An Interview with Kevin Porter

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5 Responses

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Oh man, that was depressing. Why why why would you repeat yourself so much, Sorky?? They’re all kind of cliches to begin with and he beat them into a stupor.

  2. JoeViturbo says:

    I don’t know, after watching that, it takes a lot of the mystery out of his writing. However, That’s not to say that the lines don’t fit the situations perfectly. He’s a prolific writer working with a deadline, so it’s not surprising that he’d repeat himself quite often. Finally, writing is more than lines, it’s stories too and Sorkin weaves those together brilliantly.

  3. Andrew says:

    The link to the interview doesn’t work. I’d really like to listen to it, sounds interesting…

  4. Ray Mangum says:

    I think in your defense of Sorkin, you fail to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate forms of recycling. Small phrases like “and your know it” are fine. They can be attributed to a personal style. But even then, after a certain number of repetitions it becomes a stylistic tic and becomes hackwork.

    On the other hand, some of the longer repetitions are totally illegitimate. If different characters are unconsciously quoting each other verbatim, this gives us the notion that they are not real and unique creations. We begin to think of the writer, not the character. The only exception to this is in postmodern creations where this is done on purpose, in order to distance the audience and make them aware of the artifice of fiction. This can be annoying as well, and postmodernism is a “your mileage may vary” phenomenon, but that’s another discussion. At any rate, the Sorkin universe is clearly not a postmodern one (quite the opposite, in fact- he clearly evinces a nostalgia for the aesthetics, politics, and morality of modernism).

    Lastly, I don’t buy the “prolific defense.” While the demands of writing for television may make us understand why Sorkin repeats himself, this can hardly serve as an aesthetic justification. The work must speak for himself. Consider the very similar case of Stephen King. King is an even more egregious recycler, not so much of dialogue (although he may be, I just haven’t checked), but of characters, scenarios, tropes, etc. Some of this is just his “style,” or his “thematic obsessions,” but a lot of it is just his compulsion to produce outstripping his ability to create unique works of art. Nobody forces King to write so many novels and stories (though there is the understandable pressure from rabid fans- a thematic King trope!), and I am sure that if he wrote fewer works, they would be of higher quality. King is an interesting storyteller whose works suffer from severe aesthetic inflation. So too with Sorkin.

    All that being said, the evidence from this video doesn’t suffice to proclaim him a hack writer- all his hack writing does! Okay, I don’t actually think Sorkin is a hack, but his stuff is definitely not for me. Here’s an excerpt from very interesting article ( which explains exactly what I dislike:

    “Aaron Sorkin characters do not exist in themselves. Their function is to serve as occasions for snappy lines of dialogue. In the last analysis, it does not matter which character delivers which line. All are equally quick-witted, and all speak in two and only two cadences — either sardonic rapid-fire or expansive sermonizing.

    Just as lines can land on any character, the cadences can land on any situation. One might think that sardonic rapid-fire is particularly suited for high-stress work situations, but it can work equally well for an elevator ride or a drink after work. Similarly, there is no necessity that expansive sermonizing be reserved for moments that, in our world, would ‘naturally’ lend themselves to leisurely reflection — it can just as easily arrive in the midst of a stressful situation in which every second counts. After all, how will the audience know what’s really at stake in that situation if they are not explicitly told?

    The imperative is always: tell, don’t show.”

    Now, I’m a left-libertarian anarchist and thus my politics are usually at 180 degrees from Sorkin’s, but I try not to let that dictate my enjoyment of art, but I just can’t in this situation because think that this is a case where politics determines aesthetics. I think that Sorkin has a “tell, don’t show” aesthetic, not because he doesn’t know what makes for good writing, but because 1) like most corporate liberals assumes that the bulk of the common rabble are just plain stupid, and 2) people with his views are just so damn brilliant compared to everyone else, he’s just got to crow about it.

    Sorkin (quoted here “Oftentimes, I write about people who are smarter than I am and know more than I do, and I am able to do that simply by being tutored almost phonetically, sometimes. I’m used to it. I grew up surrounded by people who are smarter than I am, and I like the sound of intelligence. I can imitate that sound, but it’s not organic. It’s not intelligence. It’s my phonetic ability to imitate the sound of intelligence.”

    Yes, well it’s the very fact that in Sorkin’s writing, intelligence is form over content, surface over depth, that just freakin’ drives me up the wall. Everyone sounds so competent and smart! Well, it’s mainly just sound, and occasional fury, signifying, if not nothing, at least not enough for me to keep watching.

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