Monday, April 22, 2013

Mad Men: Even in adultery there are rules

Any time you see a nice little social order that you want to overthrow, you have to remember that there is a price to be paid for doing that. I say that that 'cause it's so easy to forget. You can say, "Well, the order we're going to overthrow is full of hypocrisy." And that's easy to say because it's true. But do you also think that what you are going to put in its place won't also be full of hypocrisy?

Okay, you say, but the hypocrisy in the old world was heavily loaded in men's favour; Don can cheat on Megan but she can't cheat on him. But what about Kate? She cheats on her husband. She uses her Avon interview as an excuse to come to New York City and cheat. And what about Sylvia?

I thought it was telling that the most awkward moment in the whole show was the one in which Megan's two colleagues broach the subject of swinging with Megan and Don over dinner. That felt awkward and wrong. The various affairs didn't feel awkward and wrong. They followed rules that made sense. And that is important. It's not enough to have rules, you have to have rules that make sense.

But hypocrisy!!!

No I'm not saying it's all okay, go ahead and do whatever you want. But remember who did say that. That was the way the sexual revolution talked. Think of some 19-year-old student being approached by a creepy Political Science professor in the 1970s and he says, "Do you have an open mind?"It's a guilt trip. It means that if she won't consider sex with him she is closed minded. Is that new hypocrisy better than the old hypocrisy? Ketchup, catsup, it's all the same thing?

Catch the style hints by the way. Everyone hates the style of 1970s because it's safe to do so. You can do that without casting aspersions on "the revolution". But it was all there in the late 1960s. The clothes that Megan and Harry wear are ugly. Don and Sylvia and Roger and even Bob Benson look better than anyone else because they all dress and behave classically. It's the up-to-date stylish types who look ridiculous.

And they are the ones who provoke the squeamish reactions. Harry's outburst, for example, is perfectly justified but why do it in front of everyone? How does that help him?

Beyond that, the show used the conventions of daytime television beautifully. The episode moved very quickly. We were in the last five minutes before I knew it. But sometimes less is more, so I'm going to stop right here.

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