6: Excerpt, episode of “The West Wing,” Season 3, 2001.
In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, Leonard Cohen said, “I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses [“Hallelujah”], and the reviewer said 'Can we please have a moratorium on Hallelujah in movies and television shows?' And I kind of feel the same way.”
Although Cohen himself agreed with those who thought the song was overused, it continues to appeal to diverse artists and audiences since its original release in 1984. It's used in a wildly diverse array of contexts—from the animated children's movies Shrek and Sing to the silver medal-winning Chinese figure skating routine at the 2018 Olympics to this scene from the popular White House drama series The West Wing, in which a police officer who is trying to stop a crime from being committed has just been murdered.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students why they think the producers of this West Wing episode may have chosen to use “Hallelujah” in this scene. What does the song do to the scene? And what does the scene do to the song? Why do you think Cohen expressed a desire for a moratorium on the song in movies and television? And why do you think this song, written by a Canadian Jew, continues to appeal to a universal audience?
Source: The West Wing. “Posse Comitatus” Season 3, Episode 21, Directed by Alex Graves. NBC. May 22, 2002.