Graphic found here.
Like many, I'd heard about "Mad Men", the AMC original series that will soon start its fifth season. It is now on Netflix streaming, so it is possible to hole oneself up in a mountain cabin and watch until the only option left on the red screen at the end of the show is "Back to Browsing."
And I might have done it, had I started watching earlier in the summer.
"Mad Men" is famous for its political incorrectness-- its willingness to depict a time, early 60's New York City, and workplace, advertising agency, where it was still okay for white men to diss everyone else.
Adding to the verbal naughtiness: inordinate amounts of alcohol, smoking (the actors are absolutely sacrificing themselves) and bed-hopping.
The period detail, especially the women's fashions, are a draw, but more enticing are the period attitudes. "Mad Men" takes place on the cusp of the feminist revolution. The post-World War II marriage and family boom is still in force; women still think the best and easiest life is to be married to a successful man. Successful men have the freedom to worry about whether they are successful enough; wives of successful men sit at home with the kids and go quietly nuts.
I have watched only Episodes 1-5 of Season 1, so I have no spoilers for you, but I did want to mention, for all three of you out there who have not seen this superbly imagined and executed creation, what may be the decisive aspect that makes "Mad Men" so watchable: Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm.
Draper is brilliant, great with words, confident with the women, flat-stomached, the go-to guy in the office. He is on the one hand kind of a jerk, but on the other a real knight in shining armor. He is also a decorated World War II veteran. But he is also a man of mystery, tortured by some unseen hurt in his past, which may or may not have something to do with the war. As the episodes have unfolded, we have learned bits and pieces about Don's past, but nothing terribly revealing. Who is Don Draper, really? That's the appeal of "Mad Men."
This type of story has the makings of a fine tragedy, in the style of "Oedipus the King" by Sophocles. In this ancient Athenian play, Oedipus is master both of Thebes and himself. A strong, intelligent king, he is also good-hearted, a good husband. But his past begins to haunt him, and as he investigates his past, as his past is revealed to the audience, the more he falls.
The opening of "Mad Men" depicts the silhouette of a man in a suit very much like Don Draper who puts down his briefcase in his office, which then fades out and leaves him falling between skyscrapers plastered with popular advertising posters. But he doesn't hit the pavement: instead, he ends up sitting in an easy chair, back to us, with a cigarette in his hand. An apt summing up of the story of Don Draper.
At least so far.