Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Mad Men

Back when I was watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s I noted that “hey! that’s the Mad Men era.” That is, the film was made in and about the world depicted in Mad Men. “How interesting”, thought I, “How interesting.” But I didn’t go beyond that.

Now I’ve got a couple of quick observations.

Obviously they’ve very different. For one thing Breakfast is a movie that runs a bit under two hours while Mad Men unfolded in 92 one-hour episodes over seven seasons. Breakfast is a light comedy while Mad Men is basically a drama.

Given those differences however, both feature a central character who isn’t what they seem to be. Neither Don Draper (MM) nor Holly Golightly (BaT) is the urban sophisticate they appear to be. Both have a working class rural background, though it takes awhile for us to learn that. What’s that about? Given that a somewhat older fictional character, Jay Gatsby, also has hidden past, it’s not a 1960s thing. Perhaps it’s American?

Both seem to be struggling with a transactional view of the world, in particular, with transactional relationships between men and women. While it’s not clear whether Holly is a (high class) call girl or merely a paid companion, she supports herself at the arms of wealthy men. Her friend and neighbor, Paul Varjak, is kept by a wealthy woman. Everyone in Mad Men is using relationships to get ahead, but the most obviously single example occurs in season five when Joan, who had started the series as the head of the secretarial pool, is made partner in return for sleeping is the potential client (and thereby landing the account).

Beyond this, I note that there’s a party in Holly’s apartment that seems very Mad Men.

Finally, both end with a wistful look at the future for their protagonists: Just what WILL the future have for them? We can imagine something better, something wonderful, but it’s not a lock. We HAVE to own our imaginings.

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