Tag Archives: Don Draper

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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TV Schizophrenia (#MadMen)

In 1961, Thomas Szasz crystalized a particular kind of countercultural trope: the “mentally ill” genius. His The Myth of Mental Illness asserted that people can be “disabled by life.” That one sensitive to the absurdities and senselessness of life may appear mentally ill, but really tells Truth in a hostile society.

By now it’s trite: Sherlock Holmes, House, the lady in Homeland. Hannah Horvath. Gonzo.

No one’s crying about the dude in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest anymore.

But Peggy cried about Michael Ginsberg.

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You Tell Them What I Saw (#MadMenFinale)

So Pete’s mom died. She’ll never be able to take it back, what she said about him being “unlovable.” Which, you know, to hear from your own mom.

And that was dramatic. The whole episode had some drama.

But the finale pulled into focus the whole season’s (the whole show’s) love of its own meta-narrative: A show about advertising, when advertising is pretty much the whole point of TV. the indistinguishably layered reams of stories about stories about stories.

Stories about Pete’s mom–stories which will never find referent in “truth” because it’s too pricey. Stories about Manolo and Bob.

Stories about love. How could Ted’s “deep” love for Peggy be more than his own fantasy?

Stories about childhood. Don’s. Because MM is about Don, no matter how much more interesting everyone else (coughwomencoughcough) are.

Stories about Hershey’s, purveyor of love in chocolate form (plus a little bit of cockroach parts, is what I heard once.)

Stories about women in the workplace. Peggy wore PANTS!

And stories about advertising itself. Advertising and media. Advertising and life. Advertising and feelings. Advertising and intimacy. Advertising and who we are at our most private moments. Advertising during AMC’s broadcast–outside the narrative frame, but never really outside because we see ads for Jaguar, or ads starring Christina Hendricks and Jon Hamm.

So why are so many critics talking about Don’s return to his authentic Dick Whitman self? As if that isn’t just another story he’s been telling himself privately for decades? Feeding himself with story like he fed himself Hershey bars won by colluding with prostitute mother figures?

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Call Wes Anderson! (#MadMen)

Every time Sally and Glen show up in the same frame, it gets a little Rushmore in the joint.

Teenage posturing is timeless, but dressing it in late 60s garb? That s*@$t should be trademarked.

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Shades of Left (#MadMen “Favors”)

The Freudian-lite psychotheories that Mad Men keeps pressuring us to accept annoy me. Move on, Weiner. We’re all taking pills now, and famous moms can remove their breasts to be better (as in, not dead) moms.

But then the show flings Sally at us, and, truly, Freud does seem to have predicted endless personal apocalypse.

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