Monday, September 8, 2008

Mad Men--TV for the OCD

I must have my Mad Men. Not just because it's stylistically beautiful, or because it's as soapy as it gets. Well, it is because of those things. But the writers are commenting on the American way of life, mass consumerism, gender relations, the professional world and family life in ways that interest me and keep me chewing over episodes like a dog with a rawhide bone.

Last night, Don Draper bought him a sweet new Coupe de Ville to announce to the world that he had arrived, dammit, and everyone should envy him. He took his lovely little family for a picnic, and as they were getting ready to leave, he launched his empty beer can into the distance. He watched it land with a look of satisfaction, and ordered Betty, his wife, to check the kids' grubby mitts to be sure they didn't besmirch the Caddy's new upholstery.

As Betty packed up their belongings, she shook the blanket free of their detritus, grabbed the basket and walked to the car. Their site remained littered with all manner of crap from their picnic.

What exactly was the message?

Were the writers trying to remind us that post-war America was even more wasteful and unconscious of the impact of our rabid consumption than we are today? Am I to believe that "nice", middle-class people treated the world like their garbage can, and that I can feel good about myself because I schlep plastic, metal and glass to the recycling center? Or am I supposed to feel like, as a nation of consumers, we're more responsible now?

Well, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take from that scene, but it's got me thinking, that's for sure.

Anyone else out there watching Mad Men?

10 comments:

Ratherto said...

I watch that show religiously! Isn't it awesome? I personally think the writer are making a statement about the postwar era. The late 40s and early 50s were a booming time in the USA. We had the largest middle class in the world. There were fewer "poor" than ever. Opportunities were everywhere. Just talking to family members from that era you can tell. People were not very centered on issues like pollution and the diminishing ozone layer. Gas was $0.05 a gallon and you could have a pretty comfortable life on a median income. The downside to this is...if they would have started paying attention back then to the warnings, we wouldn't have as many of the problems that we do today. Well I could go on and on, but I gotta go.

theeriver said...

I dunno why I don't watch it, I love that era. Women knew their place, drove big ridiculous cars, and treehuggers weren't around yet.

Though why watch a show on Mad Men, when you live as one.

Jude said...

Ratherto,I don't think that there were many warnings about the problems that would start to appear in the 70s&80s.We were still hiding under our desks in school every Tues. at 10:30am to practice the drills for the Nuclear attack!Heads down,hands behind your neck to protect against...the big blast,fallout,or maybe just the Nuns.I don't think most people even knew what an Ozone layer was.Most people were just glad that they had made it thru the Depression and WW2,and that things finally were looking good .Also you have to remember that the press was not reporting things the way they have since Watergate. Alot has happened in the last 20 years to wake the general populace up....But I do like the show,if Football isn't on,but that's just me.

Luke Baggins said...

I have been watching the first season of Mad Men on Netflix. It almost failed to pull me in on the first disc, but then I thought about it and got the second. I love the interiors from that era and the advertising art.

One thing about the trash tossing. I've heard about that repeatedly from my parents and many people old enough to remember those days. It was common practice to go through the McD's drive-through and toss the bag and everything right out the window when you were done then empty out the ashtrays the same way. I don't think anyone started actually enforcing littering laws until sometime later in the 60's and it took a while for habits to change. The Arlo Guthrie flick "Alice's Restaurant" is the earliest documented instance I know of a litter law being enforced (late 60's).

Jude said...

Luke,you're right about most people tossing crap out the windows of their cars,etc,but as a family we were very proper with our disposal. My father didn't like crowds,so consequently most of our picnics were in cemetaries....I know,strange,but no one really bothered us,and my sister and I learned how to get beautiful "rubbings" off of old gravestones.Lets see if that shows up on Mad Men....maybe it had to do with the WAR,or maybe he just thought we acted like heathens and didn't want to subject the more genteel folks to his clan!!

Ratherto said...

My parents took us kids to the cemetery quite a bit when we were younger. But we were hunting the undead as a family (kidding). But seriously, I don't think that's that unusual. I've heard of having picnics in the cemetery before.

Nora said...

I like to hang out in cemeteries. Nice and quiet. I like to look for people with funnier names than mine.

Patrick said...

Considering I don't have a TV I have to wait until the new season comes out on DVD. However, Matthew Weiner is really good at reminding us at how conflicted we can be and usually are. He's probably just reminding us that we're still are a lot more talk than action when it comes to being green.

In regards to Don Draper, he was just getting his buzz going before he headed home with the family. Can you blame him?

Nora said...

Hell no, I don't blame Don Draper for getting his buzz on. I think that's the thing that was really the best about that time period--DUIs didn't exist.

Luke Baggins said...

I too get misty about a time when having 3 or more drinks with lunch and an ashtray at your desk was normal. But they didn't have xtube, or Ass Jihad back then, so I accept the time I live in gracefully.