Friday, April 19, 2013

Mad Men: Some Brief Notes

I've been working my way through back episodes of Mad Men–I don't have cable, so I can't watch the current episodes. Interesting show. But what's it about?

Well, Don Draper, Peggy Olson and a bunch of others, the 1960s, the advertizing bizness, life, and all that, of course. But why tell these stories, and tell them now? Just as science fiction is always about the present, though set in the future, so these stories set in the past are about the present. That is to say, they have been crafted to resonate with the present.

Just what is the resonant spill-over?

Don Draper, of course, is a handsome train wreck of a guy. That he is the central character is interesting, since he seems precisely to lack a center. But then, does anyone of us reall have a center? (As I recall my 60s intellectual history, Derrida came to prominence around a 1966 conference paper that shot holes in the idea of a center: "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences").

And yet there's few episodes in season 4 that center on his relationship with Anna Draper that make him seem like a decent human being. Anna is the real wife of the man whose identity he (that is Dick Whitman) assumed in Korea. His concern for her has a quality that's quite different from any of his other relationships.

That's worth a thought or two, as is the fact that the engagement ring the real Don Draper gave to Anna is the one that the unreal Don Draper gives to Megan. That says 'SYMBOL' so loudly that one can't trust it. But maybe that's all that's older this guy together.

Still, he is good at his craft, and seems to insist on upholding standards of craftsmanship.

And that brings me to a final comment. The show is set in the advertising business and, as such, must show us the inner workings of that business. So, scattered here and there we have scenes where copywriters and artists spin through ideas, rejecting bad ones in favor of good ones. We have pitch meetings in which the client must be convinced, in which ideas are hatched, and in which good ones are recognized–you can almost see lightbulbs going off above people's heads. This makes for interesting writing, as the ideas presented to US as GOOD must be recognizeably better than the rejected ones.

I wonder what that's like for the show's writers? What do they have to go through to come up with the GOOD ideas?

1 comment:

  1. science fiction is a form of escapicism thus leaving the present moment
    we can derive conclusions about the present of the people who wrote it their present state of mind

    of course those who are already in it will defend it
    I have no reason to pound on their huts