Mad Men and Matthew Weiner’s anti-WASP Ax Grinding

One reason I liked Mad Men is because it blatantly portrayed a time before political correctness took over. I recognized some of the Northeastern WASP culture subtext, but I am not familiar enough with that environment to understand all the nuance. In interviews related to the series finale, creator Matthew Weiner has been more open about how the show is an outworking of his Jewish anti-Wasp ax grinding. I mostly missed this. I recognized that the show portrayed the WASP culture as decadent, but most Hollywood portrayals of WASP culture emphasize it decadence, so I didn’t really pick up on the underlying hostility. Steve Sailer has been following this issue closely. I find this post fascinating – a seemingly out of nowhere little scene, actually has a lot of meaning and historical context related to intra-White Upper Class rivalries.

As I mention in a comment on the Sailer thread, as a middle-class Southern white boy, all this WASP and intra-WASP nuance is lost on me because it was so off my radar screen growing up. Most of my milieu was homogeneous sameness. The only exoticness that got you any street cred was if you could claim some Cherokee ancestry. I recall noting when I was a kid that people with “odd” sounding last names were usually Catholic and inevitably transplants. So when people would ask “what are you” it was always something that you had supposedly looked into based on the last names in your family tree, not something you knew intuitively.

That Weiner, a Jew from a well off California family, understands all this enough to be pathologically bitter about it, where as it is all foreign to me, a many generations deep Southern white kid, says something.

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8 thoughts on “Mad Men and Matthew Weiner’s anti-WASP Ax Grinding

  1. roho

    Never watched Mad Men. (Familiar with it, but mostly watch documentaries, history, and movies.) Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, a bit farther down the Appalachian Mountains in Alabama, memory has no concept of Jews?…..However, WASP adults spoke openly about Negroes and Catholics? (Divorce was the “D” word and never used around children.) Adulthood and the internet has helped many of us understand that Catholics don’t really worship Mary Statues, Jews were a bigger problem than we realized, Negroes are just as our ancestors explained, and “Where the hell did all of these no English speaking Hispanics come from??”

    For the first time in US History, there are NO Wasps on the Supreme Court?……….That can’t be good?……….LOL!

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  2. weavercht

    That’s fascinating.

    I suppose my folks used to conflict with upcountry South Carolinians. The only remnant of that is we cheer on the Gamecocks (vs. Clemson). Whether one attends Presbyterian or Episcopal church nowadays doesn’t seem significant, but that might be because the community is so small. The Mad Men society is likely much larger, thus more ethnic. I suppose Catholics were seen as strange growing up.

    My usual quarrel is with English and post-English who are obsessed with harmful ideology or traditions (such as the nuclear family). I half expect to catch some sacrificing goats to the “Invisible Hand” of the free market. Personally I’ve never found anything sacred about Wal-Mart’s using Chinese goods to undercut American industry and Main Street shops. And I don’t like the idea of the “free market” paving over heritage sites.

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  3. weavercht

    Roho,

    there are no WASPs, but somehow Southern activists still believe “Yankees” are afoot behind all the world’s problems.

    Yankees seem to me to have largely vanished from power. They don’t have children, and they don’t feel a sense of ethnicity. We see the Bush family and a few others, but Yankee power seems to be on the decline. Jeb Bush married an Hispanic woman! His children aren’t now Yankees surely.

    Jews seem much more powerful than Yankees nowadays.

    Filmer,

    There is a new divide though within Protestant: traditional, established churches vs. the weird neo-churches. I don’t think it matters how nice the building is, but a church needs to be based on a tradition. Otherwise it tends to preach strange things.

    I did have some Yankee teachers, growing up. One in particular taught how Southerners were evil. He was from some famous, overly wealthy family I’d never heard of. I wasn’t impressed by an outsider’s heritage myself. Anyway, we never got in trouble for displaying a Confederate flag in my car, which we did as underdogs not as a sense of offending blacks as others interpret the thing. I was friendly with the few blacks at the school, though the idea of intermarrying with them was anathema. Nowadays, it’s just floods of outsiders moving into the South.

    I don’t mind Yankees nowadays who are proud to be something. I just hate cosmopolitans. My experience is every English and post-English ethnicity is insane. The Southern heritage groups embrace political heritage I don’t find valuable. It’s largely all variations of the same English classical liberal insanity to me. Southerners are just a tad more civilised and sane is all.

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  4. MJK

    I watched a handful of episodes from the first season. It just never clicked with me. Though I couldn’t put my finger on it, the show seemed over the top in its presentation and character development — as vehicle it was too self-conscious, too preening.

    For me, Weiner’s portrayal of that industry and time was heavy handed. I don’t understand the appeal of this show.

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  5. roho

    Weaver.

    “Yankees” major offense is and always has been the grand effort of forcing other cultures into their self diagnosed concept of perfection. In other words:

    1. I don’t care that the Japanese don’t wear shoes in their homes.
    2. I don’t care that Democracy is not the best system for all nations.
    3. I don’t care that some cultures have multiple wives.
    4. I don’t care if someone does not recycle.
    5. I don’t care if Arabs cut peoples heads off.
    6. I don’t care about most anything not impacting my culture.

    However, I do care when someone imposes their culture on mine.

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    1. weavercht

      Roho, I agree with your complaint. I just dunno that it’s “Yankees” behind it anymore.

      Many Yankees I meet are part-Jewish, eastern European, or southern European. And they out-marry to unrelated groups.

      It seems like the South won in the end, because we’re the last to commit suicide.

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  6. roho

    Weaver……………I see your point and agree…………..It is now a conflict between the elites and the workers. The short period that the US experienced wage fairness through unions was post WWII to 1990. Both Communism and the middle class was defeated. Soon in a short time Wall Street Investers took control of the US Economy and destroyed the US Middle Class and Manufacturing? (GLOBALISM AND MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS)…….And a return to the “Robber Barons” of John D. Rockafeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Carnegie, 2.0 began again. Now, they have names like “GOLDMAN SIKES”, making socialism look tame compared to out of control “DUBYA’S” compassionate capitalism?

    America will NEVER AGAIN fight for WALLSTREET……………..But, may fight against the elites?

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  7. Georges

    No jewish production has ever come close to portraying real WASP life. You must grow up in a very old WASP family with other very old WASP families to know the inns and outs of it. Although I do not watch television (no real WASPs do), I can guarantee you that Mad Men will reflect the envy, resentment, and venom that the proletarian Ellis Island Hollywood types have towards the historic American ruling class. They are so terribly dull and predictable.

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