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July 28, 2010

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Kristina

This is really interesting... I feel like it's quite different from my experience of the show. I mean, yes, I definitely feel dread when watching the show, I worry about what is going to happen, but it's nothing compared to the almost unwatchable oppression I felt during the first and second seasons.

I mean, I definitely think change will be hard for these characters, and one of the things I love about the show is how often certain characters fall back into old patterns. But I don't think the fear or dread of change alone makes the show conservative, because there is at least as strong a sense of oppression in the past of the show. The sense of change is strongest in this season opener, but I think it's been there all along, and certainly was building all through the last season. What I think is really sophisticated, rather than conservative, about the show is that the show doesn't entirely make change and stasis binaries in terms of emotion. Just because I prefer change doesn't mean I don't see there are sacrifices to be made (for instance, the loss of Sal was a huge sacrifice that I still can't wrap my head around). These characters will drown, will die, if they don't change -- not just because they need to "keep up with the times," but because the deadening oppression of the "old" times would KILL them. That doesn't mean that change won't hurt too. Change is confusing, and some of these characters will be hit hard by that confusion, while others (PEGGY -- who is better than I ever could have imagined!) will embrace it.

The show is about THE decade of change, at least in terms of our country's mythology. And that decade has only just kicked in -- even though the show began in 1961, in many ways we were still in the 1950s until the Kennedy assassination. (This is another thing that's so interesting about the show -- it's in many ways a show about a decade, and that decade did not really define itself until a few years in, which means that the first few seasons were setup, a gradual movement, toward this defined moment. That's gutsy in terms of narrative!)

There were really painful things about the civil rights movement and the feminist movement and even the peace movement -- and I'm not talking about the damage it did to society or whatever, I'm talking about the fact that individual people were killed or beaten or lost their jobs because of their beliefs. So I feel like, no matter how much you want change, no matter how radical you are politically, there's a certain sense of fear and dread and uncertainty about it, no?

Anne Moore

This is so smart, Kristina, and I really appreciate your calling out the need for a nuanced reading of the relationship between statis and change. Change is always painful, and one of the casualties of a binary understanding of the emotional effects of change is that we lose sight of the way that it is almost always accompanied by grief. No matter how awful something is, it is often really, really hard to let go of.
I think part of why I was so struck by the show's conservative elements was where we are in the season. Honestly, the hoopla around the show makes me way crazier than the show itself ever does. It reminds me of the popular response to The Sopranos in that people idealize a person and lifestyle that the show is actually pushing us to view quite critically. I'm seduced by an A-line skirt and fancy cocktail as much as the next person, but you're absolutely right that the overall feeling (ESPECIALLY in the first two seasons) is oppression.
Put more simply--I don't think the show actually glorifies the early sixties, but the Banana Republic clothing line sure does, and at the beginning of the season I find myself paying more attention to how people talk about the show than to the show itself. Once things get going, and I'm back in the rhythm of the narrative, I'm wondering how my affective reaction will change.

Kristina

I COMPLETELY agree about the way the show is hyped. There is a bizarre disconnect between the way the show is advertised and consumed and what it is actually about. I cannot resist the fetishization of those clothes and hats and shoes that match the hats and, omg, those sofas, those cars -- it's all so gorgeous. And there are a lot of people who only watch the show for those reasons, which irritates me to no end. And many of the main advertisers/sponsors of the show don't seem to actually watch it either (oh my god those clorox commercials and print ads last year made me want to throw the tv out the window!).

Of course, the brilliant thing is, the show is about an advertising agency, and also about how people want to be sold a fantasy. It's SO complicated on a meta level!

cgeye

The only company who has got it right, so far -- not the misogynist throwbacks selling cars and vodka -- are the nuanced folks at Dove, who 1) had a product that existed back then (one-quarter cup of cold cream!) and 2) got the irony that women should be involved in marketing products for them. Yeah, like for blacks, it's the mercantile theory of civil rights, but Dove made a mini-episode, just like the Glo Coat ad was a mini-movie -- with their swank, arrogant ad men and their most wise redheaded secretary. It got my attention, it truly worked -- and it smoothly transitioned to their body wash, and the sell we're used to, with women as informed consumers.

Anne Moore

Cgeye, do you have a link for that ad? I've never seen it, and it sounds really interesting!

cgeye

Dunno why this didn't post:

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/more-fake-mad-men-more-real-ads/

Supra TK Society

MO MO MO MO.....I WANT IT THAT WAY......NO MATTER THE DISTANCE.....YOU ARE MY FIRE.....

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