Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh, Don (with a ridiculously large number of parenthetical references)

One of the things that makes my dad so awesome is his willingness to read my book suggestions, even against his better judgement. (Now that I think about it, I don't think I've made him read anything lately. Dad -- Pride and Prejudice. It's time. I'll loan you a copy next visit.)

Dad did not always enjoy my recommendations (maybe why he hasn't read P&P yet...) -- namely The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations and some Faulkner novel that I hadn't even read myself -- often on the basis that there was no hero, just morally ambivalent wanderers. (For more information on moral ambivalence in literature, catch the final of the scene, after the credits, of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. For real.)

(I just realized Sue Sylvester plays Ricky Bobby's mommy. Awesome.)

Dad needed someone to cheer for, and apparently Nick, Gatsby, Pip, and whoever in the Faulkner novel didn't cut it for him. I personally love Nick, Gatsby and especially Pip, but I can see that they're not your traditional hero, like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. (Yeah, I don't think Dad would use that analogy. Hmm...they're no Harry Potter. Actually, Dad, after P&P you should read the Harry Potter series. Don't listen to Laura on this. Once again, she's wrong.) 

So fast forward 8-ish years, where after hearing many good things and joining the advertising profession myself, I decide to watch "Mad Men". This was at the start of the third season. I had caught the tail-end of season two, enough to see Don promise to start over with Betty and stop fooling around. But about 30 minutes in to season three, Don's all over a stewardess and they have a conversation about how this is her last chance to hook up before she gets married and Don assures her that she will have plenty of opportunities for infidelity after "I do." (Love this line from NYT article by Ginia Bellafante: If you drew a map of Don’s moral core it would look like a gerrymandered Congressional district with lines drawn in odd and incongruous places.)

This just didn't settle with me. I grew up watching soap operas. I enjoy Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. While I have much higher standards for myself, I can still enjoy plots where looser morals are displayed. But sometimes "Mad Men" is too much. Just check out the Secrets and Vices section of the "Mad Men" periodic table. Every character is screwing over another character. I grew weary of this and jumped ship mid-season. I finally understood Dad's need for stories to have a hero. Or at least one good guy. Somewhere. Eventually. 

Or at least I thought I understood. I couldn't help but wonder what was going on back at America's favorite ad agency. And I do have a soft spot for Peggy. And those dresses. And I often dream of a simpler time when you can drink bourbon mid-day and be totally classy and normal. See how I fit right in:
So Sunday night I rushed to get ready and curl up with Zoey for the start of the new season. And it was delightful. Don might hire a prostitute on Thanksgiving, but he is still a. total hottie and b. really good at telling clients off. And the Peggy and Pete storyline was funny. Did I mention my soft spot for Peggy?

In fictional worlds maybe I can get by without a hero after all. Afterall, I'll always have Mr. Darcy. And Richard Gere. And Harry Potter.  


Rebecca said...

Mark also struggles with the fact that Mad Men has no moral center. My assessment, biased as it is, is that Mad Men is a diagnosis of what's wrong with capitalism and the cult of American success...a cult which is based on 'climbing ladders' at the expense of others, a cult which privileges materialism over spirituality, character, or depth. I simultaneously hate and pity virtually every character, and I can't wait to see how the cultural upheaval of the late 60's will rock their fake, WASPy, conservative enclave of racism, sexism, and money-worship. :-D

Katie said...

Haha...Excellent analysis Rebecca!