Archive for the 'Mad Men' Category

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (Campbell?)

Mad_men_313_family

Oh, Mad Men! What a happy, satisfying, the-gang’s-all-back-together kind of an episode! I love how Trudy shows up with sandwiches for everyone, and there’s this warm familial sense that we’re all in this together etc etc. It was almost like watching a different show! Except for the part where Don of all people, who apparently has no self-awareness at all, or was just really angry and upset because his life was falling apart, I guess, called Betty a whore.

Is it weird that I feel weird about that? I have been thinking a lot about how people watch Mad Men lately, and I keep coming back to being surprised that a show like Mad Men — slow-moving, full of unlikable characters (the only exception being maybe Joan, and even then she is still kind of a bitch) whose unlikability you’re constantly being confronted with, about social issues and politics — is as popular and beloved as it is. I know people generally like things that are awesome, and if Mad Men is challenging it’s also compelling and funny and emotionally absorbing, but it still consistently surprises me that some people seem to love it despite apparently not having any idea what’s going on. (I.e. I don’t think the producers meant us to read Don molesting Bobbie Barrett as even a little bit of a proud moment, and I still read forum comments like “Woo! Don’s got his mojo back!” after that episode aired. Then I stopped reading forums about Mad Men.)

So, I watched, I laughed, I totally cheered “Joan!” along with everyone else in the room when Roger said “Let me make a call.” It was seriously satisfying to see Don tell Roger how much he meant to him, tell Pete how actually prescient he is, tell Peggy how much he values and understands her talent, to see Harry get the credit he deserves; but at the same time I feel weirdly guilty about it. I’m supposed to get this feeling from, like, Buffy, the show where love saves the world, not Mad Men, the show about how love is just something guys like Don invented to sell stockings. It’s not that I expect Mad Men to be real, even, it’s more like I expect it not to satisfy my cheeseball desires. I expect to be carefully constructed to totally break my heart. I know NY Mag thinks that it “somehow didn’t feel like some ridiculous holodeck of phony caper-ness,” 1 but I still feel kind of wrong about it. The whole gang just working out of this one hotel room, starting everything anew in some kind of Utopian American Dream blank slate thing — it just seems so much like they were trying to throw me a bone. It feels nefarious; it’s the kind of happy capitalist ending that makes me want to go all Frankfurt school on the whole thing.

Why can’t I just let TV make people happy? I am not usually this weird grad school person who is suspicious of entertainment products that give people good feelings!


  1. Also this has been bugging me, the article claims that Joan has “been with fewer men than Peggy, so far as we know.” I think this is false. We know Joan has been with Kinsey, Roger, that random old dude she picked up when she and Carol went out that one night after Carol told Joan to pretend she was a boy, and her husband; in the pilot she also implies that she boned that creepy birth control doctor she sent Peggy to. Based on what we know, Peggy has been with Pete, that college kid she picks up, and Duck. And that could very well be the entire list of men Peggy’s been with. 

Being a cave painting

So we finally caught up on Mad Men in time for the season finale — which we’re supposed to watch with friends tonight, hence the hurry — and I’m so excited because I’ve been badly avoiding plot twist news for weeks now (I basically knew about most of the major developments, but Mad Men isn’t really that kind of show, so it didn’t really miss out on the experience).

I still have a lot to digest before I do a real post about this season, but I’m excited I can finally read all the posts in my feed reader I have been saving up. If you’re not already reading it, I recommend the consistently rewarding Footnotes of Mad Men, both on the Awl and on Tumblr, which is going to be a book I will buy! It does a lot of work making connections and unpacking a lot of the historical context.

Also, Rachel pointed out this Pandagon post on Facebook, and it is probably the best thing I have read about Betty maybe ever:

The conservative reaction to the Draper marriage shows exactly how effective that storyline is in making its point. A lot of liberals, I’ve found, are bored with Betty for another reason entirely. They can’t understand why she doesn’t just pick up and leave already, if she’s so unhappy. We’re on the other side of it—so feminist that it’s hard to wrap our minds around the psychology of someone who isn’t. But conservatives flip the fuck out, get defensive and start scapegoating January Jones, going so far as to argue that her dull affect is evidence that she can’t act, when in fact it’s evidence that the actress is being fearless in her portrayal of someone whose entire personality has been flattened out by boredom. That isn’t easy for an actress, you know. Most actresses have an urge to be sparkling and charming in every role they play, even those that don’t call for it. It’s because Hollywood is run by men, and you can get a lot farther being eye-catching and charming and making men think that they want to be around you. That Jones, who is very beautiful, is willing to be off-putting onscreen is brave. That she spends a lot of time onscreen making you wish she was far away is the fucking point. She’s supposed to make you uncomfortable.

Betty’s always one of the most controversial characters because she’s so unpleasant to be around, and that’s because she is so, so mired in this world that’s almost completely foreign to viewers now. One of the most persistent critiques you read of Mad Men from people who don’t like it (who are pretty few and far between) is that it constantly reminds you you’re in the 1960s and that takes you out of the story. This is pretty obviously the point of the show, and Betty’s Exhibit A in this argument because as much as you feel for her (or not, as the case so frequently seems to be), it is really hard to put yourself in her place or to understand her. It’s frustrating because she’s speaking English and living in a pretty similar world to the one we are now, but she doesn’t really give you any points of common ground. Betty’s the one who makes it the most clear that the past is emotionally incomprehensible; we can see cave paintings and we can read what they represent, but we can’t really ever know what they meant to people.

Mad Men Rewatch: Season 1, Episodes 7-9

The latest irregularly paced update in the rewatch. This show just gets better the more you watch it. Continue Reading »

Mad Men Rewatch: Season 1, Episodes 4-6

I realize it’s been over a month since the first Mad Men rewatch post, but an actual offline writing project interfered! I do have a game plan for the next few weeks to actually cover everything by the season premiere on August 16th. We will try, but I can’t promise they will all be 2,000 word epics like this one. I’m sure you will be disappointed.

In more general blog housekeeping notes, I do want to point out that my tumblr actually still gets regular updates, though most of them are just pictures of stuff I like. so like, lots of Gossip Girl and Mad Men, and occasional clips of Anderson Cooper being adorable.

Anyway, recaps/thoughts:

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Mad Men: The Rewatch

I haven’t written a ton about Mad Men since fairly early in its run, though I have loved it from the beginning, back when I had no idea how big it would turn out to be (at least in terms of buzz, if not in terms of actual people watching it). I wrote this shortly after. But since then, with the exception of the occasional note that Jon Hamm is really hot. (I know I’m trying to be all serious writer here, but, I’m sorry, he is! There was a whole episode of 30 Rock about it!)

Anyway, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped watching. I’ve watched and watched and watched. I took Frank O’Hara’s collected poems out of the library after they used Meditations on an Emergency. But I’ve kind of never really felt equal to writing about it – I just have so much to say about it, and I think it says so much for itself.

But I’m rewatching it, and this time I will write out my thoughts more. I will, in all posts, be talking about stuff that’s happened up until the end of Season 2, so if you haven’t been watching the show, my posts will not be a very good primer. You should watch the show though, it’s a good show. (In Canada you can watch every thing for free at the ctv website; I do not know if there is any streaming version available to US audiences?)

Or, if you like rewatches that are about fun, not serious art shows being grad schooled to death when they are basically already doing all the stuff grad schooling usually does, like gender analysis and Making Points About America, and you are in America where the website works for you Tara is doing a 90210 rewatch at her work that is funny.

Anyway…

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