I wish I had a better explanation for why I so vehemently hate some fictional women. I think about my peers telling me to support all women, don’t sabotage other women, perhaps don’t Tweet incessantly about how awful this, albeit fictional, person is.
But when the fictional Maggie Jordan of “The Newsroom” exited my life a couple of weeks ago when the show aired its series finale, I let out a massive sigh of relief. Because, to be frank, the fervor with which I hated her was positively exhausting. Every week, she found new ways to appall me, starting with the very first episode.
After watching the finale, I thought I would return to the pilot to see if maybe I was wrong and blinded by my Maggie anger and that, perhaps, she had grown more than I realized. Or that I was too quick to judge.
When you begin “The Newsroom”, you are introduced to Margaret “Maggie” Jordan when she explains to her boyfriend that 1. She is disappointed he isn’t comfortable meeting her parents after dating for four months and 2. No, she will not be abandoning the “News Night” staff even though her now-boss does not even know her name let alone that she is on the staff. She is doing this in the office. You know why? Because her boyfriend, who is likely ten years older than her, used to be her boss and the two of them are participating in a grossly inappropriate workplace relationship, so they have conversations like this in front of fellow employees at the workplace all the time.
Her lone positive character trait is that she is loyal to the show, and her not defecting earns her an immediate promotion to Associate Producer. Later in the episode, she is given a task to research an obscure government organization. She finds out some important and useful information, getting a guest in the process, but the entire time she is presented as a girl on the verge of competence, who seemingly lucked into the information rather than someone who actually got a degree in something like journalism, which would fully prepare her for such a task.
So, Maggie and I didn’t get along particularly well off the bat. In my first job, I never asked my boss questions unless absolutely necessary because I knew I would get a ripped a new one if I didn’t figure it out on my own, and, while there were a couple of very cute boys in the office I would’ve loved to go crying to, I went to other experienced females in the office in an attempt to sharpen my skills.
In the second episode, she is on her third day at the job as an Associate Producer when her boss, Senior Producer Jim Harper, asks to do a mock pre-interview in preparation for a segment. Rather than being grateful a seasoned vet is going to walk her through the process, she literally screams at her for believing she is incompetent and needs babysitting. But guess what? She does.
She blows the pre-interview on an unimaginably bad level. It results in an abysmal show that embarrassed all those involved with it. Inexplicably, Jim covers for the girl who yelled at him, was insubordinate and exhibited what was only the first in a seemingly endless list of unprofessional behavior. But Jim has a little crush on poor, broken Maggie and protects her. When Maggie, who has an anxiety disorder and forgets her medicine at work, she doesn’t talk herself out of the panic attack she is having, Jim does.
In Season Two, we learn via flash forward that Maggie went through some shit on a trip to Africa. As a result, she starts showing up to work dressed like a waitress in a dive bar. This was new, edgy single Maggie, a girl who handled her own life, but yet she was sleeping around with whoever she could, continuing to mouth off to her superiors, and supposedly still remained the biggest liability on the staff.
I’ve gone through my lost and unsure phase in my twenties, don’t get me wrong. Hell, I’m probably going through one right now, to be frank. But the obviousness of her being unable to hold it together once again saddened me. Is this really the way young women in the work force come across? Is it really that obvious when we’re struggling? Is it really that necessary that we have at least two dudes there to save us whenever we are in a bind?
Fellow network employee Sloane Sabbath, who is much higher up the ladder than Maggie in every respect possible, tries to help her out. It is the kind of mentorship most of us would kill for, but Maggie hardly takes advantage of it at all. She wallows, she flails, she continues to display an egregiously unprofessional at work, and when it comes to her personal relationships, she could genuinely not be more selfish.
Yet, in Season 3, Maggie is supposed to be redeemed. The result of all that suffering and struggle brought on by no one but herself is that she gets handed an adorable Cornell Law professor to date. Because she shows an ability to read and speak words she wrote herself at the same time while being filmed, she saves the day at work. She allegedly shows her chops again by scooping a big interview with someone from the EPA, but it ends up being a wholly depressing segment, not to mention illustrates that Maggie is somehow 26 years old and has still not learned how to effectively highlight things.
Then, in the final two episodes, she finally gets together with the adorable Jim, who spent two seasons being delightful, then inexplicably turned into a jerk in the final season. They get together, then three days later Maggie learns Jim recommended her for a field producing job in DC, despite the fact the show has clearly established she is the least useful producer on the show on numerous occasions (Poor Gary Cooper can’t ever catch a break, can he?)
Then, conflict of conflicts, Jim gets promoted to Executive Producer of “News Night” and, in a remarkable display of unprofessionalism himself, runs to Maggie to offer her his old job as Senior Producer.
And Aaron Sorkin wants me to believe that Maggie has grown and learned because she is going to interview for that field producer job because it is what she wants. Go Maggie! Girl Power! Way to choose one of the two jobs you would rather have that is being offered solely because a dude wants to sleep with you. That’s feminism, ladies and gentlemen. I’m not gonna bring you down, I am not going to hate on other women.
Cause it is awesome that one of the three main female characters in this show essentially learned nothing in three years when it came to her career, but will apparently have a string of dudes who are entirely too good for her vying for her attention.
In episode one, Maggie chooses a job out of loyalty and in the final episode, Maggie chooses the job she wants for her own reasons. So, is the moral of the story that Maggie learned to be selfish? Cause she seemed to have that character trait down pretty pat long before Season 3 got started. Is the moral of the story that all of her selfish behavior when it comes to Jim is that she gets him now that he is damaged goods?
I want to know, as a female, what I am supposed to get from Maggie Jordan. If I am supposed to support all women, fictional and otherwise, I want to know why it needs to include a character who sets back chicks who spend their 20s never lighting their pilot light to save money on gas, never being late for work, never not knowing the answer in front of your boss, and never having to wonder if you got that compliment or promotion for any other reason than the quality of your work. Because I don’t see that chick on television very often. We haven’t had a Veronica Mars for me to cheer for in a while, especially on so-called prestige television.
I thankfully have Alicia Florrick and Diane Lockhart on “The Good Wife.” I have Keri Russell kicking ass on “The Americans.” But when it comes to girls in their 20s and early 30s, I have a pretty girl with dragons, I have a delusional, self-involved writer, and a straight up crazy homeland security expert.
At least I don’t have to deal with Maggie Jordan anymore though. She is gone, off living some life a dude made for her. Way to go, now make your exit.