I’ve been digging the new season on Mad Men lately, and since this season takes place in 1964, I thought it would be fun to devote this week’s list of songs to 1965. I don’t see Don Draper drinking himself to sleep while listening to Dylan or the Beatles, depending on your viewpoint “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” may or may not be his personal motto.
Tag Archives: Don Draper
For this post, I’m going to stray away from music and write about Mad Men. (And you thought all I was writing about was Bob Dylan.)
By the end of the third season of Mad Men, Don Draper’s true identity is finally revealed to his wife Betty. Up until the confrontational moment, Don Draper was the epitome of cool. He was smooth, talked his way out of any problem. When he tells Betty that he was in fact born Dick Whitman having stolen the real Don Draper’s identity years earlier – the once smooth Draper becomes nervous. He can barely talk, and fumbles his cigarettes. He reverts back to the man whose life he was trying to escape.
At its heart, Mad Men is all about personal identity. Everybody has a secret on the show, and they all go to desperate lengths to cover up the lies. “You’ll find it’s easier to forget than you know,” Don tells a hospitalized Peggy Olson in Season Two. Having given birth at the same moment she found she was pregnant, Peggy also wants to move on. It’s only fitting Don would be the one to persuade her abandon her child and continue to work like absolutely happened. In a sense, Peggy is abandoning the normal constraints that women had in the early 60’s. She forges her way from secretary to copy-writer throughout the show’s run.
At first I wasn’t too sure about Mad Men to be honest. I missed the entire first season when it aired, and saw only about half of the second season when it aired. There seemed to be many episodes where nothing in particular happened. (Which as it turns out, a lot does happen but you could pick up on it if you watch the episodes in order.) A big criticism of Mad Men could be its insistence on playing up the politically incorrect ways of the age such as the constant smoking, drinking, and womanizing. But like a lot of things in Mad Men, it’s not so much for effect, but rather symbolic.
“Your generation doesn’t know to drink,” Roger Sterling tells Don. Don suggests that he drinks because he’s likes it, and Don drinks because he has issues. Perhaps Don’s drinking is used to calm his nerves (as evidence when Betty finds out that he is in fact Dick Whitman) but he’s constantly longing for attention and companionship. Other characters do there fair share of sexual philandering (Roger Sterling even has a heart attack while having sex) but Don gets most of the blame. But for Don cheating on his wife isn’t just about cheating on his wife for a nice night full of sex. It’s about getting away from his bitch of a wife – but he never seems to be able to. Even though at several points he tries to run away with any one of his girlfriends. Ironically the only time that he is actually free from her, is when Betty discovers who he really is.
Any other show using the Kennedy Assassination as a crucial plot point might come off as crass. But for Mad Men, it represents the breakdown of everything that was previously known in the show – just as it was the end of an era in real life. Betty realizes that she can no longer be with Don. Roger’s daughter is set to get married that day, and the normally stiff and unsympathetic Pete Campbell is the only one who realizes that no one should be celebrating on that day. Not long after the Kennedy Assassination, the advertising firm of Sterling Cooper is uprooted, and a new firm is rebelliously created overnight.
Is Mad Men the greatest television show ever? If the rest of series’ run is as good as what’s come, then I say yes.
Is it March 23rd already? I’m getting psyched just at the thought that it’s less than 2 weeks away. The third season of Mad Men is probably the second greatest season of television ever. (Season 4 of The Wire is the first.)
From the beginning Mad Men has been about identity. The first two seasons focused on self discovery, but by the end of Season 3 all previous notions are shattered. Vietnam is upon Sterling Cooper – but the subtitle should be some akin to the war at home. The drinking and the whoring is no longer safe – Don’s life has finally caught up with him. Usually his women are removed from his home-life – a beatnik, a California girl, his clients. But this time he seeks trust in his daughter’s school teacher. Betty not only finally files for divorce, but also takes on an affair of her own.
Roger Sterling’s daughter is getting married the weekend of the Kennedy assassination. His daughter holds contempt towards her father for marrying a girl who is only a few years older than her. Yet when Kennedy is shot, the wedding is still on. And it is up to Pete (of all people) the most selfish and self-absorbed employee at Sterling Cooper to point out the absurdity of such an event when the rest of the nation is in tragedy.
It’s no coincidence that after Kennedy’s death, Sterling Cooper receives its biggest shake-up and is once again bought up. Don, Roger, and Bert Cooper have no choice but to go out on their own – severing ties in the process. They take the accounts they can over the weekend and begin a quite revolution – much like the one that was beginning to boil around the country – and begin to head out on their own.
I’m only beginning to scratch the surface here. I’ll give a more detailed account once I re-watch it again. You’ve been warned.
The LA Times has an article about selling out. I find the article to be written about 5 years too late – the record industry has been imploding since the early part of the 2000s. Ten years ago Moby licensed all of Play. In 2003 Bob Dylan appeared in a Victoria’s Secret commercial. 2004 saw U2 team up with Apple. As for Mariah Carey and rap stars? Well they’ve never really turned away from endorsements.
In a time when CD sales are at all-time low, artists need to make money. The industry doesn’t work the same as it used to. Popular music is the only medium where an artist is accused of selling out. Newspaper reporters have never made their money entirely off of the sales of their papers – it was through advertisements. Has anyone ever accused a newspaper reporter of selling out? And in the words of Don Draper advertising is “is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”
Unfortunately there’s never really been a model on how to “sell out gracefully” until the past decade. But does it really matter? I groaned when I saw Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” on a commercial for the Olympics. But it is the artists’ song and they can do what they want with it, despite the fans’ personal attachment to it.
Did anyone else see last night’s episode of Mad Men? I’ve got to say, it was one the best hours of television. Ever since The Wire finished, I needed a show to fill the void. Last season’s Mad Men was pretty good, but I wasn’t totally sold. It seemed a little too Don-centric for my taste. Not that I don’t think Don Draper isn’t interesting (he is) but the show is also full of other great characters that somehow got pushed aside for Don’s story.
Last season seemed focused on the individual, and this season seems to be focused on relationships and specifically generational relationships, which makes for a much more interesting story arc. Also the tension and stakes are higher this season as the show is set in 1963. All of it, of course is leading up to the Kennedy Assasination.
Handling a situation like this could have been a disaster focusing too much on the actual events. Instead, we see how it affects each character. Pete Campbell, who until recently has been kind of a jack-ass, is surprisingly tender when he tells his wife that he does not want to attend his boss’s daughter’s wedding because of what just happened. It’s no coincidence that Betty tells Don that she no longer loves him at the end of the episode. Everything has changed, and nothing will be the same. Don himself seems to acknowledge that much when he finally succumbs to let his kids watch the news reports.
On a lighter, but Mad Men related note, I found this while trying to find clips of the episode on Youtube.