Tag Archives: capitalism

On Competence (TfH Watches TV 2)

Mad Men went out with a wimper.

Wherefore this wimper?

Partly the hubris of spreading a single season over two years. Partly the series’s obsession with a tired Freudian narrative of an otherwise great man whose dead whore mom got stuck to his Achilles heel.

But partly the loss of Don’s competence. With no other competence to make up for it besides cruelly (used and then) underused Joan Holloway Harris.

Mad Men got less compelling around when Don stopped showing us how great an adman he was. And it never even bothered showing us the boldly designed steam off Peggy’s hot Googie shit.

Professional competence. Our new fantasy.

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Zombies on Mad Men!!!

Zombie nouns in a zombie finale of a zombie show.

The nouns: Post-industrialization. Financialization.

The post-post-war economy based on ideas and services. Based on abstract ideas of “value.”

An economy that by the zombie finale of Mad Men is any moment now, just about, right on the edge of fully usurping the old order of pensions, factories, and loyalties.

Bert Cooper’s elegant valediction celebrated this culture as it died out—and as Cooper helped wreak its death.

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Sometimes what I think is funny, others do not find funny. Like last week’s nearly simultaneous profiles of a co-founder of Twitter. Jack Dorsey. He of the moodiness and A-line skirt designs and, apparently, fabricated origin stories of my favorite social media platform.

See, the looser of this profile is the hero of this one.

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A Bluster-Based Economy (Mad Men!)

One of the more reliably impressive aspects of the Mad Men premise: advertising makes big business out of our deepest, most intimate and private experiences. Allowing the show to do the same.

Which is itself synecdoche for Don Draper’s genius. Something about his preposterous backstory, combined with his mercurial glowers, has produced his (the show’s) ability to sell our loneliness and fears back to us, and make us like it.

But, as critics have been noting over the past few episodes, his genius seems to be morphing into desperate pretension.

But while we’ve watched Don sink, we’ve also watched the show deal more straightforwardly with the intimate business of business.

As advertising reminds us, several times a day, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, our most private experiences are market fodder.

And the market itself—all those giant anonymous-seeming corporate/government entities that compose it—is personal.

It’s both afraid and cocky, both mired in the past and confident about the future. Both sweaty and calm. Both a pilot and, you know, the opposite of a pilot.

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Zombie History Lessons

A darker Halloween lesson from writer Amy Wilentz, reminding us of the origins of one of our most popular goulies.


“There are many reasons the zombie, sprung from the colonial slave economy, is returning now to haunt us. Of course, the zombie is scary in a primordial way, but in a modern way, too. He’s the living dead, but he’s also the inanimate animated, the robot of industrial dystopias. … The zombie is devoid of consciousness and therefore unable to critique the system that has entrapped him. He’s labor without grievance. He works free and never goes on strike. You don’t have to feed him much.”

via A Zombie Is a Slave Forever – NYTimes.com.

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