Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mad Men, The Strategy addendum

1. Three photos from three seasons

That's when Adam comes to Don/Dick in season one looking for a family connection and Don refuses him.

That's season five. Paul is in Hare Krishna and he approaches Harry to get help promoting a script he has written on speculation for Star Trek. Harry talks about family.

That's last episode and, again, the context is a discussion of family.

The composition in all three is so similar that it cannot be accidental.

2. There is something about Harry

Why is this man hated so much? And before you say that he lies and cheats on his wife you may want to ask yourself which characters that is not true of on Mad Men. Harry's chief failing seems to be no worse than anybody else while lacking in cool.

3. Waterloo

That's the title of next episode.

That is, as someone says somewhere else, ominous sounding. That is, if we take Don as being Napoleon trying to make his big comeback after escaping Elba.


  1. Harry has proven a bunch of times that he's basically a heel. He's chauvinistic (has openly mocked Megan and Joan) and sleeps with his friend's girlfriends. It's ironic that Don calls him loyal because the only thing Harry is loyal to is his own ambitions.

    1. I agree that Harry has faults but they don't seem to me to be any worse than Roger's, or Don's or Peggy's faults. Why is he singled out for hatred?

      When we hate characters like Harry and Betty, I don't think we do so for moral reasons. I think it's character or virtue issues at work.

      The fascinating thing about Harry, for me, is that he, perhaps more than any other character, starts off trying to be good. Or is he just trying to be nice? In any case, we can see him making a moral struggle and failing whereas other characters whom we admire just do things. We see a finesse in the way that Roger goes about being Roger. When we first saw Harry and Betty we saw characters who have a moral code, a set of rules, that come from outside them that they struggled to live up to.

      And ... well, I'm still trying to figure all this out. Both seem to have abandoned those codes and now live for something else.

  2. I think Weiner set us up to not like Betty because she's just so childlike and self-centered—she looks perfect and we want her to be this perfect 1960s homemaker mom, but instead Weiner heightens the focus on her repressed upbringing and how attached she is to ideas of what she thinks she's supposed to be. She's so surface-oriented that it always seems like she's not capable of dealing with her real emotions, and therefore they end up being expressed in a spoiled, childlike manner. We rarely watch her have experiences that we are meant to be as invested in as we are in those of characters like Peggy, Don, Joan, Roger, Pete, etc. Even Pete, who also started as more of a secondary character, has experienced loss and pain and other things that have humanized him and therefore made us more attached to him and more invested in his experience. The problem with characters like Betty and Harry is that they are more reactors than actors—their purpose is to be the person in a scene who feeds off of what the hero is saying, usually Don. It's difficult to know what their inner motivations are--and usually much of what they say or do is for comic relief. I think for that reason people have no problem with hating them, just as people would have no problem with hating anyone if they were only privy to our actions and not our motivations.

    1. i mostly agree. There are conversations between Pete and Harry in season 1, for example, where we see Harry trying very hard to live up to traditional expectations for a loyal husband to a degree that no other character does. There is a parallel between him and Betty in that sense that I did not see before your comment here. I think this is interesting enough that I will expand a bit on it in a new post later today. Thanks for commenting.