more recently The Social Network - while both are still recognizable if you know what to look for, they're definitely not as recognizable, as The West Wing. And Joss has shown he knows how to do this in early Dollhouse.

So, basically, I'd say it's a tie. I really don't know whose writing I prefer, at the end of the day. Though, on sum, I have fallen in love with more Whedon shows and characters - but that's not surprising, considering I'm not writing this on Sorkinesque (there should totally be a Sorkinesque, by the way ;)).

ETA: I also agree with the comment someone's written below this article. Brian K. Vaughan is also my favorite comic book writer, for exactly these reasons - a found family and great dialog. Ex Machina is a superhero drama/superhero comic, Runaways at times read like something Joss would write (which is presumably why he actually did write it at one point), and I've probably never been in love with comic book characters more than I was with those in Y: The Last Man. Plus, BKV turned out to be a very capable television writer as well - his Lost episodes feature some of the best bits of dialog in the entire show.

[ edited by GVH on 2011-03-30 20:53 ]
I definitely come to Sorkin and Whedon's dialogue for different things, but I very much agree with the author's point that Whedon could probably write Sorkin, but not necessarily vice versa. But frankly, whoever wins this (not-really) battle... we also win. That wasn't very catchy.
Two great storytellers who I consider the greatest wordsmiths in the entertainment industry. I don't want a battle, I want a collaboration.
Sorkin and Whedon are my favorite tv-creators too (perhaps the overlap in fandom isnít that small after all). At the moment I'm leaning towards Sorkin as my absolute favorite. But that's mostly because Iím the middle of rewatching The West Wing right now Ė to Sorkinís credit both it and Sports Night remain infinitely enjoyable.

Youíre in for a real treat with Sports Night GVH. (ETA: I just started reading vol.1 of Y: The Last Man, my first Vaughan, hope I'm in for a treat too - you're comment certainly makes it sound promising.)

Surprised to see the article did not get into a Simon/Kaylee - Jeremy/Natalie comparison. Those relationships always remind me of eachother every time I watch either show.

ETA:

I saved some of the comments of Sorkin's Facebook page (the most nerdy thing I've ever done, I swear). One of them was on 'founded families' in his shows. I didn't save the question he was responding to, but I would say there is a strong possibility he was responding to a Buffy fan when he wrote this:

Aaron replied to Richard's poston August 23, 2008 at 9:10pm

Rich,

That's an interesting observation and I think it's true. I think if there's one common theme if everything I've done it's that it's okay to be alone in a city of you can find family at work. The places are populated with characters who are extremely good at their jobs (something I find attractive in people) and who love and respect their colleagues even as they bicker with them. Growing up I was kind of schooled on MASH and that's a show that's the best example of a lot things.

Which isn't to say that you can't have a lot of creative success doing the opposite. The Office is one of my favorite shows ever--it's a huge accomplishment--and except for Jim and Pam, no one on that show can stand each other.

This was a very long winded way of saying that, for me, The West Wing for instance, wasn't first and last about politics or the White House, it was about a father and his adult children and it was intended as a love letter to public service.

Facebook should put some kind of limit on the number of words I'm allowed to use to answer a simple question.


[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2011-03-30 23:41 ]

Maybe if Rich is among us he can fill us in :) (extremely unlikely, I know, but Internet fandom can be a surprisingly small world at times)

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2011-03-30 23:58 ]
Hey! - dude called Simon a girl. :)

Not too keen on the whole classifying whole genres of television as being inferior due to differences in language usage, but an interesting well thought-out piece just the same.
Yep the Groosalugg, you're certainly in for a treat with Y: The Last Man. Out of BKV's comics, it's my favorite and, like I said, I really loved the characters. Also: cool Sorkin quote, there :).
I found this a very interesting piece - I adore the shows of both writers although Whedon's work I love best and is most familiar. This comment particularly struck a chord with me.

B I believe that Whedon and Sorkin are both supremely hopeful and optimistic individuals

So true. We used to watch The West Wing every Sunday night and it would be the only thing to give you a lift as the dread of the Monday set in. Funny enough we finished our 7 Season rewatch two weeks ago.

And emmie has it right, collaboration please :)
The article was decent. Sounded like a homework assignment to be honest. Sorkin and Whedon are the reason I am where I am today (Studio 60 was airing when I first started watching Buffy on DVD for the first time, so I fell in love with both simultaniously). I too believe a colaboration is in need. Problem is, they'd probably agree too often.
By the way, for anyone who's interested in Brian K. Vaughan's work and loved the political side of The West Wing, read Ex Machina. You'll like it.
I haven't seen a single Aaron Sorkin programme. Guess I should track down a friend with a West Wing boxset.

Re. BKV, can never decide if I like Runaways or Y: The Last Man better but they're both totally awesome.

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