Friday, February 15, 2013

Auntie and Uncle Mame: The Astrology of Fictional Characters

Article © 2013 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

As a lover of Chiron, I resonate to mentoring as an important tool for life. Nowadays, we often have to seek our own mentors and models for the person inside us who’s crying to come out. There’s no convenient Chiron School to match us with a kindly centaur-astrologer who can see our future and how to mold it from a composite intuition-analysis, based on his psychic savvy and our horoscopes.

Auntie Mame, the fictional character of movie, book and stage, has been my heroine and role model for decades. Just thinking of her makes me smile. She gives me a jolt of new life. No wonder. She tells us without reservation to “live, live, live!” 

I’ve asked numerous astrologer friends how they'd imagine Auntie Mame’s chart. Their answers have been fairly consistent: an Aquarius with some Sag or a strong Jupiter, with at least a major planet or two in Leo. (I vote for Leo Rising with her love of glitzy costumes.) Given the Aquarian Sun consensus, February seems like the right time to wish Mame a Happy Birthday and to explore this unforgettable character.

Mame loves exotic travel and opening new windows and doors, as well as her share of spirits. (Who can forget the scene where she tells Patrick to dim the daylight because Auntie is “hung”?) Her heart is bigger than the sky; and she’s as gregarious as a gaggle of Aquarii. The weirder the person, the more likely s/he is to be Mame’s friend—and/or her idea of a genius. How she parents her young nephew Patrick is nothing if not unconventional. Mame has a way with the boy full of dramatic gestures, bestowed with the care—and the occasional snarl of a mother lioness. She affirms my experience of being an auntie as one of the coolest roles in which I’ve ever been cast. 

Mame Dennis is the brainchild of author Patrick Dennis, the nom de plume of Edward Everett Tanner III, who was nicknamed Pat by his father at an early age. His novel Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade (1955) was one of the bestselling American books of the 20th century. [1] Many years ago, there was a rumor going around that Tanner had modeled Auntie Mame after his actual aunt, who was dying penniless in a nursing home. (He writes the book, Auntie Mame, as Patrick Dennis and as though it’s a memoir of his real aunt.) Tanner was painted as uncaring about his kin who had made him rich and famous. Tanner’s biography, Uncle Mame, by Eric Myers, dispels this rumor, though you might want to read the backstory in Marion Tanner’s obituary and come to your own conclusions. Auntie Mame, Tanner claims, is based on Tanner himself. It’s the punch line of Myers’ fascinating look into Tanner’s unique life.

Edward E. "Pat" Tanner III, aka: Patrick Dennis
Pat Tanner was married with children but led a double life as a bisexual, active in Greenwich Village’s gay scene in the day. The artsy types Mame favored were surely based on characters in his own life. That’s a high life Pat lived till his writing fell out of favor in the 1970s; then, he reinvented himself as a butler, a job his friends say he enjoyed. Pat worked for Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s under his real name, Edward Tanner. His employers had no idea he was the once famous author. [2]

Since I know I’m not the only fan of Auntie Mame and her message is so life-affirming, I thought it would be fun to look at Edward Tanner’s chart to see where he and the characteristics of his alter ego, Mame, intersect.

Click to enlarge

I can find no birth time for Pat Tanner and ran this chart for noon with Sun on the Ascendant. Without a time, we’re limited to talking about planets and signs, since we don’t know how the houses fall. It’s still quite revealing.

First, let’s talk about that consistent sense that Auntie Mame is a blend of Aquarius and Sagittarius. Pat Tanner’s chart has two tight aspects that would have helped him write his feminine alter-ego in this way—first, Jupiter opposite Uranus with a tiny, ten-second orb. These two energies would be in constant dynamic play, the natural rulers of Aquarius and Sag. Second, Pat has Mercury and Mars square Uranus by about a half-degree. He thinks, communicates and “does” Uranus! Small wonder Auntie Mame sends Patrick to an experimental school where the kids run naked playing tadpoles in a biology lesson (communicating his rebellious Mars quite openly). 

And while we’re on Mercury and Mars in Gemini, inside every Gem is a male and female twin. How easy it would be for Tanner to play either. The same mutability that likely made it easy to identify himself as bisexual lets him dress up as Auntie Mame on the written page, translated to stage and movie. I always admire authors who write the opposite sex well; Patrick Dennis is one of them. Presuming the North Node is within orb of a conjunction to the Moon (the Moon ranged from 12 to 25 degrees Libra on his birth day); it seems that expressing the feminine in this life was part of Pat’s journey. 

That Libra Moon! It comes across when Auntie Mame is being sarcastic toward those too full of themselves to even “get” her irony. She reminds me of that wonderful expression, she could tell a person to go to hell and they’d enjoy the trip. Her tact is unsurpassed even while barely disguising her disdain when she meets the snooty Upsons, Patrick’s would-be in-laws. Mame oozes wit, charm and is side-splitting with her Teflon-coated barbs. For a very independent lady, she is extremely relationship oriented. (This may support Leo Rising with Aquarius Sun in the 7th for her fictional character.) 

I got the feeling in the movie version of Mame: I was seeing continuous clips of the pairs of which she was half: Mame and Patrick; Mame and Vera Charles, her friend, rival and sidekick; Mame and Lindsey; Mame and Agnes; Mame and Beau—and so on. Her role as Patrick’s aunt and physical guardian is to provide balance to the stuffy, Saturnian banker who holds the purse strings and financial side of his upbringing. There is a hilarious scene where she tries to knock the Upsons off-balance with flighty décor. Mame has installed bench seats on pneumatic lifts, controlled by row of chords hanging from the ceiling. Mame yanks the couple off the floor to their total surprise, making a pun of their surname--a play on the fact that they do so themselves, calling their manor Upson Downs. Mame forces them to balance themselves on furniture tantamount to the Libra Scales. Convinced they’re ruining her nephew, Auntie Mame takes them for quite a ride. She mixes up the chords and pulls the controls for the floating settees wildly in an erratic effort to get it right (sure). She upsets the Upsons in more ways than one.

I was surprised that Tanner/Dennis has only one planet in Leo, Neptune. Makes me wonder if he didn’t have Leo Rising himself, as Auntie Mame surely has a big dollop of look-at-me and love of drama. This aspect of her character is highlighted in the movie version with Rosiland Russell by special effects. The background is darkened and Mame appears in a close-up, under a spotlight, at each significant transitional scene throughout the story. Auntie Mame loves the stage and is quite unwilling to share it with her friend Vera. (One place Mame’s not Libran nice is when she and Vera are upstaging one another.) 

Finally, Pat’s Sun in Taurus brings what Mr. Babcock calls Auntie Mame’s nincompoopery down to earth where her fans can believe in it. She’s open-minded to the max, but most of all, she’s about love and enjoying life. It’s what makes her so appealing. Think of some of the other great Taurus Sun women celebrities and their talent for making you love them just the way they are: singer Adele and the movie/TV stars Katharine Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and Tina Fey.

Fictional characters often influence us as deeply—sometimes more than flesh-and-blood models and mentors. Even though few authors reveal the birth data of their characters (see No Skit, Sherlock! for a discussion of the chart of Sherlock Holmes), the theoretical astrology we see reflected in these heroes and heroines tells us something about ourselves. They are a mirror. What you love about them is likely who you are or what you want to be come. It gives a whole new meaning to your answer when someone asks, what's your favorite movie?

I’ve also heard that authors create protagonists who are better versions of themselves. The many parallels between author Patrick Dennis and his fictional aunt, including a parallel riches-to-rags story, leaves me wondering … but also feeling that both Pat Tanner’s real life and that of his mirror creation, Auntie Mame, are plenty inspiring, each in their own right.

How do you imagine the charts of some of your favorite fictional characters? Feel free to share in the Comments!

Photo Credits:

1.   Auntie Mame, Wikipedia –
2.   Patrick Dennis, Wikipedia -

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