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Mad Men as Rorschach - The Ex-Communicator

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October 7th, 2010


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10:36 am - Mad Men as Rorschach
I have fallen off from my habit of giving long reviews of Mad Men episodes. The reason is that the last two stumped me a little bit. I didn't have very coherent thoughts on them. I read three or four US reviewers, who do really good analyses of the episodes, and one thing I notice is that lately each reviewer takes the same episode in a completely different way. Whereas I think you often see a lot of consensus between good reviewers about most dramas or books. No, how can I express myself better, I mean that reviewers tend to have the same general idea about what is being said, even if they disagree about whether it's any good.

For instance, let me me take the most recent episode, Chinese Wall. OK, that title obviously tells you it is about the barriers of honour set up to avoid conflicts of interest, and how they are circumvented. And, if you see the show, this issue comes up a lot in this episode.

But beyond that, what is it all about? I think what people see reflects their preoccupations. So I, facing redundancy and redeployment, was really struck by how all the characters dealt emotionally with the threat that the ad agency might close and they would lose their jobs.

But Amanda at Pandagon thought it was about commitment to love: 'this decision, whether or not to throw away love, is what the characters are faced with'.

While Alan Sepinwall thinks it is about the conflict between work and home: 'work isn't something they use to support their loved ones, but to find a kind of fulfilment those loved ones can't provide.'

A lecturer in business studies writing in the Mad Men only blog Basket of Kisses thinks it's all about marketing: 'Chinese Wall could be screened in a 'Techniques of Selling' class. The different sales calls it depicts are worthy of an academic discussion.' (A different writer on the same blog thinks it's about the semiotics of clothing).

They all make a good case.

I think this is a compliment to the richness of the series, though it might be a warning that it is in danger of losing focus. I want it to be less about love and more about ruthlessness and creativity.

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