Rewriting Sorkin, or An Experiment in How to Write a Sexy Scene about Gun Control

I used to love Aaron Sorkin. Then I grew up, and he didn’t.

No, really. Early Aaron Sorkin was great, or at the very least, new. I adored Sports Night and The West Wing, and could quote portions of text at will. I stage-managed a production of “Hidden in This Picture” in college, watching probably over thirty run-throughs of the show, and there were some jokes I laughed at every single time. The dialogue was that great; the characters were that realized.

But Studio 60 was painfully bad — bad casting, bad timing, and a thoroughly misguided vision of what was actually working on the show (I was not alone in thinking SlimyCorporateExecutive!Jack was the best damn character on the show), and his movies since then have seemed to be style over heart.

So when I heard he was doing The Newsroom — and, more specifically, when I heard about how patronizing he was to journalists, women, and anyone who doesn’t have a physical newspaper subscription — I knew that it wasn’t for me. He has great actors (Alison Pill was amazing in In Treatment), but I had no trust left that he could tell a story that wasn’t about himself. So instead of watching the show on HBO, I decided just to read the critiques.

Then I read that there’s a scene in episode 4 that goes like this:

Carrie: Well, if I’m walking the streets of Manhattan and a guy your size wants to rape me, then this is gonna happen. [Aims gun at Will.]
Will: Actually, statistics show that this is going to happen. [Flips gun out of her hand and aims it at her.]
Carrie: [beat] Is it wrong that I’m turned on by this?
Will: [beat] Yes!

Sorkin. I’m a northern liberal. I hate guns. I have had panic attacks associated by being near guns. So, like you, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with guns. And this scene is so stupid, it’s making me want to defend gun-owners.

There are a number of things wrong with this scene:

  • the stupidity of carrying a loaded gun in your purse, with or without the safety on.
  • the belief that women are easily turned on by veiled rape threats at gunpoint.
  • when disarming someone pointing a gun at you, the proper reaction for the disarmed person is generally not “hawwt,” but rather, “OH FUCK MY FINGERS YOU BROKE MY FINGERS.”

Look, I’m living in Texas now. The people around me know how to handle guns. Sure, I might not agree with their reasons for wanting guns, but I know they don’t carry loaded guns in their purses (a bra-holster is far more secure) and I know that they’re not going to be holding a gun so loosely that it can be boinked right out of their hand.

This is a strawman argument, and it’s a dumb strawman argument, and when you’re so thrilled with yourself for being able to write both sides of the argument, it makes you (and your author-surrogate) look really damn lame for not being able to answer the actual arguments gun-rights activists use.

Naturally, because this is a blog, and thus a heathen device for peons who are only subverting the natural order of things, Aaron Sorkin’s never going to read this. But, as an experiment, I wrote a scene about sexy gun control arguments. You can judge my success, either at the sexy or the debate, below.

***

CARRIE and WILL, have been making out on CARRIE’s couch. CARRIE breaks the clinch first.]

CARRIE

Shall we move this to the bedroom?

WILL

Do we need to move?

CARRIE

Do you have, ah, protection?

WILL

Shit, no. Does it matter?

CARRIE

Yeah, it does. I’ve got one in my wallet.  Go look in my purse, I’m gonna freshen up a bit.

[CARRIE heads into another room. WILL starts going through her wallet, and is shocked to find an NRA membership card in there.]

CARRIE

You coming?

WILL

What’s this?

CARRIE

My personal belongings which are none of your business?

WILL

Are you really a card-carrying member of the NRA?

CARRIE

Uh, yeah. My parents got me in when I was 12, along with my Hadassah membership.

WILL

Are you kidding me?

CARRIE

I’m from the South, dude. I practically grew up on shooting ranges. It’s how we do.

WILL

That is morally repugnant.

CARRIE

Say what?

WILL

It makes me sick when people talk about the glorious tradition of guns, or how they represent freedom or the good old days. Guns are used to kill. Full stop. They’re not for defense. They’re for murder.

CARRIE

Okay, excuse me, but from my perspective, I’m 5’2 and 120 pounds and every single guy I pass is bigger and taller than me. I carry a gun, they can’t mess with me.

WILL

Statistically speaking, they’re more likely to use your weapon on you.

CARRIE

Not if I know how to use it. Which I do. [beat] What’s your problem, anyway? It’s my gun, my choice, my freedom to bear arms. It’s not hurting you any.

WILL

But you could. With your gun. That you’ve got right there.

CARRIE

But I wouldn’t use it, not unless you pull out yours.

WILL

I don’t have a gun.

CARRIE

How do I know that?

WILL

You do. I’m me. I’m scared shitless by the sight of one.

CARRIE

How am I supposed to know that?

WILL

By me crapping my pants in a very manly fashion?

CARRIE

[cracks a grin] How am I supposed to know that without me pulling the gun on you?

WILL

Please don’t. [beat] Look, I grew up in the suburbs. I never had go out and kill my own food. The closest I got to that was the school lunch line.  I don’t have the story in my head, that to be manly and tough is to be fighting out on my own, only me and my trusty .59.

CARRIE

There’s no such thing as a .59.

WILL

Right. Exactly. I don’t have the thing in my head that says, “guns are cool, and they make you a man.” I’m not that kind of guy. The kind of guy I am is…I look at you, and there is not one of your ideas that I agree with, but even so, I see how beautiful you are, and how smart and funny, and how passionately you care about what you believe, and I think, “wow, maybe this is it, she’s the one.” We’ll change our Facebook statuses to ‘in a relationship’, we’ll go out again, we’ll fall in love and get married and have a kid, a baby girl, Irene. And she’ll be beautiful, too, and we’ll raise her the best we can, with all of these contradictory ideas — the world is strong, the world is vast, climate change, love your country but think independently, up until the moment you vote and tow the party line. But we’ll love her and her free spirit. I’ll teach her about social welfare, and you’ll give her shooting lessons but warn her that it’s not a toy, never a toy. And then one day, she’s ten or eleven and having a friend over and we’re out of the room for just a second as the kid, her friend, who’s never been in a house with a gun before, takes out the gun that you’ve hidden but not well enough and, playing, shoots it at our daughter. And then she’s dead or paralyzed for life, and this neighbor kid is a wreck, and…the world shifts. We didn’t need this, we could have evolved beyond this, and yet someone is dead because of the gun.

[long silence]

CARRIE

That’s a rather detailed hypothetical.

WILL

I have an overactive imagination.

CARRIE

You’ve already named our daughter?

WILL

It’s my grandmother’s name.

CARRIE

Look, Will, you’re — you’re crazy intense, you know that?

WILL

I’ve been told that before.

CARRIE

We just met tonight.

WILL

I may have extrapolated some of the details.

CARRIE

It would be wrong to have been turned on by that story, right?

WILL

Oh, yes.

CARRIE

Yeah. Well, we’re not making it to the bedroom tonight.

WILL

I’ll just, um, get up and, um —

CARRIE

No, it’s — you won’t like it in there. That’s where I keep my gun.

SCENE

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