Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Mad Men is the best show in the universe. (Spoilers for the finale.)

First, before I really get into the meat of this, I want to say that yes, I did just post. Since I'm mostly writing for my own entertainment, I figure no one will be over-whelmed by the sudden burst of writing. And my last post was long, too. I guess I have a lot to say right now.

And I want to say something about Mad Men. If you've never seen this show, first off - why? Second, my thoughts are absolutely nothing compared to the Lipp Sister's site, Basket of Kisses. Oh my God you all, this website is the mecca of all things Mad Men. Why? For one, they actually got people to pay attention which I have obviously not grasped. And they have an interview with Matthew Weiner. Let me repeat that - MATTHEW. WEINER. And if you don't know that name, you probably aren't a fan of the show. Again I ask - why? So while I may occasionally gush about how amazing this show is, I grovel at the feet of Roberta and Deborah Lipp.

Now, onto why I love the show so much.

In an era of television shows where suspending reality is the key, here is a show that gives us real life problems, real life messes, and real life solutions. How refreshing is it to see that when a husband cheats, he can't say he's sorry and suddenly have things come up roses? A woman doesn't always keep the baby and expect the father of her illegitimate child to come running in to save the day. And the perfect man is a complete lie. All of us who watch T.V. know that when we turn on our sets, writers are asking us to please take off our logical thinking caps and set them aside. How many of us can watch an episode of Desperate Housewives or Brothers & Sisters and think 'wow, that is so much like real life - crazy!'? The answer is no one. But when it comes to Mad Men, we're allowed to keep our logic and actually depend on our brains to guide us through each episode.

I have to admit that when a co-worker first told me the premise of this show I wasn't really that excited to watch. I'd missed season one completely and in fact had never even heard of the show when she handed over her DVDs. The show had just been featured on the cover of EW, but I had no interest because I didn't recognize any of the actors. And the basic premise, a story about a 60's advertising agency set in Manhattan, well, that didn't exactly grab me. Until I watched the first episode and realized it is so much more than that.

The thing that gets me about this show is that it's not afraid to be messy. Don Draper is one of the most messed up characters on television. Here is a man who is struggling to forget his past, and is so desperate, he steals a dead man's identity. How likely is that to happen? Well, nowadays probably not at all, but for Don's time and situation it was easy. Easy to give up on his terrible life, his terrible family and the world as Dick Whitman knew it. Only, it's not as simple as that. Everything slowly begins to unravel eventually and the memories come back to haunt him. Even his brother tries to reconnect but that ends in guilt money and suicide. Welcome to a television show that reassures us that it's okay - life is complicated.

I'll argue my own views for just a second to say that Don may be messed up, but he's also one of the best characters on television. He's handsome, business savvy, and for the most part a good man. Who happens to cheat on his wife. A lot. Why do we forgive him this and sympathize with him as a protagonist? After all, a man who is unfaithful to his wife isn't usually celebrated. But instead of turning him into a monster, he's been shown as human. Affairs happen - it doesn't make you a bad person, just someone who made bad decisions. He loves his kids; he even loves his wife. Not all men who cheat do it out of hatred. Some men are just lost. Don Draper is one of those men.

If Don is a lost man, then Peggy Olson is a lost girl. This poor woman who was brought in as a naive secretary, and by season two's end has become Don Draper's protegee. Faced with having her lover's child, she didn't sit and wait around for him to leave his wife and run to her. She did what plenty of women have done: Had the child and gave it up, then pretended that nothing happened. I don't believe it was purely for selfish reasons, nor do I believe she was too crazy to take care of a child. In my opinion, the shock of having a child when she didn't even realize she was pregnant kept her in deep denial - if she doesn't acknowledge it, then it never happened. It's how she can take Don's advice and run with it, it's how she can face her priest and family. Even if they try to shame her, she never thinks on the idea long enough to feel guilty. Until the possible end of the world during the finale on Sunday. She finally confessed to Pete that she gave up his child, and by the end of the day, she was completely absolved to herself. She'll never have to worry about her secret again because it no longer matters. Everyone involved has been brought full circle. The question now is whether Pete will use the information to harass her. Certainly she has Don in her corner, but I can easily see it turning into something along the following lines:

Peggy: Pete, I need you to take care of this account right now please.

Pete: Hey, remember that time I told you I loved you and then you told me you gave my baby away? Do it yourself.

Can anyone else see this happening?

Originally I'd wanted to explain why this is the best show on t.v., and I know I've gone off on a really, really long tangent and bounced from topic to topic. Basically it boils down to this: It's a real show. It takes every day problems that have been relevant for decades and puts them into a time when the world was an uncertain place. It makes us feel for characters who perhaps shouldn't have our sympathy, it makes us rethink morals and ethics as we've previously defined them, and it gives us a glimpse back in time. And it does all of this with a sense of urgency. This show is what other shows wish they could be.

It's going to be a long, long winter without Mad Men.

2 comments:

elena said...

Really enjoyed this post – there's so much to say about this show and I loved your anticipation of a potential conflict between Peggy and Pete,next season: LOL!! Yes, that's going to be a tough one for Pete to resolve.

dafrrr said...

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