(You can read it here!)
Hopefully this is the first of a few I’ve got kicking around?
Everything I’ve written for The Newsroom takes place in the same universe in my head so there’s a bit of cross-referencing to things-yet-to-be-completed. And there are some themes here that carry through, explored in more detail in other things I’ve written.
This particular thing started as a joke, because I made a crack mix? And then instead of just making witty comments about why I chose all the songs I decided to write something amusing in fic form? But then it turned out to be less funny than I intended. So. Here there be a discussion of song and stylistic choices, track by track or section by section.
The first track on the mix is American Woman and 100% this whole thing happened because it came on shuffle on my way to work one day and I thought it would be a hilarious joke about Mac being American. So that’s where the story starts.
The first example of something I’ve touched on here but head cannoned extensively elsewhere is the reference to Will being his father. I’ve written most of this thing about Mac meeting Will’s family, and that’s a really central theme, he doesn’t want to be his father but he’s also afraid of being his mother. (His mother who forgives his father, stays in a relationship she by all accounts should leave. And I think this plays into him being really unforgiving and it always has – his mother forgave his father but he didn’t.) But I think he’s more aware, more wary of becoming his father.
I’m guessing that line is going to be polarizing because you know, it skirts a pretty dark edge of the character and we all want to like our favourite characters, believe they are incapable of really horrible things like domestic violence.
And I like Will a lot, probably relate way too much considering we’re demographically completely dissimilar. But I’ve always related to him a lot and I do like him, and I am in no way suggesting he would ever, ever do that.
But I think it’s like … that thing you can have with your parents, where you see all the worst things they do in yourself even though you want so desperately to avoid them, they feel like traps right? You don’t want to fall into them. But you’re hyperaware that you’re hardwired a certain way, nature vs. nurture work in tandem here. So there’s this fatalistic idea at work, he’s always going to turn into his father. And he really doesn’t want to.
He also really thinks the worst of himself a lot of the time and he knows he can have a bit of a temper – so I think in terms of internal monologue this makes a kind of sense to me, for him to think that.
Also and I’ve explored this elsewhere in other stories, but Mac really idolizes Will in the beginning. (I think this changes over the course of the canon.) I think she obviously sees that he’s not perfect and he’s kind of narcissistic and all the rest of it. But she also thinks he’s brilliant, that he can be, and I think he’s probably a little bit addicted to that, because she sees the best in him where he sees the worst. So he has this thing: he never wants to disappoint her, hurt her, scare her. She thinks better of him than he thinks of himself and he wants to live up to that.
So. He never wants to be his father. Also he’s really pissed at her for sleeping with her ex-boyfriend.
The “kicks her out” thing is also an idea skated here more fully explored in something else I’m writing. (As in, actually I’ve written that exact scene from her perspective.) But I think she has to have left pretty soon after they broke up: Charlie doesn’t know anything about what happened, she’s been overseas for nearly two of the three years they haven’t seen each other in the Pilot, she says he never heard any of her explanations.
Mac is really honest, and basically all of this is canvassed in the character description in this post and my largely incoherent tags. But. Intimidating in her refusal to pretend she’s invulnerable was one of the best ways I could think to put it. So I think this is why it’s jarring especially to think of her lying.
Second track is Cake’s amazing cover of I Will Survive, now with more swears. (Swears, in general, make break up songs better. And I Will Survive is the break up song.) And the second section is written to that. Also I really like the relationship between Will and Charlie. I think Sorkin does that pretty well: he writes good manlove. And men in general I think. (But let’s not get on Sorkin writing men vs. women wank it’s late and I’ve had way too much wine to communicate my kind of nuanced point instead of just sounding like an asshole.)
Then it’s Apologize by OneRepublic (I did say it was a crack mix.)
All songs are love songs is my unfortunate personal experience worked out through fic instead of talk therapy.
I will defend my choice of Apologize by saying poor Will, it was 2007, was it possible to go anywhere and not hear that song? And all songs are love songs and that’s the worst after a break up, except for Miley Cyrus’ Party In The USA, which has zero references to love or sex, I will forever be fond of it for getting me through my own couch-lying phase in 2010, and I hope this new knowledge helps you too
Also I find this scenario maybe a tad overblown but incredibly amusing.
The next bit is Dreams by Fleetwood Mac which is of course one of the greatest songs ever written. This I can actually see Will listening to, Rumours is just … you know. One of the albums. (Also contains Go Your Own Way and The Chain ... it's basically a break up album. But Dreams is the best of those tracks for wallowing in your own despair. So.) All of this is all fairly self-explanatory head canon stuff: I do have this extra thought that he started smoking way more after she left. But you know, who didn’t? Break ups are rough, poor lil buddy.
Thorn in my side by The Eurhythmics is 10/10 best break up song ever do recommend because what every break up needs is MORE SAXOPHONE. (Like cow bell, most things need more saxophone.)
From my footnotes at AO3:
T. S. Eliot went to Oxford, and yes, I just ganked a poet who did for purposes of this joke. The Oxford comma thing has been hanging around in a word document waiting for a home for a while now so it needed a partner. I’m not really a fan myself so I have no idea what MacKenzie would have been quoting in her e-mails.
Also god the Oxford comma thing has been tickling me for weeks.
As for I love yous etc. I have incredibly detailed head canon about how all this happens with respect to timing given all the things said in canon. I’m getting a little wine weary now, but
(Like I said, I’m wine weary, don’t judge me.)
The Harry Nilsson song is Without You. Oh god. If the image of Will McAvoy playing this song and drinking scotch at 2 am doesn’t amuse you then either you’re a) a good person who sees the misery that would involve and feels bad being amused by it or b) I don’t know what, someone who doesn’t find Without You hilariously melodramatic (but also a decent tune.)
The next song referenced is It Must Have Been Love and I really do recommend a scream-along to Roxette with your favourite liquor in hand in case of break up. I would also recommend doing this in the comfort of your own home wearing the pajamas you’ve been wearing for four days now, not in a karaoke bar. (Look, it's fine, things are hard right now. You don't have to think of your dignity, but I'm here to do that for you. Trust me, I know how to do it right because I did everything wrong.)
The White Stripes cover of I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself is next. I think this song captures pretty well the “what now” that quickly follows the end of a relationship. This was also meant to be funny but I’m told it ended up being more sad?
(Are you telling me jokes about being completely dead inside and not knowing what to do with yourself aren’t funny? Because I am going to need to completely overhaul my repertoire.)
The bit about mess is ... I can see him being like that. (To be fair, other people's mess in YOUR space is annoying.) But also this song is in all my writing playlists for the post-s2/throughout the canon timeline thing I'm writing so. It's like... full circle, look, I'm profound.
Elvis! Again, as I said, all my Newsroom fic happens in the same universe in my head and I have this mostly finished thing about Mac pestering Will to take her to the cow paddock he was raised in until he gives in (the file is saved as why not write a road trip in Nebraska fic.docx, what I like writing about small towns) and as such, invented him some siblings. His oldest sister in that story was one of my favourites to write (mostly because she was snarky and using a lot of Xanax recreationally but also, like he comments here, she did have solid taste in music.) So she got a little time out to play here.
Also (again from AO3):
Stoppard was originally Shakespeare but I feel like that kind of theatre Will could deal with (even if he did leverage it for company at sporting events) but Stoppard is definitely compromise territory because, absurdist theatre?
I can’t decide if it’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead or Travesties, if you care it can be up to you. (I head canon that Mac has some more literary tastes from her time at Cambridge.)
Hit Parade by Unkle Bob is where I try to convince you I don’t have the worst taste in music ever and that I am hip and cool or at least I was in 2007. Seriously, this song is so sad but has always rung incredibly true to me about what it’s like to break up with someone. This section is one of the first that doesn’t necessarily happen in the order it’s written: it obviously skips ahead a fair amount of time, but I was starting to feel like I needed to cover that, like, despite not being over her in the first episode of season one, he’s obviously … had a life. Because it's been three years. And things are different. So. Here’s a transition montage, in fic form.
Side note: I quite like the mostly safe, mostly sound bit.
She’s So Cold. Ah, loves me some Stones. Entirely inspired by Election Night where he says that she was lying. (Also the fact that I got to the end and still needed something to write about this song but shh. I picked the song because it’s the Rolling Stones and it has a vibe okay?) I also really love writing them communicating when they’re together, it’s just really fun imagining them as a couple, but a snarky couple.
Don’t Think Twice. I’m usually not a huge Dylan fan. Sometimes he’s a little too much a voice that came from you and me you know? (By which I mean, tuning issues. I have a snobby ear.) But he definitely writes a solid heartfelt ballad, and this is one of them. I wanted something gentle to wrap it all up with. And goodbye's too good a word sort of … just fit really well. I don’t know how that all happened. The song came first but I wasn’t even really intentionally trying to fit around it, but it sort of came together in one of those happy accidents that are just the greatest joy of writing.
So, MacKenzie doesn’t say goodbye until she does.
Obviously here the message she leaves, she has an idea that she might not come back, and she definitely thinks that’s she’s going to get away from it all, put it behind her. This is discordant from what the reader knows earlier, that she calls him when she gets home but … at the time she leaves she has noble intentions, journalistically and otherwise.
And again, I was referencing myself elsewhere, the fact that she calls him when she gets back was something I’d already written, from her perspective. There he’s the first person she calls, even though she knows he’s not going to answer. It’s almost a superstitious thing. So when I came to all the messages she was leaving him, about the show etc. (Atlanta’s fine, I miss New York, I miss you was kind of Neil Diamond inspired… LA’s fine, the sun shines most the time.Which, incidentally, would also not be amiss on a break up playlist.) I’d already written those and was trying to find them a home and I sort of thought of mirroring that scene I’d already written: he’s the last person she wants to say goodbye to and the first person she calls.
Side bar from AO3 footnotes:
Mac’s correcting his French when she says “Meetterrond” referring to François Mitterrand, former French President who .... at best didn’t really do a whole lot to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and worst maybe even encouraged it? That came out due to documents declassified in July 2007. I sort of debated how to phoneticise it. The 'd' isn't really hard bc end of a French word? And it's more of an 'o' than an 'a' sound, in English. But. I also can hardly speak a word of French so that also complicates things.
Against All Odds is meant to be the “bonus track” … and just a little joke that is hilarious to me at the end there. Another great one to cry to at home alone in the dark … you know, Will’s schtick. (And definitely something he’d be too cool to admit he’d ever voluntarily listened to.) As am I. I have never heard it before in my life Officer, it's not mine I swear.