I’ve on Season 3, Episode 8 of Madmen. For those who don’t watch TV, like me before I moved to Atlanta, the show is about a man so-called Don Drapper who works in Advertising. The artistry in the show is very reminiscent of The Hours or The Unbearable Likeness of Being, for those avid-novel readers who may benefit from those allusions. Though the show focuses on the glitz of 1960s Manhattan and the way culture was fundamentally altered through mass-media, the overall theme of the show is the emptiness of riches and domestic life in suburbia. It shows not only the ups of the Leave it to Beaver existence, but the dramatic lows. And for those American history lovers, the writers brilliantly weave historical landmarks of the 1960s throughout the script, showing the emotional effects on the characters of events like Marilyn Monroe’s suicide, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Moral Revolution, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Kennedy’s assasination.
Most importantly, the character development in the show is unparalleled as you both hate and love many of the employee’s of Sterling Cooper. Mad Men beautifully shows the duality in human nature, as there is not one stock-character villain you can choose to despise for too long. The steady daily rhythms of the show make me feel as if I really am living a part of the 1960s. Often I leave watching an episode feeling restless and in a hum-drum Ecclesiastical depressing mood, “meaningles, everything is meaningless”. However, I cannot stop returning to watch more despite it’s lack of resolution or climatic moments. The focus of the show on real people living their normal life in search for deeper truths and intimacy leads me down way too many paths of philosophical and existential musings. I cannot stop. In the most depressing moments, a girl can still always enjoy the fabulous style of the women of that time period.
Through subtle flash-backs, the audience is shown that Don is the son of a prostitute and a farmer. During the Vietnam War, his partner dies in combat and he takes the dog-tags and identity of “Donald Drapper.” He returns to America as a new-man and watches from the bus as his friend’s body is returned to his family in a casket masquerading as his own corpse. Don Drapper has it all; a stunning wife, a premiere job in New York in the 1960s, three children, good looks and intelligence. However, without reconciling himself to his past he lives disconnected from reality and plays a double life. He dearly loves his children and has deep affection for his wife, but spends most of his free time escaping through driving in his car, travelling and having many affairs with different ladies he seems to develop a heart-felt connection with. In these affairs, he reveals more of his heart and past than with the people who are consistent in his life. Inside of him is a general restlessness that cannot be remedied. His mistresses (who are usually likeable, beautiful and intelligent ladies) fall in love with him even though they know from the beginning he is a married man and will not leave his family. Though he sleeps around with all sorts of woman, the audience pulls for this regular Casanova. Everytime he decides to be faithful and to return home, I genuinely believe it’s going to stick. He seems to have a deep-seated morality, he is tender to his children, he is a phenomenal and ethical business employee and he helps out people in need. But Don is unable to stay glued down to anything. He doesn’t work for his company under a contract and every time life gets hard he runs to a short-term relationships to meet his need for true intimacy. The wedge that drives Donald Drapper from happiness and most importantly peace, is his refusal to marry his past and his present.
In the fifth season, Don begins to journal. He writes down his thoughts and he begins to connect his past to his present life. He tells his new wife about who he is and where he came from, and she accepts his reality. He can’t walk away from his failing firm, because he is committed to it’s well being and lashes out on clients through media stunts when they don’t stay loyal. He places a picture of the only lady who knew of his “Dick Whitman” past on his desk. In all ways, the fifth season is a process of Don Drapper remembering who he is and where he comes from.
Obviously, I’m obsessed.
The viewers go through a mimetic experience as well as they remember their national past and the collective conscious of America. Although I wasn’t alive, I can imagine that it hits a chord with a slighty-older than Baby Boomer age group that refeels what they felt going through the 1960s.
Not much of significant worth happens as far as action goes in Mad Men, in contrast to my new NetFlix obsession, The Walking Dead.
All you witness is a man remembering his past and tying it together with his now. But America is eating this up. The show is brilliant.