Monday, December 1, 2008

Mad Men in the Aggregate

Here's what I find evocative about Mad Men, if not reassuring:

By the early sixties the U.S. was responsible for nearly one-half of the world's GNP. If there ever was an entire demographic close enough to being born on third base this was it. In the corner office or on the factory floor if you could drag yourself to work your kept wifey woman had at least another decade for domestic life emptiness to sink in. Why start a Me Generation? The Us Generation had so much pie it hardly needed carving up.

It's no accident that Mad Men takes place at the Apex of America -- the peak earning years of the Greatest Generation. They kept everything under their hats -- except apparently the same prurient lusts and cultural conceits that gave rise to Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

What I suck from the tail pipe of Mad Men is this: No matter how many family members we send into the workforce, feelers to the next venture that would have us, or, prescriptions down to the local Walgreens, we are cheated. We want it all. Small was never beautiful -- even in this post GOP world of the immediate tomorrow. And if we can't have it all we can crave what our folks took for granted: the autopilot obsolescence of fat cars, gender bifurcation, meat and TV potatoes (heart attacks, failed marriages, and foreign oil not sponsored, endorsed, or anesthetized by Sterling Cooper).

You look at the unattainables now of our borrowed dreams and it includes:

* Social job security
* Paper plates, plastic cutlery
* Medium health care without high fructose
* Network anchors that Fox/MSNBC viewers respect and trust
* Sports heroes who look like us

To this craven observer we're aiming for our toes (are your toenails as brittle as mine?) We don't want access to clean drinking water and quality education. We're willing to reprise familiar economic hits if you forgive us through a few upcoming mortgage payments.

Mostly I spend my Mad Men bonding time floating in a thematic pool of Flotsam Jetsons. The alternative? It would be texting away the night on Second Life immersed in anti-social media.


Marc Solomon said...

I'll weigh in with a further heavy praise for Mad Men. I found the series compelling in many ways. Certain moments still resonate. Wait till "The Wheel" - originally shown with (purposefully ironic?) "limited commercial interruptions." It nevertheless had plenty of stealth Kodak product placement (but only for a recently-orphaned product). You'll see. It will all make sense. And it's also essentially true - Google wouldn't lie, would it? The main characters are essentially our parents' ages and this was their world. My mother was borne the same year as the character Joan. You'll see and marvel at what was considered laughably old. I don't think the point is merely nostalgia for what might have been lost, but more for being grateful for what we now have instead. I do think things have improved since then in many ways, but agree it's a judgment call as to whether in the aggregate, "things are better." Things are certainly different. Things might have been easier for entitled WASPy men then, and unfair to just about everyone else, but that world didn't make the entitled WASPy men too happy either. It's all very Soprano-esque, with pychologists, no less!However, D. Draper wasn't born on 3d base (and wasn't even born D. Draper). He is a self-made (indeed self-reinvented) man. But D. Draper has the goods, (again, see "The Wheel"), unlike entitlement-riddled Pete. Even reprehensible Pete gets a few sympathy-inducing moments here and there. As in real life, no one is all good or all bad, though clearly certain characters are mostly bad or mostly good. And Betty, the seemingly-perfect Hitchcockian ice blond, see her melt as the series progresses (any maybe join the NRA). And speaking of Ann Richards, I saw "W" over the weekend - frightening, yet suprisingly entertaining. We're a long way from Darren Stevens at Tate McMann, and better for traveling that distance.

Marc Solomon said...

Dish: I second those Birthday well-wishes and continue both the Mad Men and Birthday threads by pointing out that Mad Men is "presently" taken place in your birth year. You have to like it for that just a little. And as for Canuck's claim that he does "not root for any of [the characters on Mad Men]," I have to ask, not even for Peggy? A bit harsh no? Can't the girl get a break anywhere? Fi

Marc Solomon said...

Fi, I overstated. I root for Peggy. Allison and I caucused on this subject over dinner last night. We concur that Peggy is the only character for whom either of us roots. 'Nuck

Marc Solomon said...

Yes, but somewhere in the back of your minds has to be the time where she auditioned a voice over girl and if you haven't yet seen that episode you will see she too has been infected with the virus.

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