February 9th, 2010
|02:13 pm - Mad Men blogging|
I missed Mad Men S3E3 'My Old Kentucky Home' last week because I was having a row at my poetry group, so I caught up with it later on i-Player.
I'm afraid I still think this season is a mite pedestrian. It's good pedestrian, but it's not quite what it was. In fact it now resembles what people used to say it was: a character study of the lives of powerful personalities, with ironic commentary on how social notions of good and evil have changed in the last forty or fifty years. It seems so far to be more structured, more logical, more straight-forwardly moral than it was: the modern visage peeping through.
The ghastly Roger Sterling performs a minstrel song in blackface. 'What we all think about this' is so heavily present it distorts the scene. What was most interesting was not that Don was disgusted, but that Pete Campbell was, even temporarily shocked out of exploiting the networking opportunity. What does this portend? Humanity creeping into his bleak soul?
In this Valve post Scott Kaufman says Don Draper is being left behind by the flow of time.
Campbell is, in a sense, becoming us, and we revile his behaviour to the extent that we recognize our sins in his actions. Draper, however, is becoming Art, and as such we hold him as responsible for his actions as we would Emma Bovary*. His self-fashioning was ... an act of literature.*ETA - I think he means we forgive him, because he is a beautiful creation.
In contrast this Valve post says that it is Pete Campbell who is evaporating, while Don has fixity.
It is quite common in real life to let other people “get away” with attitudes or behaviours that we eschew, and that we (rather confusingly) also consider unethical. That is because, sadly, our sense of the “ethical” often functions partly as a justification for the dead spaces, aesthetic failures, and unresolved dreariness that infiltrate our lives.
And the third Valve post says that we see characters like Peggy Olsen and Pete Campbell becoming more modern, because the way they frame their lives to themselves is becoming more like the ways we frame our own life stories to ourselves ('The Glass Ceiling' for example).
Whereas Draper (in this argument) is attempting to fabricate himself from the ground up:
Draper is, then, something of an exploded man sifting through bits of himself in search of the core to which all these bits once belonged. However, until he accomplishes this impossibility, his self-fashioning will still be far more aesthetic than that of the other characters on Mad Men, and as such, the show’s literate audience will still be drawn to him more than them.
I've quoted these three posts at length, although I don't agree with any of them. Instead I think that Draper's quest, and to some extent the quest of all the characters, is towards Authentic Being. This may be - is - an impossible quest, but it is a movement from the contingencies of one time, towards something unreachable but not time-bound. In this respect it is like Lavinia, the Children's Book, Pride and Prejudice. In fact now I am starting to see something that unites the books and TV shows that I like best.
I agree with you about Don's Quest, although I don't think it's a conscious quest. Certainly, he spends a lot of the time ignorant of his own needs (or wishes) thrashing around in a mess of his own making. But he does seem to be feeling towards something Real.
I recommend sticking with Season 3 - it's very much worth it.
I'm glad to hear that, I feel it has slightly come off the boil lately, though I still love it.
I think being creative requires a striving to authenticity, though as you say perhaps not a conscious one - and so Don and Peggy are in a strange position where their jobs pull them two ways, more so in Don's case. They have to try to reach down into their real Being, but they also have to work within the system, selling crappy products.
I was also thinking about Nietzsche and Heidegger, and how really being yourself might mean becoming some sort of fascist monster.
Don's a real person who's become a fake, using real creativity to produce fake feelings.
He's consciously reaching out to external forces to validate him and make him feel real, and every time he does he makes things worse for himself. The transformative process means giving up your illusions, both internal and external, and it's always painful. For Don to reach any kind of enlightenment is going to mean admitting some very painful truths and giving up some things he thinks he really needs.
I wonder if he ever will come clean with his wife, either in this season or another. In that respect it's very like Breaking Bad, all lies inside lies.
(None of that is spoilerific, by the way)