HBO has a free online screening of the first episode of the new comedy Veep starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It has the same pacing, cross-talk, multiple storylines, and political infighting of The West Wing except it is played strictly for laughs. Some have suggested that it may even be a more accurate portrayal of life in the executive branch of the government than its more serious predecessor, and I can believe that since the principals in Veep are quite ambitious, cynical, and manipulative. There are no high-minded moralists in this crowd.
The first episode dealt with the staff dealing with one problem after another, all of them trivial in my eyes, but the kind of thing that people in those positions obsess over, such as a poorly worded tweet by an underling, a misguided attempt at humor using the word ‘retard’ that blows up in their faces, a condolence card to a dead senator’s widow that was signed by a staffer who forgot to sign the vice-president’s name and put her own, and so on.
The show was quite funny but what struck me was that all the characters, the vice president, senators, staffers, men, women, all swore like the proverbial drunken sailor. Staffers spoke like that when talking to the vice president and she replied in kind. It made me wonder if people in those positions actually did that. The West Wing, being on broadcast TV, could not have swearing but HBO can, but I was not sure if they were accurately portraying the way people speak or merely using their extra freedom to take some license.
I have worked in universities and research laboratories my entire life and nowhere have I found people who pepper their everyday speech with such strong language. I had assumed that it would also be rare in white collar environments, especially at very high levels of government.
But maybe I’m wrong.