The real women behind "Mad Men"

What do you know, it takes a female-dominated team to create a fictional male-dominated world

Published August 8, 2009 10:01AM (EDT)

A pitch meeting on AMC's "Mad Men" usually involves a crew of men, a lone young woman and a bottle of scotch. But, according to Amy Chozick in the Wall Street Journal, a typical brainstorming session of the show's real-life scriptwriters is quite different: seven women, two men and mojitos all around. What do you know, it takes a progressive creative team to so fully illuminate that old-fashioned world.

These lady writers know a thing or two about navigating male-dominated worlds, though: Women make up 23 percent of television writers and 13 percent of the Directors Guild of America. Even more shocking, "nearly 80 percent of TV programs in the 2007 to 2008 prime-time season had no women writers," Chozick reports. There's no doubt that their modern-day Hollywood experience has informed the show -- take the story line that had office sexpot Joan Holloway kick butt reading scripts for the TV department only to be picked over for a less-competent man. In a different time, that might have been them.

In fact, one of the writers, 27-year-old Kater Gordon, started as an assistant to a powerful man and quickly climbed the ranks, much like character Peggy Olson: She "worked for executive producer Scott Hornbacher and was baby sitting [show creator Matthew Weiner's] four sons. After the kids went to bed, she watched Emmy screeners and impressed Mr. Weiner with her opinions," writes Chozick. "Ms. Gordon started as Mr. Weiner’s assistant on season one and was soon promoted to writer’s assistant and then to staff writer on season three."

Weiner tells the Journal that he didn't intentionally create a female-dominated creative team. He's plenty happy with the result, though: Emotions flow freely and things get personal in the writers' room. Sometimes, their personal stories -- from financial problems to infertility -- actually make it into the show. It's no coincidence that "Mad Men" offers some of the richest, most varied inner lives of women (or just people, period) on television.

So, thanks a lot, Wall Street Journal. As though I needed one more reason to anxiously anticipate the Aug. 16 season premiere.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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