Windows into The West Wing

Theoretical Approaches to an Ideal Presidency

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About the Book

The West Wing, first broadcast in 1999, is thought by many to have been one of the most significant dramas shown on network television. Despite its overly idealized depiction of American political life, and blatant contradictions in the way we consider America, its values, its aspirations, and its behavior in the world, The West Wing nonetheless succeeds in attaining popular national and international aesthetic appeal. This book aspires to explain the appeal of the show by considering issues such as race, religion, sexuality, disability, and education—from both a practical and theoretical perspective—through the lenses of feminism, gender theory, Marxism, psychoanalytical theories, structuralism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism and more. It seeks to offer informative and revealing readings of one of the most significant television productions of recent times.

About the Author(s)

Patrick Webster is a musician, writer and university lecturer. A graduate and postgraduate of the University of Leeds, he has written on subjects including Stanley Kubrick and masculinity, ecology and dyslexia. He lives in Leeds, in the North of England.

Bibliographic Details

Patrick Webster

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 284
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8035-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3936-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1. Dramatis Personae: The Cast and Casting 5
2. A Mosaic of Quotations: Intertextuality in The West Wing 13
3. Historical Fictions: A Parallel Universe 22
4. Death of the Author: Aaron Sorkin as Auteur? 31
5. On a Wing and a Prayer: Bartlet Deconstructs the Old Testament 40
6. Cinematic Television: The ­Mise-en-Scène of The West Wing 49
7. The Signifier and the Signified: Structuralist Readings 54
8. This “pitiful exercise”: Temporal Rupture in the “Isaac and Ishmael” Episode 67
9. Bourgeois Wing: Marxist Readings 78
10. “The greatest country in the world”: Misconstrued Politics 86
11. “It’s turtles all the way down”: The West Wing and Religion 92
12. Playing in the Dark: Racist Discourses 100
13. Potus Interruptus: Gender and Queer Theory 109
14. Hollywood MS: The Portrayal of Disabilities 121
15. The Politics of Maryland: The Wire and The West Wing 128
16. Nostalgia for the Present: Postmodern Readings 135
17. Cellmates in The Hague: Bartlet Flouts International Law 146
18. The Crackpots and These Women: Misogynist Discourses 152
19. Cultural Differences: Postcolonial Readings 162
20. “Education is the silver bullet”: Pedagogy in The West Wing 169
21. A Valentine to Washington: Narrative Authenticity 176
22. “Your father was a prick”: Psychoanalytical Readings 182
23. Unearned Emotion and the “Plaintive Oboe:” W.G. Snuffy Walden’s Music to The West Wing 191
24. Society Must Be Defended: Poststructuralist Readings 197
Conclusion 205
Appendix A. Seasons 1–7: A Synopsis 211
Appendix B. Episodes 1–155: Broadcast Credits 215
Appendix C. Directors and Writers 224
Chapter Notes 227
Bibliography 261
Index 269