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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

On Demand: Walking and talking and 'The West Wing'


Although I work at the Career Center, the best job fair I’ve ever attended is 20 years’ worth of television watching. “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005–) briefly made me reevaluate my lifelong rejection of my mother’s lifelong dream that I become a doctor. Rory Gilmore coerced me — as did probably every other liberal arts girl near a tree — into romanticizing journalism. And, lowkey, “Psych” (2006–14) genuinely made me question if my own self-supposed clairvoyance was enough to support a psychic detective business. While the American political drama “The West Wing” (1999–2006) did have me pondering the life of a speechwriter, the most important takeaway I discovered is that working in the White House is primarily about walking fast and talking faster.

“The West Wing” is one of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s brainchildren.Sorkin, known for “The Social Network” (2010), “Moneyball” (2011) and “Steve Jobs” (2015) uses fast-paced, clever dialogue that almost pushes viewers to test their wit against his characters. (For a taste, I recommend googling “Social Network Opening Scene.”)

“West Wing,” as I affectionately call it, was a Chilakamarri family go-to for a good segment of high school. After dashing through the series, my parents were swept into a political drama wave, going on to watch “Madam Secretary” (2014–19), “Designated Survivor” (2016–19) and sometimes, just for kicks, Fox News.

The seven-season show revolves around a cast of dedicated staffers to fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) as they attempt to make a meaningful difference while handling the political scuffles and scandals that come with running the country. A winner of 100 awards including 26 Primetime Emmys, the series generates an idealized vision of government, especially conveyed through a charming and earnest cast. Favorite duos include the jaded speechwriter Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) and his younger, more idealist (and cuter) deputy Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe); and the personable deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) and his will-they-won’t-they assistant, the humorous Donna Moss (Janel Moloney). My fave character is the extremely sharp, intelligent and big-hearted press secretary C. J. Cregg (Allison Janney), who stood out from the boys’ club of government officials;Elleacutely described her as “a slyly sexy professional who made competence seem like the coolest quality a girl could have.”

There’s certainly a hopeful allure to “The West Wing,” which presents a government led by decent and heroic individuals who are so willing to battle against conservative backlash in the name of upholding moral values. The questions that emerge from it feel relevant, if not philosophical, speaking more to a fantasy vision of America than the current reality. And the carefully choreographed camera moves alongside the rapid walk-and-talk discourse, transforming conversations into attention-grabbing scenes of political action.

Although I don’t see myself pursuing a White House job anytime in my future, I have perfected my ability to banter and canter — feel free to catch me quipping about polling language or OEOB briefings (not actually) while weaving through scattered chairs in the Campus Center.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote!

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