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The Doo enigma - The Ex-Communicator

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February 26th, 2012

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08:06 am - The Doo enigma
There's a good article on the Guardian site today about 'My favourite scene in Mad Men' with opinions from Lionel Shriver (who picks the Anglo-American scene in which a man's foot is severed) and Julie Myerson (who picks Peggy telling Pete she does not love him) and many others. The comments which follow pick out many more. It helps me to remember how transcendent Mad Men is. Though it is hard to extract a single scene because the implication of each action or word is resonant with what you already know about the characters, rather than limited to what is explicitly on the scene, which you can point to.

One commenter mentions the scene where Don's daughter shouts at her parents because her grandfather is dead, and they are not reacting emotionally. They sit at the kitchen table like hollow people. She goes into the living room and the telly is on. On the screen a Buddhist monk is burning alive.

Perhaps the most famous scene is Don pitching the 'Carousel' idea to Kodak. What is good about it is the acting, style and script, which are marvellous. But the commenter correctly identifies what is great about it: throughout we do not know whether Don has achieved a kind of creative enlightenment, where through his cynical advertising pitch he has located truth and goodness, or whether conversely he is devouring and using his own life and his own values to win an advertising account.

I think this ambiguity is what I want most from art, because it is a true feature of life. There is no final revelation or settlement which shows what things 'really' are, or whether things are good or bad. I think the best stories are ones where the key question is sustained and open throughout. Like: in the old Scooby-Doo the ghost was not real, and in the new Scooby-Doo the ghost is real. But in some uber-Doo in my head the kindly old janitor never takes his mask off - or I suppose, he does strip it off, but we still don't find out what is underneath.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2012 10:27 am (UTC)
I too seek out that ambiguity in art and fiction. I prefer the Scandinavian version of the film Let The Right One In over both the book and the American version of the film precisely because the ending is ambiguous and could be interpreted in a way that matches up either with the ending of the book or the ending of the American film version.

It's odd, because in real life I have serious trouble tolerating uncertainty and ambiguity and find it acutely distressing, for the most part. So why I particularly enjoy it in art when I can't stand it in life I do not know.
[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2012 08:03 pm (UTC)
Yes. I think that enigma, and the sadness, is the best thing about Let The Right One In. So often horror films start promisingly, and then turn boring once you find out what is really happening, what is good and bad.
[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
It's masks all the way down?
[User Picture]
Date:February 26th, 2012 08:03 pm (UTC)
Or perhaps what is under the mask is impossible for the human mind to understand.

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