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Mad Men Blogging: Souvenir - The Ex-Communicator

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March 11th, 2010


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04:55 pm - Mad Men Blogging: Souvenir
This week's Mad Men episode was the incredibly stylish (even for Mad Men) Souvenir, which used the imagery of many sophisticated films of the late fifties and early sixties, pointing up the disjunct between a beautiful and enviable exterior, and disappointing reality. Instead of a wealth of character-plots there were really only two: Don and Betty travel to Rome for a long weekend, finding themselves in a temporarily romantic Audrey Hepburn movie like Roman Holiday; Pete Campbell thinks he's in a grown-up film like The Seven Year Itch and of course completely mucks it up and makes an ass of himself, or possibly a pig. On the plus side - kalypso_v did you notice he got his top off?

All in all, glossy, brittle, tragic and worryingly enviable.

In We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (filmed as Total Recall, after a fashion) Philip K Dick implies that the only trace which a good experience leaves in the mind is the souvenir of a happy memory, which you might as well just purchase. This also is what the characters here seem to believe, and that paradoxically is what makes them unhappy. Is that the point of life - just to accumulate souvenirs of experience, to get you through the rest of the days? But I would say that experience, even frustrating experience, helps you build the mental house that you live in, and your relationships. You don't just have a memento or a sexy memory of a kiss, you have a permanent gain or loss.

Lucy Mangan in the Guardian says: "A mere fortnight after something last happened in Mad Men .... something else has happened! ... I predict at least One More Thing Happening, perhaps as early as a month from now." Do I detect the gossamer hand of sarcasm? This is the best show on telly you dolt.

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:March 11th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, but bare torsos rarely do anything for me... I thought he went well beyond piggery; that had to be pretty close to rape. (The girl was so distressed she told her employer, which implies that she confessed the original transgression Pete had helped to cover up.) But it still ties up with Peggy (conspicuously absent this week), because he expected this girl to react the same way she did when he turned up at her door on a brief acquaintance.

PS Read the review to find out what the thing that happened was, because I couldn't really remember anything potentially significant in plot terms apart from Betty having a First Kiss. Whereas last week had a significant plot development in Don being outmanoeuvred into signing a contract. But the previous week... well, the incident she mentioned was certainly dramatic, but its function was to prevent a significant plot development. So she's clearly counting differently from me.

Edited at 2010-03-11 08:31 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 11th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I think he did coerce her in an unpleasant way. I have also been annoyed by some of the comments I have read on other blogs excusing or minimising what happened. I'm sure he will get away with it, though I expect there are lots of other punishments in store for him.

I don't know what yardstick the Guardian are using to calibrate what is an event. Humph.
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:March 11th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
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I don't think Pete realised how appalling his behaviour was, because he was sure she'd fall into his arms in gratitude and decided to continue as if that was happening although she made it perfectly clear her gratitude didn't go that far. But then, he is a jerk. Just an interesting one. I did wonder exactly what he'd said to Trudie between the two scenes we saw.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 11th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
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The thing is the men in Mad men don't ever have to realise how appalling they are, because society is set up that way. I watch Mad Men with my daughter and we always wonder what terrible thing Pete will do whenever he comes on screen.

BTW isn't the little girl good? I wonder how old the actor is.
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:March 11th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
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She's very good. Now ten years old, apparently (so probably nine during filming).
[User Picture]
From:tehomet
Date:March 14th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
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Do I detect the gossamer hand of sarcasm? This is the best show on telly you dolt.

:)

Is that the point of life - just to accumulate souvenirs of experience, to get you through the rest of the days? But I would say that experience, even frustrating experience, helps you build the mental house that you live in, and your relationships. You don't just have a memento or a sexy memory of a kiss, you have a permanent gain or loss.

Well said. I think if it were possible to benefit to a significant degree from 'purchased' souvenirs of experience, then it would be similarly possible to benefit from conveyed experience. In other words, we would learn from the mistakes of others, from listening to stories, from lessons. But we only do to a degree.

Did you see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? It was (for me), the anti-Total Recall or anti-We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, in that it showed that it's the web of experiences, rather than the individual experiences themselves, that make up the mind (in both senses, decision and composition).

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:March 19th, 2010 08:57 am (UTC)
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Yes, I did see it and I thought it was a much better model of memory than Total Recall.
From:egretplume
Date:May 14th, 2010 07:47 am (UTC)

belated comment

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I just wanted to say that it was your excellent blogging on Mad Men that convinced me to look at it again after initially disliking it.
And now I am hooked and have been watching past episodes as they become available in the cable "on demand" section.
This episode is as far as I've gotten, so I'm not quite caught up yet, but I'm really impressed, with the show and with your insights about it.

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