The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2181 Thursday, 31 October 2002
From: Richard Burt <
Date: Thursday, 31 Oct 2002 08:46:13 -0500
Subject: West Wing--What Is Up?
Since Shakespeare has been mentioned in several episodes of the West
Wing, I thought I'd check it out more regularly this season, and so
watched some of last night's episode. I ended up having some thoughts
and questions about the series in general, and beg Hardy's indulgence to
put them forward here (to shorten the life of any thread that may
develop, I'll stop with this post) in order to be able to grasp more
fully why Shakespeare should be on the show (part from giving us insight
into the President's character).
I was impressed by the intelligence of the show. It's very well-written
and acted, and visually, it is innovative (widescreen image, use of
various film and video stocks, and so on).
But I as generally baffled by the show for a number of reasons.
1. It assumes that there is intelligent, sane life in the White House,
that political hacks are all principled. Why, given that an idiot is
currently President surrounded by madmen like Jack D. Rumsfeld.
2. Why is the President a Democrat? What kind of fantasy is this about?
Whose fantasy? Moreover, he's a popular Democrat who trounces his
3. What kind of new Democrat politics are being hobbled together here
and why? On the one hand, you get the President saying things that many
Democrats would love to hear from Democratic senators or
representatives, but which they never say (about education, for example.
By the way, is the President a green?). A Democratic voice no longer
heard except, rarely, from a few courageous Senators like Byrd and
Kennedy, is, oddly enough, heard on the West Wing. This in itself seems
highly bizarre tome. But then I am even more baffled by way that the
President and his advisors articulate various far right positions on
foreign policy, so that the Pres seems like Nixon and (Hitchens')
Kissinger combined. Israeli "targeted assassinations" are justified
by "terrorism," as are CIA assassinations (ordered by the Pres) of
foreign leaders. If the show is incoherent, why? If the show's watchers
are mainly Dems, why assume they support the Israeli illegal occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza and Israeli war crimes? I am sure they don't,
even after 9/11.
5. Why should Shakespeare come up in the context of a Machiavellian
foreign policy (end of last season episode), a policy that resembles W's
increasingly Nietzschean post-"axis of evil," imperialist foreign policy
(i.e. whatever the U.S. wills is what should be)?
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