Timecode: 5:23 – 9:07
In short, Captain, I’d like to suggest that… I be the one who that- That it be me who’s assigned to represent them… Myself.
Before Dana or Donna. Before C.J. Cregg or Sydney Ellen Wade. And long, long before MacKenzie McHale or Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend, there was Jo.
Simply put, Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway was the proto-Sorkin female. With every step she took and every word she spoke, she defined what it meant (and, as it turns out, what it would always mean) to be a Sorkinian leading lady (SLL). Why, just look at all the boxes she checks on Cosmo’s official¹ SLL quiz:
- Are you brilliant…but bumbling? √
- Is work your first, second and third priority? √
- Do you have trouble making friends*? (*Note: a co-worker is not a friend) √
- Are you capable, passionate, and opinionated when dealing with any and all work-related matters…? √
- …but basically a klutzy, incompetent half-wit the moment you find yourself in the same room with a man you have feelings for? √
- And finally, at the end of the day, is your life’s mission to push the man you work for/under to be a better lawyer/president/newscaster/man? √
- BONUS QUESTION: Do you have (or have you ever had) unreasonably short hair? √
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a clean sweep! She’s got it all! But…
There is one thing that sets Jo apart from basically every SLL that’s come since: the actress who played her was a stone-cold fox.
Demi Moore has always been a talented actress, but in the early 90’s she was the sexiest woman alive. Don’t believe me? The three roles she took post-AFGM were Indecent Proposal, Disclosure, and The Scarlet Letter. So, to recap, she played a married woman who Robert Redford offers a million dollars to have sex with him; a seductress/CEO who basically rapes Michael Douglas; and Hester Prynne, arguably English literature’s most irresistible temptress: bonnet & bodice division.
(Quick sidebar: if you’re reading this, and you’re yelling at your computer screen: “hey, what about Annette Benning or Felicity Huffman or Kate Winslet? They’re SLL’s and they’re fucking gorgeous!” Well, I’ve got news for you, friend: you’re a woman. Because no heterosexual man has ever turned to his buddy and said, “hey, you know who I’d give my left nut to sleep with? Annette Benning.” It’s the same reason no guy ever trusts a woman when she says her friend is “beautiful”; we see these things differently. But I digress…)
The point is Demi Moore was a bona fide sex symbol. And that’s one of the things that makes her performance as Galloway so incredible. She actually makes us believe that not only is she hopelessly single, but that she may never have been on a date in her life (but more on that later when we get to Kaffee and Galloway’s crab shack rendezvous).
So, how do you take the sexiest woman on the planet and transform her into a relatable every woman? Well, to start with, you chop off her hair and dress her like this:
And then you let Sorkin’s self-deprecating dialogue and Moore’s eager-but-anxious performance take it from there: “’That it be I who am assigned?’ That’s good. That’s confidence inspiring.”
Galloway’s poor grammatical constructions aside, the most notable thing about this scene is that it drops a buttload of exposition into the audience’s lap, including the names of our defendants (Dawson & Downey, a.k.a. D+D Music Factory), our victim (Santiago), and the idea of a Code Red. It also introduces us to Captain West (who we’ll never see again) and his commanding officer, i.e. his mustache.
Amid the information download, we also get two Sorkin staples (courtesy of the aforementioned Captain
1) A character tries to be diplomatic, but when it doesn’t work, opts instead for (comedic) bluntness.
Commander Galloway, why don’t you get yourself a cup of coffee?
I’m fine, sir.
Commander, I’d like you to leave the room so we can talk about you behind your back.
2) A character sarcastically answers their own rhetorical question with an archaic reference that’s likely to sail over 95% of the audience’s head (a.k.a. “The Dennis Miller”).
Three cases in two years? Who was she handling, the Rosenbergs²?
By the time we’re done, Galloway’s “all passion, no street smarts” reputation seals her fate, and she’s passed over for lead counsel. Instead, Captain
Mustache West assures her, “division’ll assign the right man for the job.” But more about him next week…