If You’re Burnt Out on the 2016 Election, Binge The West Wing

With our current political landscape being what it is, the last thing I was looking for in a new TV show was something involving our great big media machine and that white house up in D.C. I am tired of hearing ignorant people support a heinous nominee. After having this show recommended to me again and again I decided to give it a try. Despite my best judgement, I leapt into watching The West Wing with both feet. It was the breath of fresh air I needed.

This won’t be news to any of you who’ve watched this show, but The West Wing was a revolutionary show in its time. It won numerous awards, both for individual actors and actresses and as an ensemble show. It is full of interesting, contradictory characters and a fast-paced background that has caused me to spend a lot of my free time Googling the way our government works.

The West Wing premiered in 1999, right before the presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush and just two years before the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. With the reality of the political landscape in turmoil, it is clear that the writers saw the show as a chance to create an idealized version of what our government could be. Of course it was filled with politics and scandal, as any show taking place in Washington should be, but The West Wing was also full of characters we cared about, but never really knew.

The writers of The West Wing never pulled any punches. They never pandered to their audience, and it would’ve been easy to say the American public didn’t care—or know enough to hear about the ins and outs of the government. It doesn’t downplay big moments like military conflicts both at home and abroad, and it doesn’t try to make the small minutia of passing a bill and conferencing with all manner of people involved in government actually interesting.

Possibly the best thing about the show overall is my favorite character C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney. For more than five years she was the White House Press Secretary until she was promoted to The President’s Chief of Staff. When she was Press Secretary, we learned so much from her about our media and how it works in relation to the nation’s capitol. When she was promoted to Chief of Staff, I was waiting for the storyline where someone said she couldn’t do the job because she wasn’t qualified or too stubborn or, you know, a woman, but it never came, and since she’s become the most powerful woman in the White House, my love for this show has only grown.  

The West Wing might’ve ended more than 10 years ago, but its politics still hold relevance today. As we move into our current presidential election season I see so many of the issues raised in The West Wing echoing the current political climate which is both good to know (the important issues aren’t going anywhere), and bad (maybe the government never solves anything). Despite all these moments both real and imagined, The West Wing has given me a little more faith in the government (but not in people—don’t vote Trump, y’all).

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