Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mad Men: A longer, slower release

High finance and low sex

For starters, partners don't call in underwriters without consulting the other partners. It just doesn't happen. For seconds, the underwriter's accountants don't do the math in front of you (there is a team of them, not one guy, and they take all your papers, and there are huge piles of them, into a room you provide and spend days going over them). Finally they never but never complement the person who keeps the books as a "chef" as analogies between accounting and cooking are very much verboten.

I know, I know, if I want realistic accounts of how business works, I came to the wrong place if I have come to television or movies.

But did you notice that Trudy, who has been the opposite of sexy so far this year, is suddenly making efforts to look very good now that she is denying Pete sex? That was very believable.

And just in case we think that was an accident, Marie later tells Megan that the problem is that she is dressing like to much a wife and not enough like a woman who wants to be wanted. Pete, meanwhile, responds to Trudy by foolishly telling her that he is about to become big. Why didn't dictate this directly to her lawyer and cut out the middleman?

And we have Roger using sex to get leads on clients and getting a big one that way.

Finally, we have Peggy who is losing interest in Abe because he isn't much good at actually making things happen and is attracted to Ted who can. They have a lovely mismatch when she fails to realize that he needs to be told he is strong and he, grateful that she inadvertently does tell him this, kisses her.

And it all ends with Peggy realizing, with a jolt, that Don is a better seducer than she is and that he got to Ted before she had a chance. It ends with Peggy off typing the press release, under instructions to make the new entity sound like the sort of company she'd like to work for. Always a bridesmaid ...

I can't wait to read Hanna Rosin on this episode. I will disappointed if the feminist clichés don't flow freely.


Perhaps because it is an unrealistic show, it is telling when it reaches points that even it cannot fudge.  (Historical drama of the Hollywood type always gets the costumes right and the behaviours of the people who wear them wrong.) And one of the big things that even an unrealistic show like this has to get right is the romantic account of the 1960s favoured by progressives. This is a view that history is on the side of progressivism and if things went other than what they had hoped, then it was because history made a wrong turn. Thus Abe sets out the view that either Clean Gene or Bobby Kennedy will become president and the war will end.

It's all dramatic irony because we know that none of these things will happen. Even when the war ended it didn't end and we are still living with the consequences of it now. But in the progressive view these things should have happened because this is the way history was supposed to have gone. This romantic view then is not a dead dream to mourn but the actual path that they will always try to drag history back to. This alternative root remains, for progressives, more real than what actually did happen. That Nixon actually got elected is, to them, an accident that deflected history from the place it was really supposed to go.

I could go on at some length about this but the short version is that I don't think it's an accident that Abe is looking more and more like Meathead from All in the Family with every passing episode of Mad Men.

(It's a very nice touch that Peggy imagines Ted reading Something by Ralph Waldo Emerson when she fantasizes about him. It's a realistic touch because she wouldn't have actually read anything by Emerson and neither would Abe have. Prep school boys read Emerson: Roger, Bert and Pete would all be able to converse on the subject quite intelligently. As would, of course, Ted. But not Peggy.)

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