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Monday, April 09, 2018

"To Kill a Mockingbird," by Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin is writing a stage play of "To Kill a Mockingbird," with Jeff Daniels set to star as Atticus Finch. The Estate of Harper Lee has sued Sorkin, objecting to the way Finch is written (he "grows" in his racial tolerance over the course of the story, rather than beginning and remaining paragon of virtue throughout).

As that legal drama plays out, some of the courtroom scenes from Sorkin's script leaked. It is reprinted after the jump.

FINCH
(continuing)
Mayella kissed Tom, didn't he? Because she wanted to prove a point to you.

GILMER
Object!

TAYLOR
Counsel.

FINCH will plow through the objections of PROSECUTOR and the admonishments of JUDGE.

FINCH
And when it went bad, you cut her loose.

GILMER
Your Honor--

TAYLOR
That'll be all, Atticus.

FINCH
You beat up Mayella, using your left hand.

GILMER
Judge--

FINCH
You told her to lie about being raped.

GILMER
Damnit, Atticus.

FINCH
Mr. Ewell, did you order Mayella to lie about being raped?

TAYLOR

You don't have to answer that.

EWELL
You want answers?

FINCH
I think I'm entitled to them.

EWELL
You want answers?!

FINCH
I want the truth.

EWELL
You can't handle the truth!

EWELL
(continuing)
Son, we live in a world that has walls between the races. And those walls have to be maintained by uneducated men with bad ideas. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Dill? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Tom Robinson and you curse the poor, racist whites in town. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That this accusation, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.
(beat)
You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me that wall. We use words like racist, ignorant, devaluin' my property...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending poverty and violent racism. You use 'em as a punchline.
(beat)
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very racist and segregated society I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you join the Citizens' Council and start mistreating Blacks. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to.

FINCH
(quietly)
Did you order Mayella to accuse Tom of rape?

EWELL
(beat)
I did what I had to do.

FINCH
Did you order Mayella to accuse Tom of rape?

EWELL
(pause)
You're goddamn right I did.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 9, 2018 at 10:31 AM in Howard Wasserman | Permalink

Comments

So Sorkin is gonna change the storyline from "Atticus was an establishment dude entirely comfortable with structural racism, including structural racism in the legal system, so long as legal formalities were followed and people acted politely on the surface" to "Atticus started out as a moron, willfully unaware of structural racism despite having been state legislator and the town's most prominent lawyer, then turns into establishment dude entirely comfortable with structural racism, including structural racism in the legal system, so long as legal formalities were followed and people acted politely on the surface."

Sounds awesome.

Posted by: Sam | Apr 10, 2018 10:25:09 AM

Asher is usually one of my favorite commenters here but now he is dead to me.

Posted by: emh | Apr 9, 2018 5:44:48 PM

It's a take on Sorkin's courtroom scene in "A Few Good Men": https://youtu.be/_frM44bBMfA

Posted by: Tom Mayo | Apr 9, 2018 2:40:42 PM

I feel like there's some middlebrow entertainment I would need to be conversant with to get the joke about this middlebrow adaptation of this middlebrow grade-school novel. Seriously (well, the last sentence was serious too, I have no clue what's being riffed on here but it sounds dreadful), what I take to be your parody of Sorkin's inept screenwriting isn't actually any worse than the novel itself; it's just dumb in a different way. ("It" being the Sorkinese being parodied, not the parody, which I'm sure more or less deftly lives up to its model. Although I don't know if it's quite fair, substantively, to Sorkin; I would expect his adaptation to be stupidly pious rather than idiotically dialectical. But who knows. It would be hard not to improve on the original and the proposed portrayal of Finch as a complicated, racist '50s liberal rather than as a cartoonish "paragon of virtue" whose racism and sexism the text is unaware of, though it is there, nevertheless, seems like an improvement.)

Posted by: Asher Steinberg | Apr 9, 2018 1:18:41 PM

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