September 8th, 2010
|08:54 am - David Hare on Mad Men
There's an extended article in The Guardian today about Mad Men and I started to read, already planning that I was going to blog about it: 'Newspaper critics don't have a clue. They think it's all about period detail, and the change in cultural mores. It's really about authenticity and creativity and the void. Only amateur fans understand.'
(This Observer piece for example exactly meets my prejudices about journalists: '(Mad Men) plays out against a backdrop of immaculately observed period detail. The ideas, the prejudices, the books and the looks are all carefully researched...Mainly, though, it's the drinking, the smoking and the dressing that seem to have so entranced the show's millions of viewers.' Idiot.)
One, the Guardian don't seem to have made the new essay available online yet.
ETA Here it is now
Second, it's a good essay. I'm thinking 'What is this? A journalist who understands drama?' I turn to the byline - it's by the playwright David Hare. Right.
'Critics of the series have tried to suggest that what we are watching here is a fancy soap opera... But no soap I have ever watched has the governing metaphor of authenticity.... I have tried to avoid reading commentary, but whenever I have seen Mad Men described I have been doubly mystified. Why on earth do people call it a satire? And why is its real subject assumed to be the 1960s?'
At last! At last it is said. Thank you David Hare. I am mystified too. Well, not really, it's understandable why people emphasise difference:
'Here is a group of professional people who resemble us, both in the unlikeliness of what they have to do, and the seriousness with which they set about it. They use their flashes of brilliance to make possible something which may or may not be worthy of them... for distant owners who have absolutely no interest in their well-being.'
The newspaper articles which emphasise the difference between 'us and them' are self-protective. They know the show stirs their emotions, but to examine why is uncomfortable. The female journalists who write about those far off sexist days as if they are cute, are just protecting themselves (and their readers) from facing up to what women have to do right here right now, simply to earn a living; how we are all forced to betray our authentic human selves to earn a living. How we drink or screw around to make it bearable.
How the new culture which is lurking in the wings of the Mad Men universe - some fresh start of sex and art and political authenticity - did not work, has left us washed up on this dwindling shoal we currently inhabit, selling ourselves every day still. And then failed again to rescue us, two or three times since the sixties, fresh attempts to reach authenticity have failed, and now everyone thinks that authenticity is a mistake - that sham has been proved the right approach, because it works.
'A world not very from that of our coalescent prime minister in which everyone can get away with being who they claim to be rather than who they are.'
But I think the other thing about Mad Men is that it does present hope. Because the real/dark world is always with us, not forcing itself onto us, but always there to draw upon. You can go anywhere, live a life of total lies, but authentic being is always right there at your hand, and you can draw on it. For some reason, I don't know why, but it does seem to survive.
Sounds like a good piece. If a link does pop up then please let me know, I'd love to read it.