More Than Great Legs – Sloan Sabbith Character Study

If there’s one character that really stands out to me on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, it’s Sloan Sabbith. Played by the devilishly gorgeous Olivia Munn, Sloan is the only female character that has a truly complete character arc in the first season. As she transitions from a shy, socially awkward college girl to a dominating force and true student of honest news and investigative journalism, the audience has the chance to learn, grow and experience News Night alongside her.

A stunningly beautiful actress, comedian and Atlantis Cable News personality!

A stunningly beautiful actress, comedian and Atlantis Cable News personality!

 

When The Newsroom began, Sloan really wasn’t an integral part of any single story. At first, I assumed that she was a lower-level staffer on the News Night team, someone who was there to fact check and work out statistics and data. Since she was thrown in the corner and wasn’t given any real screen time, I didn’t think anything else was possible. Don even called her his “fourth and only choice”  when he needed her to fill in another newscaster’s time slot in one of the first episodes. As the season progressed however, people like McAvoy and MacKenzie started letting the audience know how smart she really was–who knew that she received a PhD in Economics at Duke University and studied under some of the country’s greatest economic minds!?

After being acknowledged as News Night’s Senior Financial Reporter, Sloan was given five minutes every night to “tell us where we are and how we got here” by MacKenzie. At this point in the show, the audience really started getting to know Sloan as a female professional in the American broadcast television workplace. Compassionate, quirky and knowledgable, Sloan captured the attention of a lot of ACN people very quickly. She was given more tasks to discuss the state of the economy and was asked to cover more stories, occasionally being allowed to fill in for missing reporters.

The most notable instance where she filled in for someone else was during the Fukushima power plant meltdown.At this point in the show, Sloan had really only focused on financial stories and helping MacKenzie try to better understand economics for a speech she had to give. Always helpful and always eager to learn, Sloan didn’t back down–she accepted the story and made the egregious mistake of using off-the-record information on live television. This is one of the parts of the show that I remember the most, specifically because it’s such an honest human error. When I worked for the Queens Chronicle newspaper, I spoke to assemblymen and local politicians off the record multiple times, and it was always hard to hear them say things to me that they didn’t necessarily say in public. No matter how much journalists would like to publish or broadcast everything they hear off-the-record, they simply can’t–it’s a matter of not only ethics and principle, but legal responsibility and overal believability.

In Sloan’s case, she caused panic in Japan based on information that hadn’t been formally released yet. Although she thought she would save lives and prove that the nuclear plant and government was not being truthful in their assessments of the meltdown level at the plant, she caused more problems than fixed them. It’s moments like this that remind the audience that everyone makes mistakes. Sloan was still learning how to do the news and do it well, and it’s safe to say that she learned a lot from that experience. Thankfully for her, McAvoy and Skinner loved her too much to let her get fired, so they had her lie (one of the only times they allowed a blatant lie to be aired) to save her job and the honor of the Japanese spokesperson she quoted.

In a video interview with Munn, she said that newsworthy is defined as something that the people “need to know.” Even during and after het worst mistake, Sloan was only thinking about the people and what they needed to know.

 

By the end of the show, Sloan had become extremely comfortable with live reporting. So much so that we would often only catch the ending of her segments on the economy and finances today. When it reached that point that MacKenzie, McAvoy and Skinner were confident that she knew what she was doing and how to get it done right, they didn’t have to watch her do it anymore.

As for Sloan’s social life, she also stood out to me as a character that went from a state of total social awkwardness to emotional understanding and bravery. In the first half of season one, she was always trying to help McAvoy, Don and MacKenzie with emotional issues and problems. Even though she didn’t have a boyfriend herself (or any real relationship experience at all, for that matter), she did her best to answer the questions of her coworkers and friends. I can really connect to this, because I’ve been helping friends with relationship problems and dating issues ever since the start of high school even though I’ve never really been involved in a relationship myself. Most people would think that this would limit the amount of help you can give, but I find that when you listen to everyone else’s problems and experiences, you’re able to form a database of knowledge that you can access to help others–and I definitely see Sloan accessing hers.

Always watching and always learning, Sloan has carried herself through one hectic season of work for News Night.

Always watching and always learning, Sloan has carried herself through one hectic season of work for News Night.

 

Towards the second half of the season, Sloan began standing up for what she thought was right. She began telling people like McAvoy, Neal and Don how she felt about them and what they should really think of themselves. In Don’s case, Sloan was courageous enough to say that she was “only single because [Don] never asked [her] out,” which was no doubt a hugh emotional boundary for her to jump. Although this did finalize her character’s emotional arc and bring her into a new stage of bravery and honesty, I did find it odd that she admitted this when she never really displayed any feelings or affection towards Don throughout the show. Don had asked her questions about problems with Maggie before, but Sloan only helped him as much as she did everyone else. Since she never gave Don any special attention or praise, it makes the audience wonder why she feels the way she does for a guy that really isn’t all that great.

Since she admitted to turning down an annual salary of four million dollars with a financial firm to serve the country and the News Night team, Sloan has clearly grown attached to the people involved in the News Night team. If I were her, I would stay with the News Night 2.0 team, too. Through the bonds she’s developed and trust she’s gained as the Senior Financial Reporter, Sloan is definitely learning that some things in life mean more than money and notoriety (cliche, sure, but Sloan absolutely displays this level of understanding by the final episode). Compared to other women on the show like Maggie and MacKenzie, Sloan comes off as smarter, sexier and more dominating (both physically and verbally) than anyone else. Getting thrown up against the wall by Sloan after calling her butt big must’ve been some experience, Neal!

For Sloan’s character in season two, I really hope to see her continuously becoming a more important, dominating force on the News Night team. As she takes on more stories and projects and continues to work under and alongside McAvoy and MacKenzie, I’m fairly confident that she’s on the straight path to success. Even if News Night were to fail or be cancelled, I don’t think there’s any doubt that a financial company (investing, marketing, actuarial services, etc.) would hire her in a heart beat.

Ms. Sabbith, you’re one strong women. If there’s anything I have to say to you, it’s keep your eyes clear and your heart open. You’re smart enough to know (on book-smart and street-smart levels) when someone or something is good for you and when that same person or thing is bad for you, and that kind of knowledge mixed with a PhD from Duke and McAvoy’s tutelage will take you places. Stay beautiful, sistah.

 

References:

HBO’s The Newsroom – Sloan Sabbith, HBO Website

@SloanSabbithACN, Twitter

The Newsroom Season One, Episodes One – Ten

About Daniel

Daniel is a graduate of CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, summa cum laude with a B.A. in Film Production and TV/Radio. He can be reached via his website, www.passingplanes.com. The Utopia of Daniel was his college blog and he has since transitioned to posting on other sites.