Culture Magazine

Cat and Mouse in “The West Wing”

By Bbenzon @bbenzon
I’ve been watching The West Wing for the third time. As you may know, it’s a TV series that ran from September 1999 through to May 2006 and centered on Josiah Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen. Bartlet is from an old Yankee family and is a Nobel Laureate in economics. He’s also President of the United States, hence the show’s title.
I suppose there’s lots one could say about the show–I obviously like it. But at the moment I have just one observation and it’s about how Bartlet enacts his dominance.
He’s erudite, can be charming, and has a sense of humor. He delights in his knowledge and frequently lectures others on this or that. Sometimes he does this with several people at a time. And sometimes only one-on-one. Sometimes it’s late at night and people are tired.
But he’s the President and so they listen politely, “Yes, Mr. President.” They have no choice. At times this has made me twitch in my seat as I watch. It’s almost painful. Bartlet’s being enthusiastic. And why not? He’s not the one being subjected to this nonsense. Ever watch a cat play with a mouse? That’s what this is, except that the mouse is allowed to live so that it can thank the cat for being played with.

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