It may seem excessive to continue to analyze the motivations of Mad Men creator “Matthew Weiner” in depth. But he is an influential individual. If I enter into Google News, not Google overall, just the official news sites:
“Mad Men” Weiner
I get this count of pages:
About 7,070,000 results (0.48 seconds)
To give that some perspective
“secretary of state” kerry
About 556,000 results (0.46 seconds)
In Haaretz, Matthew Weiner explains, “Sterling Cooper is modeled on my high school,” which was Harvard-Westlake Prep in the Hollywood Hills.
Matthew Weiner opens up about his landmark show, identity, anti-Semitism, and U.S. nostalgia for the sixties.
By The Forward and Anne Cohen | Mar. 27, 2015 | 1:46 AM
… A. I was raised with a real Jewish intellectual identity. Freud, Marx and Einstein — those were the holy trinity of the household I grew up in. …
Q. I want to talk about a scene from the show’s first season, in which the Israel Tourism Board approaches Sterling Cooper for an advertising campaign. It’s an interesting plot line. How did you come up with it?
A. When we started the show, I really only had a few episodes I knew I was going to do and that was one of them. I wanted to talk about America’s love affair with Israel. I love this idea of people like Don, who is white, looking at us and seeing us as heroes.
Q. You once mentioned that the show portrays America’s “sophisticated” or “casual” anti-Semitism. What is that?
A. I experienced direct anti-Semitism in my youth. Sterling Cooper is modeled on my high school.
See? I’m not making this stuff up. The more interviews Weiner gives, the more it turns out that Mad Men is driven by Weiner’s objectively bizarre but highly useful feelings of self-pity and ethnic animus.
Weiner’s prep school, Harvard-Westlake of Studio City on Coldwater Canyon in the Hollywood Hills (current tuition $33,500), was the arch-rival in debate of my high school, Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks down in the flats (current tuition $14,050).
Of the 120 kids in my class there were 20 Jews and people would talk about how the school was half Jewish.
Weiner is obsessed with this statistic. In interviews with him I’ve read, he’s given estimates for how Jewish his class at Harvard Prep was of one-tenth, one-eighth, and now one-sixth. He’s probably still upset over an L.A. Herald Examiner article from his time there 1981 that said “an estimated 40 percent of the student body is Jewish.”
That line Pete Campbell says in [the Season 1 pilot], I heard someone say: “Adding money and education doesn’t take the rude edge out of people.” Obviously I remembered it.
Indeed you did, Matthew, indeed you did.
There’s also institutional anti-Semitism. Like, ‘You’re okay — I don’t like your people in general — but you’re ok.’ Even Don is in that boat. It’s not like anyone ever pretended that there wasn’t anti-Semitism. I wanted to express my feeling of being a minority, marginalized on some level because of overrepresentation in cultural aspects of the United States in general.
This is a subtle argument Weiner is making: Weiner wants to express his feelings that Jews are marginalized because they are overrepresented in formulating American culture. It’s a little bit like saying Bill Gates and Warren Buffett need to express their feelings of being a minority, marginalized on some level because of overrepresentation in plutocratic aspects of the United States in general and thus have to salve their emotions by playing golf together at Augusta National.
All of these jokes that we make about ourselves are based on stereotypes. I’ve experienced direct anti-Semitism because for some reason or other I’ve been in situations where people didn’t know I was Jewish. And like Sal [the closeted Sterling Cooper art director who gets fired after a client comes on to him], I had to stand there while people said horrible things. So, for me to own this part of the story was important.
Q. How does your Jewish identity shape the way you think about characters?
A. I think it does. Whether it’s women or gays or people of color — I’m from a middle class family and I’ve had advantages, but I side with the outsider and the underdog. I have two older sisters, I have a mom who’s Trudy Campbell’s age and I totally identified with everyone from Betty Friedan to Helen Gurley Brown. I have, for lack of a better word, a minority experience. When they’re talking about everybody they’re not talking about you — I have arrived but conditionally.
A half decade ago, I asked American Jews to please start developing a sense of noblesse oblige about their fellow American citizens. But what’s in it for them as a career strategy? How much good did noblesse oblige do the old WASP elite?
Weiner’s fabulous career demonstrates that what pays these days is not nobility but pettiness.