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Darrel Manson

Mad Men

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My reaction and Ali's right after the credits rolled on Sunday was that last week's episode made a much, much better finale.  We've had at least a half-dozen occasions over the show's run where we had a visceral or tentative negative reaction to an episode soften by the time morning rolled around and the characters' behavior turned out to be true or consistent after further reflection.  That was largely the case for us here.  I have to credit Weiner for commitment to his artistic vision; I like the show's meanderings, but nevertheless always feel like the show's draggiest, most pointless moments are those occurring in Cali with the Anna Draper clan, but Weiner just kept giving them to me, whether I wanted them or not.

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something cynical in me wonders if structuring the ending this way constructs an ambiguity that just makes for good press.

 

Except that the more I think about the ending, the less ambiguous it is. Mike Sicinski called the Coke commercial on Twitter weeks ago, and my only question at the time was whether it would be Don's pitch or Peggy's, so it's interesting to open this thread and find Nick arguing for Peggy. To me it's not ambiguous at all because, along with some of the obvious markers (the prominent Coke machine in ep. 13, the girl in the pigtails, the "I'm alone in a refrigerator" monologue) the Coke ad is essentially the same pitch/confession Don (or Dick, really) made to Hershey. Both are attempts to experience "the real thing." How we interpret Don's return to advertising is ambiguous, I suppose, but the show has always been a Rorschach Test concerning Truth and advertising.

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I agree that it is obviously Don who has constructed the ad. So this is my quandry, putting myself in the cutting room:

 

1. Cut straight from the "om" to the ad. Everyone will connect the Don dots through the obvious cues. This edit will better engage viewer interaction with this final moment in the storyline. It maximizes the sense of ambiguity present, while remaining faithful to the Don storyline.

 

2. Cut from the "om" to Don giving the Coke pitch, then cut to the ad. This is less sexy. But it is more formally consistent with the show and lets us see Don come full circle in his ad room element - this time chastened by life and free of the inner/outer Don dualism that plagued him for so long.

 

I get the former. It is neat, tidy, and economic. I think I would rather have seen the latter.

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If you folks can imagine Don singing that jingle, go right ahead.

Edited by Nick Alexander

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But Nick, in the very final shot he is essentially intoning the first few bars of it has he chants "ohm" into the westerly breeze. The edit splices directly from that sound to the commercial itself. So we don't have to imagine him singing the jingle.

Edited by M. Leary

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I agree that it is obviously Don who has constructed the ad. So this is my quandry, putting myself in the cutting room:

1. Cut straight from the "om" to the ad. Everyone will connect the Don dots through the obvious cues. This edit will better engage viewer interaction with this final moment in the storyline. It maximizes the sense of ambiguity present, while remaining faithful to the Don storyline.

2. Cut from the "om" to Don giving the Coke pitch, then cut to the ad. This is less sexy. But it is more formally consistent with the show and lets us see Don come full circle in his ad room element - this time chastened by life and free of the inner/outer Don dualism that plagued him for so long.

I get the former. It is neat, tidy, and economic. I think I would rather have seen the latter.

Yes.

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But Nick, in the very final shot he is essentially intoning the first few bars of it has he chants "ohm" into the westerly breeze. The edit splices directly from that sound to the commercial itself. So we don't have to imagine him singing the jingle.

 

One note does not a hippie song make.

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Of course Don didn't write the jingle.  He just browbeat whichever midlevel McCann employee was tasked to work on it with him.  Probably Peggy.  So, she probably was involved, after all.

 

Mike, I get it.  One more Don pitch would have been great for old time's sake, but I think it's superfluous.  Would it have made the eventual ad any less crass or cynical a co-opting of hippie culture if we'd gotten to see his pitch?  Sure, it would have been great to see Jim Hobart genuflect minutes after threatening him physically for bailing, but it would have just told us what we already know-- he's a dude who's great at his job and bad at everything else, and that skill will get him as many second chances as he needs or wants.  His great yoga insight is recognizing that he's a guy who can touch, however briefly, deep human longing and transform it into something finite and consumable, and imposing that creative impulse is worth living for, all self-created heartbreak notwithstanding.  He's just changing the conversation again. 

Edited by Russ

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Of course Don didn't write the jingle.  He just browbeat whichever midlevel McCann employee was tasked to work on it with him.  Probably Peggy.  So, she probably was involved, after all.

 

Why couldn't it be the other way around?  That Peggy comes up with the idea, somehow tracks Don down, and browbeats him to perfect her concept?

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Of course Don didn't write the jingle.  He just browbeat whichever midlevel McCann employee was tasked to work on it with him.  Probably Peggy.  So, she probably was involved, after all.

 

Mike, I get it.  One more Don pitch would have been great for old time's sake, but I think it's superfluous.  Would it have made the eventual ad any less crass or cynical a co-opting of hippie culture if we'd gotten to see his pitch?  Sure, it would have been great to see Jim Hobart genuflect minutes after threatening him physically for bailing, but it would have just told us what we already know-- he's a dude who's great at his job and bad at everything else, and that skill will get him as many second chances as he needs or wants.  His great yoga insight is recognizing that he's a guy who can touch, however briefly, deep human longing and transform it into something finite and consumable, and imposing that creative impulse is worth living for, all self-created heartbreak notwithstanding.  He's just changing the conversation again. 

 

Yeah, you can get Zizek's consternation about advertising's concept of "New" as a bastardization of the redemptive version of "new."

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Nick, why would you want that to be the case?  Peggy Olson is awesome-- a person who is able to be great at what she does without making others feel miserable about themselves.  There's that great, brief bit where Peggy has to assert herself to stay on the Chevalier account, and she plays the power game without turning into an asshole.  Now that she's Wonder-Twinning with Stan, the guy who's there to keep her from forgetting that there's more to life than work, she's even more likely to  harness her Draper-level talent without succumbing to Draper-level destructive behavior.  Plus, she makes honest ads.  The Hilltop ad is a piece of garbage-- a soulless husk in singsong verse.  I don't want that stink on her.

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he's a dude who's great at his job and bad at everything else, and that skill will get him as many second chances as he needs or wants.  His great yoga insight is recognizing that he's a guy who can touch, however briefly, deep human longing and transform it into something finite and consumable, and imposing that creative impulse is worth living for, all self-created heartbreak notwithstanding.  He's just changing the conversation again.

 

This is awesome. I'd just add "beautiful" before the word "dude" because as we saw earlier this season he wouldn't get nearly as many second chances if every man and woman in the room didn't want to f--k him.

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She's even more likely to  harness her Draper-level talent without succumbing to Draper-level destructive behavior.  Plus, she makes honest ads.  The Hilltop ad is a piece of garbage-- a soulless husk in singsong verse.  I don't want that stink on her.

 

I disagree.  The Hilltop ad is consistently listed as one of the greatest advertisements of all time.  The jingle is still stuck in my head.  I see that ad as a synergy between reaching out to the then-boomer generation, aspiring to their dreams, while also being thoroughly corporate culture. 

 

In the context of the series, that's Peggy.  In that moment, it's Peggy who found love.

Edited by Nick Alexander

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Re: Nick's comments:

 

 

 

the show has always been a Rorschach Test concerning Truth and advertising.

 

wink.png

 

Yep.

 

And you cannot teach the world to sing, using a Coke.

 

But you can teach music with a number of coke bottles, with varying levels of Coke inside.

 

And apparently, based on some cult movie filmed in some isolated village, some twelve years later, they found even more uses for the Coke bottle.

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Who saw last Sunday's episode? Anyone?

Okay, well here goes. Watch out, people. Spoilers ahead:

Does anyone have any thoughts on

Betty's close call with cancer? Personally, I'm wondering if she's really out of the woods. Part of me thinks she may actually have cancer but is hiding it from Henry and the others. That sounds cruel, but in her mind I think she'd be doing it to spare them any grief, much like her friend hasn't told her kids about her own illness. Anyway, that's my take. Otherwise, I'm not sure why they'd take the episode in that direction. I hate it when shows throw in cancer as a red herring, just to make us feel something, and I'd like to think that

Mad Men wouldn't resort to such a cheap tactic unless they had a good reason for doing it.

Prophetic!

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My ever-growing dissatisfaction with the Mad Men finale ultimately rests in way that the finale mostly refuses to address the central question of Don's arc throughout the series: can Don Draper ever find a home?

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Re-posting some comments that were deleted during the great Arts & Faith Purge of this past weekend:

 

- - -

 

Y'know, it wasn't until I was 20 or so (circa 1990) -- and possibly even later -- that I realized the whole "I'd like to teach the world to sing" song actually began as a commercial. When I was growing up in the '70s, I heard that song everywhere, but it was the non-commercial version recorded by The New Seekers:

                                   

 

Then, when I was 20 or so, I bought a CD of commercial jingles, and the Coca-Cola version of this song was on there. And my initial assumption was that Coke had co-opted the song. I don't know *how* long it took me to figure out that the song *originated* with the commercial and was only spun off into a commercial-free pop ballad afterwards.

 

Of course, it turns out the song only *partly* originated with the commercial. The lyrics originated there, but the songwriters recycled a melody that they had already written for 'True Love and Apple Pie':

 

 

- - -

 

Steve Sailer has been tracking some of the various interviews Matthew Weiner has given lately, in which he (Weiner) says the series was inspired by the anti-Semitism he encountered at his Los Angeles prep school in the late 1970s -- a high school that he insists was only one-sixth to one-tenth Jewish even though contemporary newspaper reports said at the time that 40% of the students there were Jewish. Weiner also consistently refers to Gentiles as "white" and to Jews as people "of color", and says the Jon Hamm character's real name was "Dick Whitman" to signify that he was a "white man" and thus not Jewish.

                                      

This is all kind of weird and fascinating to read, in light of that recent report in New York magazine about the New York private school that started segregating its kids according to race *to teach them the evils of racism*, which led to Jewish parents protesting that their kids shouldn't be lumped in with the "white" kids and black parents replying that the Jewish parents should check their white "privilege".

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Ross Douthat:

 

I’ve struggled all week to come up with something fitting to say as a send-off to “Mad Men,” a show that I’ve watched faithfully – if eventually more out of duty than pleasure – for last seven years. In the end, I think the struggle reflects the fact that I experienced the show as three distinct dramas, and I had very different perspectives on each one.

 

The first drama was an office drama, a portrayal of the workplace as a zone of ambition, fulfillment, disappointment, tragedy, and it was very often great. Figuring out just how great requires more distance, but I wouldn’t quarrel that much with John Swansburg’s suggestion that “no series has ever come closer to capturing the exhilarations, and occasional frustrations, of white-collar work, particularly white-collar work in an industry where creativity is the coin of the realm.” Of course this made the show an arrow aimed precisely at the heart of the BosNyWash journalists who hyped it, but just because journalists are solipsists doesn’t mean we’re wrong: “Mad Men” really was unusual and distinctive in the amount of drama, energy and feeling it generated around a profession that doesn’t involve arresting people, trying them or cutting them open on an operating table. Plenty of shows, from “Mary Tyler Moore” to, well, “The Office” have done justice to the workplace as a community, but many fewer have done justice to (non-police, non-medical) work as a real vocation, and to the complicated ways that the vocational and communal elements of office life interact. This was Matthew Weiner’s great, sustained artistic success, and it deserved all the praise it got.

 

The second drama was the shadow side of the first, a portrayal of the non-professional world, the domestic sphere, that often seemed to be set up deliberately as a dystopian contrast to the truer, better community available at work. . . .

 

Then finally the third drama was the drama of Don himself, which bridged the workplace and domestic themes but was ultimately supposed to be something more than just another illustrative character sketch. Don Draper was the show’s bid to create the Great American Character, the self-made man with all his secrets and self-doubts and disappointments and internal contradictions, someone who could stack up not only next to Tony Soprano or Walter White but also Jay Gatsby or Silas Lapham or Swede Levov. He was supposed to be a Clyde Griffiths who got away with it, a Willie Loman who really figured out how to sell, a Huckleberry Finn dreaming of hopping airplanes rather than steamboats … I could go on, but you get the idea, and also the problem, which was that Don ended up feeling more like an unwieldy collection of literary archetypes and melodramatic backstories and Fatal Flaws than an actual human being. This problem was crystallized by Emily Nussbaum’s New Yorker essay on the show last year in which she compared Don to the Island on “Lost” — a tantalizing mystery at first, then a cabinet of curiosities (As Nussbaum wrote, Don’s baroque biography isn’t “the backstory of a serial adulterer; it’s the backstory of a serial killer”), and then finally just a jumble of character elements that were less than the sum of their parts. Who is Don Draper? the show asked early on, and maybe as with “Lost” and its mysterious island the answer was destined to disappoint. But the way it disappointed — the cycle of adultery, boozing, unintentionally comic flashbacks, and adultery again — felt more and more like a too-pretentious drag, all the way through to the “ohm” and the Coke ad at the very end. . . .

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As much as I admire Hendricks’ acting and seductive voice, her figure is a sad accommodation to the “new norm” of obesity in this country.

futuramafry.jpg

I'm with Ryan, here.

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I'm glad Weiner finally admitted to this.  I know I'm not the only one with an Israeli Tourism Board-shaped vacuum in his life which only narrative closure could fill. 

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Vulture features a video by Matt Zoller Seitz about a Russian imitator of Mad Men called The Thaw.

Comparing the shows drove home how influential Mad Men has been. For seven seasons, Weiner’s series immersed viewers in the world of Madison Avenue creative director Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) and his colleagues as a tumultuous decade unfolded around them. It was a world of elegant fashions, hard liquor, changing sexual mores, political and historical allusions, and meditations on the image. The show was never a hit by the standards of broadcast television. But it did become an industry standard-bearer, and an object of fascination for viewers and critics alike. I was obsessed enough to write a whole book about it, Mad Men Carousel, and here I am writing about it again. It’s rich enough to withstand repeat visits and new angles of scrutiny.

Edited by NBooth

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