No doubt one of the bigger shows of its time during the Thomas Schlamme (West Wing – 3rd Watch) reign of television was The West Wing. The walk-and-talk infused drama about politics is unlike any political drama I’ve ever seen. It’s infused with large swaths of American history, makes large & boisterous love letters to liberalism, and of course features characters attempting to be morale and just. It is of course, also dated, and somewhat of its time.
A large group of my friends, who are yes, liberal, have used it as a comforting pillow in the times of the 45th President of the United States. I, as much as I am attempting to be a progressive in the modern era, have a bit of a confession, that I have largely attempted to stay away from the enthralling monologues and quirky humor that took place in the fictional universe of the Jed Bartlett administration.
It’s not that I’m chastising my friends and fellow liberals for wanting an escape from the pure hellfire trash circus that is the current administration, I did end up watching part of the first season afterall; but that the ideology and grand nature of it all was too much for the reality set in hard stone that was being bashed into our skulls by Republicans vying for one last gasp of pure power before many of the old geezers bite it all.
Before the 2016 election I sought out to watch the show again. I didn’t make it past the first season. Then a few weeks ago in my bout of stress-induced insomnia I started watching the first season again and made it seven episodes before turning it off. It felt like a false sense of security, that goodness and inherit justness would somehow prevail. That somehow one of us would go on a long rambling monologue would save us all felt hollow. The writing is good, and I still love the show, but fuck me.
One of my favorite movies of the last decade is the hardened drug drama SICARIO. It’s a brutal, unforgiving look at the drug cartels and the relentless, pointless drug war that has gone nowhere for decades. In the film, we expect the main character, played by Emily Blunt, to be the hero. But she’s a distraction. Much like the core principles of Josh Brolin’s character, she’s a vessel to insert Benicio Del Toro into the mix to create chaos and to allow the CIA to piggyback a domestic operation. The scene where Del Toro forces the idealogical Blunt to sign a statement under duress before he casually slips into the ether to me is what the current administration feels like. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s low-rumbling, anxiety inducing, seat-gripping – backdrop of a score, keeps us on edge the entire time.
Maybe I’ll finally be able to watch this show again when the current administration is dust on a book jacket, or when the minority rule isn’t a death grip on the entire nation and we’re all able to breath again without wincing at the smallest backfire of a car.
Maybe one day I’ll finally just be able to escape into the show and just watch it for what it is without having to think about how it compares to the cartoonish Boss Tweed level of bullshit we’re dealing with.
It’s only a television show, but the television show shaped a large part of my upbringing when I only had access to four broadcast channels out in the sticks of Illinois, I’d like to return to it one day.
I’ve tried to use it as a soft pillow twice in this administration, but lo and behold it doesn’t do much to sooth the PTSD induced by an invisible puppeteer tightening the strings on our windpipe, which really seems to gel with the overall fact that I don’t sleep much anyway.
You can find Coleman on Twitter, not sleeping and doomscrolling, and on Twitch.