“You can show a woman’s breast being cut off, but you cannot show her breastfeeding.”
Creator of Mad Men Matthew Weiner was recently in Paris to participate in a kind of yearly world fair of TV series.
(Unfortunately, I got wind of it only one week before the event, and tickets were long sold out.)
Weiner appeared on two panels, the first one to talk about Mad Men‘s coming finale (I’ll post an update to the review I wrote last year once the show is over), the second one on his cinematic influences.
In the latter, Weiner talked about the hypocrisy of his own network, AMC, which had no compunction in displaying very violent scenes in its show Breaking Bad, but deleted Mad Men scenes in which characters could be seen getting high or laid.
The fair was hosted by Paris’s city council, which might explain why the image and sound are mismatched in the second video. (In my libertarian days, I would have blamed it on public workers.)
I thus decided to extract the audio and repost it on YouTube with a static picture of Weiner. I also transcribed his statements.
It’s all below.
N.B.: Before you remind me: yes, I know that Weiner is not allowed to cook bagels on Saturdays. That doesn’t make his point wrong, nor does it prevent Mad Men from being high culture.
“I hated the control of language, and I hated the hypocrisy of the network.
They have their other show, Breaking Bad, which you’ve all seen and loved. They would shoot people in the face, and I couldn’t show somebody grabbing a boob!
They would tell me things like: ‘He’s squeezing her butt. Could you just have it happen outside the frame? Could he just reach to the frame?’
And of course, the minute you see that, you realise it’s so much dirtier! Because he’s squeezing her butt and she’s reacting to it with pleasure, and now that I can’t see it I don’t know where his hand is. And it just got a little bit dirtier.
They were doing someone teaching people how to make crystal meth, and I couldn’t show Peggy Olson inhaling a joint! We’re on the same network at the same time. Because people weren’t using the drug, they were just making it.
I don’t even know how to explain you the bullshit of American censorship. You have your own problems here, but we love violence, and we hate sex. You can show a woman’s breast being cut off, but you cannot show her breastfeeding! It’s really messed up.
Part of the story of Mad Men was the crudeness of the culture happening. You’ll see how much more explicit people become as the show goes on. The first time you hear the F-word — and it has to be bleeped in the United States — is around Season 5. These gentlemen were all in the Navy and the Army, and they know how to swear, and they swear a lot. They did not swear in the office, they tried not to. I had people tell me anecdotes about the first time someone swore in a meeting, and everybody just sort of being like: “Oh my God!”.
There’s a certain decorum, and as you watch the show go on, you will see it becomes cruder, louder, more explicit, less poetic. All of it was a deliberate journey into the modern world.”