The West Wing may very well be the most popular American political drama ever made. Written and produced by Aaron Sorkin, this series focused on the lives and work environment of White House staffers working in the administration of the fictional President Josiah Bartlet. The show was smart, funny, and masterfully well-written.
One reason for the show's success is its amazing cast of characters, such as the charismatic Press Secretary C. J. Cregg and the jaded Dickensian speechwriter Toby Ziegler. Another favorite character among the fans was the Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman, whose job put him into regular contact with both low-ranking and top tier White House personnel, including the President himself. Given his popularity (and the amazing performances of actor Bradley Whitford), Josh turned out to be an incredibly complex character. Here are ten things most fans don't know about Josh Lyman.
10 College Girls Love Him
It is rare that political operatives in the White House are known for having groupies, but Josh Lyman does. College girls just can't get enough of him. The reason seems to be a mixture of his good looks (which were better before his hairline receded), his progressive politics, and the irreverent way he speaks his truth in front of national TV audiences.
While Josh is famous for his hotheadedness, being considered a hot item by teenage girls can't do anything but help swell his already inflated ego. When confronted by fans in public, he handles the attention with a temperate restraint that's otherwise unusual for him.
9 His Sister Burned To Death
Josh has some unresolved trauma he never learned to cope with. In fact, this is a theme that repeats itself throughout the show, not that he's even fully aware of it most of the time. Music, in particular, seems to be a trigger for him.
His older sister Joanie used to play Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria." When she was babysitting him, their house caught fire. Josh ran away, but his sister was killed in the fire. He barely speaks about this, but every so often when"Ave Maria" plays nearby, buried trauma and grief resurface.
Josh is not the most devout character on the show, but if the New York Mets ever formed a religion, he'd be among the first to officially convert. In the episode "We Killed Yamamoto," he has a romantic evening planned with his then-girlfriend, Amy Gardner.
To quote Josh, "It's going to be a good night. My woman, a fine stew, and a Mets game on national TV. You see how I slipped that last one in?" Clearly, Josh's romantic priorities are enough to make anyone swoon. Well, anyone who shares his passion for the Mets.
7 Disdain For Average People
A common talking point that Josh loves to return to is the stupidity of the average voter, which roughly translates into contempt for the stupidity of the average person. During the two-part episode "20 Hours In America," he gets left behind by the Presidential motorcade along with Toby and Donna, the two men spending much of their time ridiculing the people they encounter.
He's gotten into trouble several times for making derisive generalizations about such groups as the Christian Right, the press, and the population of the internet. Misanthropic as this might be, he still values the democratic process.
6 Smarter Than He Looks
As one of the characters most likely to open his mouth and shove his whole foot inside, Josh can seem like an idiot. However, he is actually one of the sharpest political strategists in Washington. In the previously-mentioned episode "20 Hours in America" when Josh is stranded in rural Indiana, he has Sam staff the President for him.
After this experience, Sam tells Leo's daughter Mallory, "I love Josh like a brother and he is a world-class political mind, but until today I didn't realize he was smarter than I was."
5 Complicated Relationship With Religion
While not particularly devout, Josh is Jewish. He does not seem to keep Kosher nor does he regularly attend Temple, but his faith is clearly important to him.
His long-time friend, Toby, is also Jewish, but seems to have a deeper connection to his faith. In the pilot, the Christian Right activist Mary Marsh ridicules Josh for "that New York sense of humor" – with "New York" being a popular code word for "Jewish" among Christian supremacists in the United States. On this occasion, Toby came to his defense, calling out Mary Marsh for her veiled anti-Semitism.
4 Mental Health Struggles
In the first season, Josh goes to see his therapist in the episode "The Crackpots and These Women." His therapist tells Josh that it has been some time since they've seen each other, to which Josh responds that his attending therapy might make his coworkers nervous.
Josh has at least two mental breaks on the show. The first happens shortly after he is shot, as he relives the trauma of the night of the shooting. In the final season, after helping to get Matt Santos elected as the next President, Josh begins to have another breakdown from the stress of his job. He screams at a staffer with such vitriol that Sam intercedes with an ultimatum: either Josh can take a vacation, or else Sam will quit and never come back.
Josh is a big believer in traditional gender roles, though he seems to be almost totally unaware of his own biases here. While he is definitely not a chauvinist in the classical sense, he very much is part of the "boys will be boys" worldview. In the episode "Hubbert Peak," he test-drives an SUV because it gets his testosterone going.
In fact, manliness seems like a major preoccupation of his (though the series creator Aaron Sorkin often looks at gender roles as a theme in his work). Hopefully, his time in a relationship with the women's rights activist Amy Gardner helped challenge him some.
2 The Media Is His Achilles Heel
News outlets follow statements from White House staffers with close scrutiny, analyzing every detail for hidden meanings. Thankfully for the press, Josh Lyman is never subtle. When he opens his mouth, the wrong things come tumbling out in an avalanche, ensuring reporters always have a story available.
Whether it's him accusing God of tax fraud, the symbolic act of demolishing a Prius with an SUV, or holding a press conference in which he makes up a lie about the President having a secret budget plan (which he then condemns), Josh is bound to make reporters happy through some careless act.
Josh likes his beef the way President Bartlet likes Bahji terrorists – burnt to a fiery crisp. In the episode "Take Out The Trash Day," Donna speaks with a woman who was sent out to pick up food. Donna asks if the cooks burnt Josh's burger. The woman responds that she told the chefs to make sure it was well-done.
Donna says that Josh "likes it beyond well-done. He likes it burnt." A similar exchange occurs in the episode "We Killed Yamamoto" in which Amy assures Josh that she did, in fact, burn the beef in stew she was making for them to share. The man clearly knows what he likes.