West Wing Continuity Guide
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What is it about fathers on the West Wing?
It was after Toby's father turns up that "Speakerofmyhouse" started a list on the West Wing forum on Television Without Pity and suddenly we could see that just about every father we've heard of for these people has serious problems and issues for/with their sons (the following list is set up in the approximate order we learn about the father):
  • Charlie's dad seems to have deserted his family. [#103]
  • Leo's father committed suicide, thus deserting his family. [#113]
  • Sam's father was involved in a long time infidelity to his wife and family. [#216]
  • Jed's father couldn't accept that his son was smarter than he was (as well as being of a different religion and who knows what else) and this caused a breakdown in their relationship. [#222]
  • Toby has major problems with his Jewish Mafia father (who is a convicted felon) and that may not be all that has caused the rift between the two. [#411]
  • By contrast, Josh, (as David Daniel pointed out to us at TWoP), seems to have had a good relationship with his father, who died during Barlet's campaign for the White House. [#118]

Fathers and daughters seem to do better. Donna has spoken of her father. We know nothing about Abbey's father. But there are definite though mostly worked through strains in Jed's relationships as father with two of his daughters. C.J. seems close to her father, but now she is about to face her father leaving through Alzheimer's (again not his fault but always a problem for a relationship).

Is this about Fathers or about abandonment issues or both?

On the other hand we know almost nothing about mothers and none of these people seem to have "problems" with their mothers. David Daniel suggested on TWoP that perhaps "Sorkin takes enough flak for the liberal stances of his characters; perhaps, conciously or not, he's trying to keep them from being 'downright unAmerican.' So mothers are, if not downright venerated, not made the subject of 'issues'." We don't, however, think that justifies such a lack as suggested by the following:
  • Charlie's police-officer/single-parent mother was killed in the line.
  • Leo's mother argued with his father just before his father committed suicide but other than that we know nothing about her including whether she is still alive.
  • Sam's mother may have invented a word ("hoolelia"), but that's about all we have heard of her.
  • Jed has referred to what his mother would have said but other than that we know nothing about her except that she is/was (depending on whether she is alive or dead) Catholic (we were reminded of this by "JustJoshin" at TWoP).
  • Josh's mother is still alive, has moved from Connecticut to Florida, sent him shoes, would prefer that he wasn't in government service [Isaac] and that's about all we know of her though that is a huge amount more than we know of anyone else's mother in this group.
  • Toby's mother has been dead for twelve years.

Except for Charlie feeling responsible for his mother's death, these people in general do not seem to have "issues" with their mothers. Comparing the two lists, mothers do not seem to have a major negative effect on their sons, but also don't seem to have been all that important in general, unless you assume that only important negative influences are worth mentioning.

The unimportance of mothers is also indicated by a couple of very strange sentences uttered by the staffers of "The West Wing".
  • Ainsley doesn't mention her mother in her list of Republicans in her family. Was her mother a Democrat, completely out of politics (not even voting or making cookies for the faithful), or just unimportant?
  • Leo stops a member of a Congressional Committee who implies that MS is fatal contradicting that and adding, "And while on national television, it is criminal to imply otherwise in an offer to score some cheap points. You owe an apology to fathers of children who are suffering from this disease." One does wonder why the guy doesn't owe an apology to the mothers of those with MS. [#309]

None of these points in and of themselves, of course, stand out but there does seem to be a pattern about all this.

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