The Shallow End of the Secretarial Pool

We started watching The West Wing recently after it had been recommended by far too many people for us to say no anymore. Being sticklers for form, we started watching from season one. Shocking, I know.

Not too many impressions as of yet – yes, everyone’s oh so clever and fast talkin’, and the president’s a bit of a egomaniac, and so on, yes, yes. The one thing we have noticed, though, is the positioning of the sort of “underlings” in the show, mostly in the form of secretaries. Perhaps in order to ram home just how smart the core cast is meant to be, the secretaries are pretty much portrayed as idiots.

It’s a shame, because we were partly embracing the show’s otherwise largely positive portrayal of women (at least in the core cast), something we’d been bemoaning in other shows we’ve watched recently. In The West Wing the secretarial staff seem to be intended to represent the kind of “regular people” of America or something, in contrast to the elite of the West Wing staffers. Thus, the secretaries fetch sandwiches (almost always for the men), they gush over baby pictures handed to them almost as a condescending distraction, and they concern themselves with hilariously “stupid” issues like the execution of sorcerers in the Philippines.

Obviously it’s bad enough that these secretaries are all women, but in some ways it simply feels more condescending to a kind of office social class. Those dumb ol’ secretaries, eh? What can you say?

How about “get me a sandwich.” That should do it.

24 June 2010
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