In the Old Fashioned Hangover post below I inked to this blogpost at the New York Review of Books blog. In giving that post a more thorough read just now I was struck by this line:

How else can one begin to describe the series’ principal protagonists, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Betty Draper (January Jones), except in terms of their dazzling good looks, which so effectively distract us from their underlying weirdness?

This season especially, it’s becoming apparent how imperfect both Don and Betty are. Betty’s new mother in law hit the target when she described Betty as a “silly person” and it’s hard not to see that Don is not the perfect coworker, husband, and father that he appeared to be when the show began (especially lately) but did the viewer think otherwise because of how perfect the Draper family looked? Or was it an evolution of small little quirks that, over the course of four seasons, became undeniably bizarre personality traits?

—Daniel

One thing I should make clear is that I think Christina Hendricks is the Millenial generation’s Helen of Troy or Marilyn Monroe. But like a lot of things, I think Hendricks is also grossly misunderstood most of the time. This article is a perfect example of so much that’s wrong with the way the media has approached Christina Hendricks: Read the rest of this entry »

Mad Men’s Love Theme

August 2, 2010

Disclaimer: I have to wait a day before I see the latest episode so I’ve avoided reading any commentary about the show, even Ned’s which, I’m sure, is excellent. The following is my immediate raw reaction from seeing the episode about three minutes ago.

I must admit I didn’t like the season premiere, this one was much better. Now that the viewer is a bit more oriented it’s easier to pay attention to the parts of the show that are most interesting. For me that’s the theme of love this season. Unlike past seasons love and romance play a much bigger role in the show. To be clear, I’m not talking about sex. There was plenty more of that in the previous seasons. Rather, I’m talking about actual physical-emotional connections.

We know things are extremely bleak for Don these days because he’s sleeping with hookers, breaking his no-sex-with-coworkers rule, and failing to capitalize on romantic opportunities that cross his path. What I like most about this theme for Don is that he’s also experiencing a highly consistent truism that when you look for love you can’t find it, and when you don’t, you can. I don’t think I’ve seen anything more timeless than that in the entirety of the show. That implies another truth about love: even the best looking among us aren’t free from the agonies and loneliness of love.

The love theme affects other characters too. We didn’t see too much of Betty and Francis’s relationship —clearly imperfect à la last episode— but we did see a fair amount with Peggy, who is often the show’s greatest enigma (at least I think so). I can understand why she didn’t tell her boyfriend that she’s had sex before, she’s in denial that her affair with Pete and their child ever happened. Completely pretending it’s a fiction means leaving no air for that truth to breathe. But what’s really interesting to me is the fear she showed in this episode about being alone on New Year’s eve. “I don’t want to be alone on New Year’s” she said. That’s a common fear for just about everyone, especially the most lovesick amongst us. And the expected result is she does something she’s not ready for: sleep with her boyfriend.

Over all I found this episode to be a refreshing, if a bit high and mighty, exploration of a few major themes about love. The moral, as Freddy Rumsen eloquently put it, is that “it’s not a joke.”

—Daniel

Season Finale

November 9, 2009

In consideration of the people who haven’t yet seen this very awesome episode of Mad Men, I’ll warn you that the post below has a bunch of spoilers. Don’t click further if you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to know what happens…

Read the rest of this entry »

The other day Ned was telling me about how he can’t stand Greg nomatter what happens to him, even grave humiliation and disappointment like in the last episode. But what about Joan’s rather racist comments to Kinsey’s then-girlfriend? Why is it that it’s so easy for the viewer to disregard that? Now, of course this is not nearly as horrific as raping someone, but I rarely find myself considering Joan a “complex” (as opposed to naturally good) character. I suppose it’s because we see much less of her in a bad light than we do of her as the victim or as someone caught up in something larger than her.

—Daniel

That may very well have been my favorite episode of the season. I saw Greg not getting the promotion and saw that somehow, I saw in some way Joan would keep her job, I saw that Lois wouldn’t be able to drive a lawnmower (just not as badly as she did), and saw that things wouldn’t go well with the overlords visiting. What I didn’t see was that Conrad Hilton would actually show up (and kudos to Judy for pointing out that could very well be the Hotel king himself) nor that Lois would mow over Guy’s foot. I also didn’t see that whole exchange between Joan and Peggy coming (Peggy thought that Joan had helped her? And that Joan thought she was somewhat responsible for Peggy’s ascension?) These were all big surprises.

Ok seriously though. An overarching theme of this episode had to do with greed, I think. Things have been disastrous for PPL and Sterling Cooper since they decided to get bigger. We know with SC, at least, that business was much better when the partners were the absolute head honchos. But look what happens when they do get greedy, someone’s foot gets chopped off. Don also knows better than to get greedy and take all of the Hilton Hotel advertising business (or perhaps a job) and instead go piece by piece. Joan and Greg didn’t know better than to assume their professional life was on the rise before it happened and instead became gravely disappointed. Better to remember what you’re good at and stick with it, that was the moral of the episode.

I was also surprised with who was disappointed by what. Joan seemed less than enthused with the prospect of having to continue to work for a living (although maybe she was processing the whole thing) and Don seemed excited (and later on disappointed) by the prospect of being promoted and moving to London. Didn’t see that coming.

The one thing in an otherwise excellent episode that didn’t do it for me is the Sally-Grandpa McCain storyline. I just never really cared, never had an interest, never sympathized.

Back to the Joan and Peggy goodbye. I think they were probably right, they were both responsible somewhat for the course of each others’ lives since they met by showing a possible path in life that either of them didn’t want to take. That’s my take on that. Maybe there were others. I think it’s fascinating whatever the correct interpretation is.

P.S. Ned totally called the outcome on the Pete vs. Kenny competition.

—Daniel

Okay, these episodes are getting way too deep for me. What was with Betty’s halucinations and that black guy? And that scene where we see Sally wipe the blood on [off?] her face?

If any of the episode is clear it’s that change is in the air. I think one thing we saw in this episode is that the blatant bigotry and sexism of the past is getting a long coming beating. Not just with Peggy and her raise, but also with race relations.

I’m actually not surprised by Pete’s actions. It’s why I don’t think he’s  a completely horrible guy. He stomped off from the table with Duck and Peggy because she was a woman. He doesn’t know better than to condescend to women. But he’s also not a bigot. I guess I assumed Pete was racist since he was brought up from in a very privileged background with a father who thinks there are certain jobs for “a white man.” When his father said this Pete was clearly uneasy so I guess that was a rather rash assumption.

What’s important to remember though is that Pete isn’t Martin Luther King jr. as Roger joked (with frustration) also. This speaks to racism in general I think. One isn’t completely racist or nonracist, there are degrees to it and in this last episode we saw that Pete is less racist than many. He’s willing to put the social divides aside when there’s profit to be made. The people who represent Admiral are far more racist than Pete and will suffer businesswise because of it. But again, remember, Pete doesn’t totally know that blacks and whites are equal people, he, like others, think that all black people basically know each other and any one can speak for the opinions of the group.

Over time I suspect that Pete will learn that’s wrong. Luckily, he’s at a company that’s on the same correct path. That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? And speaks to the silliness of racism in general. The market doesn’t care who’s black and who’s white. It’s strange though that the businessworld remains an incredibly sexist and racist place today. Having watched this episode I wonder how much more efficient it could be without those same inequalities. The stronger companies obviously do better by focusing on profit and profit alone —instead of keeping the blacks and women out of the conference room. Take stodgy old Sterling Cooper, it looks like it’ll survive a shift to a less racist world. Who saw that coming?

—Daniel

Bad Advice From Joan To Peggy

September 12, 2009

cm-capture-1I haven’t commented on last week’s episode and its successor is almost upon us. I may still get to what I was going to say but given the amount of procrastinating I’ve been doing I have my doubts. So, instead, I’ll just make a small comment on Joan and Peggy.

Nobody should be surprised that Joan gave Peggy advice. We’ve seen before (from the very beginning of the show) that Joan is happy to give Peggy advice. Alas, the advice doesn’t always align with Peggy’s desires, it works with what Joan would want if she were still in or just in Peggy’s situation. This last time with Joan advising Peggy on the roommate situation I suspect will result in something Peggy doesn’t like again (it’s starting to look like it already). Peggy will realize Joan’s advice isn’t  the course she wants to take, it’ll just take a bit longer than usual for Peggy to notice.

—Daniel

db_conrad_hilton3

In the comments to an earlier post about the last episode of Mad Men Judy writes:

Just discovered this blog! I read some comments earlier this week for the NYT article that suggest that “Connie” was really Conrad Hilton. If so, this gives us even more layers to unpeel in this already multi-layered show.

Conrad Hilton being the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain. This is entirely possible as (I believe) “Connie” said he was from San Antonio and born into a family of humble means. That’s the same as Conrad Hilton.

If that really was Conrad Hilten then the reason Don gets along with Connie so well probably has to do with where they are both from: humble backgrounds. In contrast, there will always be a divide between Roger and Don because Roger was born into money, he never earned it like Don or Connie (if he’s indeed Conrad Hilton).

—Daniel

I’m so glad Ned mentioned this in his last post, I’d made a joke about it while I was watching the episode but since then I’d forgotten. Anyone notice how much Ryan Cutrona, who plays Betty’s father Gene, looks like John McCain? His mug shot isn’t great but there’s a definite resemblance, no?

Picture 1

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—Daniel