Jewish Journal

Mad Men: When big writers get a bad rap—I’m talking to you Aaron Sorkin and Matt Weiner

by Danielle Berrin

September 30, 2010 | 4:47 pm

Matt Weiner and Aaron Sorkin

Anyone who makes it big in Hollywood has to deal with the inevitable ego boost that goes along with such success, as well as the ways in which that change—real or imagined, impacts on their public persona. This week hasn’t been particularly kind to writers Aaron Sorkin and Matt Weiner.

As Sorkin makes the press rounds for “The Social Network” (out in theaters Friday), his reputation as a controlling, credit-craving writer has been rehashed over and over. “For the first four years of The West Wing, Sorkin was known as a hard-charging control freak who rarely let a scripted sentence from his staff go by without a pass through his typewriter,” writes New York Magazine’s Mark Harris. The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove compared Sorkin to his Machiavellian protagonist Mark Zuckerberg, writing that both men are “brilliant, intense, misunderstood, envied, and attacked. Both have been accused of being arrogant and controlling” and that “both have had to defend themselves against complaints of taking credit for other people’s ideas.”

The same could be said of “Mad Men’s” Matt Weiner. The following video, which appeared in my inbox this morning, portrays Weiner as self-aggrandizing and arrogant. But it also insinuates that despite the mega-success of “Mad Men”, Weiner isn’t comfortable sharing the spotlight. The video, created by an anonymous source who calls himself “TV Auteur” and describes himself as an “aspiring TV writer, pocketed at an agency, but looking elsewhere” wonders why “Mad Men” has lost two of the women co-writers that helped propel the show’s success. This is a reference to the firing of writer Kater Goron, who was dismissed from the show in October 2009 only weeks after winning an Emmy with Weiner for “Meditations in an Emergency”. And right after that, Emmy-nominated writer Robin Veith also departed from the show. Both women had been Weiner’s assistants before being promoted to writers and their departures even confused Nikki Finke.

Does this mean writer Erin Levy should be wary? Levy won the 2010 writing Emmy for “Shut the Door, Have a Seat”, which she shared with Weiner. (Below is a video of Levy speaking to WriteOn! in which she offers tips to aspiring writers and lo and behold, references the Passover seder—you gotta love how Hollywood Judaism just pours out of the oddest corners.)

To be sure, the entertainment industry has never been known for possessing much humility or loyalty, but aren’t Jews supposed to do better? If Moses, the man who ushered a slave people (also known as millions of hungry, tired, whiny Jews) through the hot Middle Eastern desert for 40-years, never breaking rank with them until they reached the idyllic dream of The Promised Land can be called “the most humble man in all of Israel” than surely Sorkin and Weiner can tone it down a notch.

I get it, it’s tough being a bigshot. But who do you think you are—Steven Spielberg?

Matt Weiner as “Mad Man”:

Erin Levy on perseverance and Passover:

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Danielle Berrin writes the award-winning Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile...

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