A Man is a Mad Man

With the first season of Mad Men under my skinny, yet expensive leather belt, I thought I’d cast my crumbs of thought on the waters of the internet.

  • Initially, the pace of the show frustrated me. I could never tell when an episode was about to end. Events just bled into one another. I still could not tell any of the first eight episodes apart. Part of it has to do with watching the show on Netflix, of course. But I remember distinct episodes from 30 Rock, Community, and Better Call Saul, all of which I watched on the computer.
  • Either I locked into the show’s groove or the show locked into mine. It was at the end of Episode 9, “Shoot,” when I turned off the TV, rolled over in bed, and thought, “I liked that. That was good.” From that point till the end of Season 1, I enjoyed it.
  • The show is a little too pleased with itself in terms of style and production design. Sure, it’s impressive. Even captivating at times. It’s fun to have the characters say “swell” like the Hardy boys. But the precision of all the details cuts both ways: it presents the past in gorgeous HD, as you’ve never seen it before, while underscoring how different it was from our present day. And the show can’t stop itself from commenting on those differences. Every man in the show is a womanizer. Every women struggles against the boundaries of her sex. Every character is consciously classist and casually racist. It’s like reading Huck Finn in an English class with a teacher who can’t get off the subject of slavery.
  • On the whole, the show is about loneliness. Or, more accurately, about knowing and being known. Every character tries to build, earn, or steal for themselves a sense of worth, a place in the world and among people. Don Draper is the quintessential example. The people most willing to accept and embrace him, his family, don’t know anything about his past. They don’t even know his real name.

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