From unsavory staff breakups, to angry rants at The New York Times, to the very recent and very public contract disputes, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner has proven himself to be utterly unafraid of expressing emotion.
And there’s a very simple reason for it.
The girl can’t help it.
A look at where all the planets were during Weiner’s birth reveals a man made up of a mass of roiling feelings and emotions that are incessantly gurgling up from his subconscious and making their way onscreen. Not to mention the psychic ability that his superabundance of Cancer planets bring.
He is essentially a walking raw nerve, fated to forever feeling things, as well as picking up on the emotional state of all around him.
It is a power he likely cannot shut off.
His genius is that while others would be afraid to plumb the depths, Weiner has willingly dived in and embraced the powers that his planets bring him.
And what a brilliant piece of art he has wrought with his talents.
On Telepathy, Cracked Glass, and a Consistent Subconscious
Water signs: Sun, Moon, Mercury, and Venus in Cancer. Neptune in Scorpio. Saturn in Pisces.
In astrology water represents emotions and feelings, and Weiner has six planets in water signs, as well as every water sign being present in his chart.
Cancer is a sign associated with extreme empathy, sensitivity, emotional complexity, and possessiveness. The dual burden/gift of Cancer is that not only do people born under this sign experience things incredibly acutely, but they also sense what lies beneath in others.
Mentally composing a gurnal entry
Here’s audio from an interview where Weiner describes his abilities.
And it’s not just emotions that Weiner is able to divine. According to a GQ article, after his first meeting with Jon Hamm, Weiner turned to his casting director and declared, “That man was not raised by his parents.” (Hamm was in fact raised primarily by a trio of friends’ mothers after his own died.)
While Weiner’s subconscious brings him concrete information and feelings about people, it also flashes more oblique details and images, the meaning of which is not immediately known to him.
Lisa Albert, a writer on all four seasons, said in a fantastic Vanity Fair article by Bruce Handy, “There is some of it that is, frankly, mysterious. Like, Matt will have an image in his mind, and he’s not sure why, and we sit around and talk about it and try and figure out why this thing keeps coming in his mind.”
An image of cracked glass that haunted Weiner was eventually transmuted into Don’s sojourn with a group of European jet-setters.
Don and the not-so-subtly-named Joy
“I count on my subconscious to be consistent,” Weiner said. “And how that works I have no fucking idea, and I don’t even want to investigate it. Because if I lose that I have nothing to say.”
Details, Marilyns, and Jackies, or Weiner and Women
Earth signs: Mars, Uranus, and Pluto in Virgo.
Weiner with a Marilyn and a Jackie
Virgos love to be working, and they are obsessed with details. Weiner exemplifies this to a t.
During the filming of the “Mad Men” pilot, he was adamant that the ashtrays visible in background shots should be filled with cigarettes. It irked him that in films and television this piece of verisimilitude was always overlooked.
Here’s Weiner discussing why he cares about the ashtrays, and what is ultimately underneath all the layers (hint: it involves Christina Hendricks).
Alan Taylor, a director on many episodes, called Weiner’s obsession with details “maniacal.”
For Weiner, all the details add up to the whole. He will have conversations about everything, including the headboard on Betty’s bed, which he felt a particularly strong carnal desire for.
Matthew Weiner wants to fuck one of the things in this photo, and it’s not the woman who looks like Grace Kelly
But before he had a chance to make decisions on both a macro and micro level, Weiner spent years not working.
Upon graduating from U.S.C. Film School in 1990, he couldn’t find a job. These post-grad years, according to Vanity Fair, consisted of “watching lots of TV and writing screenplays that went unsold or were left unfinished.” Meanwhile, Weiner’s wife, an architect, supported him and the family.
This power dynamic, I believe, led to the incredibly complicated relationship he now has with women.
Weiner’s empathy and understanding of women permeates the show. They are fully fleshed, three dimensional characters that don’t exist simply to antagonize or inspire the male characters. Their plights and problems are addressed with the same amount of import given the men’s issues.
And in the writer’s room Weiner has surrounded himself with women.
Season 2 writers
While this was initially presented as an anomaly within the industry, the response quickly turned sour after Kater Gordon, one of his Emmy-wining writers, was let go.
Weiner and Kater Gordon receiving their award for best writing in a television drama
Gordon’s quick career trajectory mirrors Peggy’s own. Just as Peggy sailed from secretary to copywriter to being one of Don’s most skilled co-workers, Gordon went from being Weiner’s personal assistant to writer’s assistant, to staff writer, to co-writer on the Emmy-winning finale in a scant two years.
This career track is nothing new to Weiner, as he is routinely promoting his female assistants (writer Robin Veith was originally hired as a “creative personal assistant,” in her words). In much the same way that his wife gave him a shot, he is consistently giving women career opportunities.
“I don’t care if you work 10 seconds if you bring me something I like”
Just as one would expect from a writer who wears their emotions on their sleeve, practically all of the exchanges between Don and Peggy in “The Suitcase” could easily mirror a conversation Weiner had with one of his writers.
For someone with the planetary alignment that Matthew Weiner has, this is how it would have to be.
It all comes out.
When Weiner was getting pressured from AMC to sign a contract, Don too was being pressured to sign on for more time at Sterling Cooper. Just like Don, Weiner had nothing binding him. He could walk at any time, which is what he threatened and did a staggering FOUR times during his recent contract negotiations. “Mad Men” and its perfect creation is so important to him that he would rather not do it than do it imperfectly.
And ultimately he will listen to his feelings every time over commerce.
It is these feelings that are, finally, always at the heart of “Mad Men”: