Last week, Kater Gordon, an Emmy winning former writer on “Mad Men,” alleged that the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, “said she owed it to him to let him see her naked” while they were working together one night. Gordon was fired a year later, and she said the experience left her feeling “threatened and devalued.” Weiner denied the allegations, and touted the fact the series had “a predominantly female driven writers room.” However, now another voice has called out Weiner for the toxic work environment he created on the show.
Martin Noxon, who was a consulting producer on “Mad Men,” and wrote the episodes “The Inheritance” and “The Gypsy and the Hobo,” has penned a powerful statement, posted by THR, about what she witnessed during her time on the show. She says that Weiner was called an “emotional terrorist” by his colleagues, one “who will badger, seduce and even tantrum in an attempt to get his needs met.” In that kind of atmosphere, Noxon has no doubt in believing what Gordon went through; she says it’s an unsurprising outcome in an environment which catered to Weiner’s ego. Here’s the full statement:
About a week ago Kater Gordon, a young female writer who worked on Mad Men bravely came forward with her account of being sexual harassed by Matt Weiner. While sharing writing duties with him, she recalls that he causally mentioned something to the effect of “you owe it to me to show me your naked body.” I believe her. I was at work with her the day after what she described transpired. I remember clearly how shaken and subdued Kater was — and continued to be from that day on.
Responding to her statement, Matt claimed he would never make that kind of comment to a colleague. But anyone with an even cursory knowledge of the show Mad Men could imagine that very line coming from the mouth of Pete Campbell. Matt, Pete’s creator, is many things. He is devilishly clever and witty, but he is also, in the words of one of his colleagues, an “emotional terrorist” who will badger, seduce and even tantrum in an attempt to get his needs met. This personality type can not help but create an atmosphere where everyone is constantly off guard and unsure where they stand. It is the kind of atmosphere where a comment like “you owe it to me to show me your naked body” may — or may not — be a joke. And it may — or may not — lead to a demotion or even the end of a career.
Everyone at Mad Men, regardless of gender or position, was affected by this atmosphere. Why did we not confront him more or report him to our parent companies? Well, for one, we were grateful to him for the work and truly in awe of his talents. For another, it was hard to know what was real when moods and needs shifted so frequently. Self-advocacy is important and I agree we all need to do it more and rely on less on faulty institutions to do it for us. But it is very difficult when the cost is, at best, fear and uncertainty — and at worst the loss of a job and ruined reputation.
Taking that action is one thing to contemplate if you have money in the bank and family to fall back on — but quite another for people from all walks of life without a safety net. And when sexual favors are lightly added to the bag of tools one might use to stay employed and valued, it can be destabilizing or even devastating. It may not be illegal, but it is oppressive. I witnessed it and, despite the fact that that I was a senior consultant on the show, I also experienced it in my own way in my days at Mad Men. I believe Kater Gordon.
Weiner has not responded to this latest allegation.
First, thanks to Marti Noxon for sharing her thoughts. Second, this is such a fascinating moment, because now we’re really getting down to the nitty-gritty of examining our attitudes and behavior. It’s easy with someone like Weinstein to point at their actions and say “He’s a monster,” it’s harder in a situation like this that Noxon describes, where it it may or may not be a joke. The reality of this creative industry is that sometimes showrunners and key creatives aren’t ‘normal’ because ‘normal’ people simply aren’t able to think or behave in the ways that make them creatively brilliant. I’m trying to avoid the cliche here that being a prick makes you a genius artist, but rather say that sometimes when you have a unique view of the world as a creative person, it’s inevitable that some people won’t be able to relate to your behavior. So I’m sympathetic to Noxon’s POV here that the people who worked on the show were in thrall to their boss’s strange behavior to some degree. In my experience it comes down to: the higher the stakes, the more shit you have to eat. It’s such a tricky space to navigate and the boundaries are hard to read sometimes. But hopefully with each story like this that comes out we redraw those boundaries a little more clearly.