The Canadian Club

{October 23, 2009}   I heart boomers

betty draper

What a treat, Russ, to find your posts this morning.

First things first.  OMG, OMG, OMG, I totally didn’t make the MPDG connection on Mad Men, but you are so right!  It seems pretty clear that this is not going to end well for Don.  There have been so many signals about her reluctance to conform (running!?!) to the kind of tightly defined expectations of Don’s generation that I’m starting to fear that the show might be headed somewhere silly.  Here’s hoping that Mad Men doesn’t go off the rails.  I think you’re right (but maybe this is just my bias?) that Miss Farrell is acting a part just as much as Don or Joan or any of the other characters, and that she isn’t going to serve as the natural, uncorrupted, boomer-triumphalist fantasy girl.  Or if she is, that won’t necessarily be a good thing.  I guess I sort of agree with the idea that Mad Men is showing us why the 60’s had to happen, but not in the sense that they had to happen for moral reasons, as the dirty hippies would assert.  (It’s sort of stunning, actually, that so many boomers are still stuck on the narrative that they were the Great Liberators who saved us from the Cheesy Fakery of the Eisenhower era.)  Anyway, I think the show is more about examining how all those seeds of discontent were sown long before the boomers decided to save the world than it is about some kind of simplistic generational contrast, don’t you think?

As for Betty Draper… We discussed her character’s evolution a while back, and how the show has once again started to portray her  in a sympathetic light.  I think that they’ve done amazing things with her this season, especially given how cruel the writing in the first few episodes was to her character.  She seemed so petulant and so self-absorbed, didn’t she?  And then, suddenly, we see her in “Souvenir,” capable and clever and completely in her element, and we’re reminded of why she is so miserable. I’m really excited by the idea that she might wind up living a very different life in ten years.

But what is going to happen to my beloved Sal?


{October 23, 2009}   Yo Maggie Siff, call me.

Since I’m probably not going to get any of this done, anyway, I thought I’d start us off.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl ca. 1963

Manic Pixie Dream Girl ca. 1963

Clearly, one of the interesting dynamics that has emerged since mid-season is the apparition of Miss Farrell and her elusive pixie passion romance with Don.  On the one hand, she is the return of Midge: literary, self-consciously bohemian, and at once cynical towards and attracted to Don’s establishment persona.

The difference, however, is that, Don has a greater sense of need and urgency.  Meanwhile, while the times have changed, and the jaded hipness and marginalized revolt of Midge’s beatnik pals has become a blinkered, transformational urge with no respect for formal boundaries.

In this latest episode, The Color Blue — and in previous weeks, as well — we see this urge expressed not just in Miss Farrell’s insistence upon breaking the wall between Don’s public identity and his private affairs, but also in the Brits’ relentless desire to turn Sterling Cooper into more money.  Most obviously, though, is Conrad Hilton’s regular middle of the night phone calls and entreaties for lunar hotel chains.

As Peggy might say, these urges are telephone calls, not Western Union telegrams.  Unlike the latter, Conrad Hilton’s dreams, the push for profits, and the passions of the wispy schoolteacher cannot be framed.

As I think you began to discuss much previously, there is a delicate and complementary push coming from Betty and Miss Farrell.  They are each finding different ways of assuming and redefining womanhood.  Placing Mary McCarthy’s The Group in Betty’s hands shows how her political action and rapport with Henry has awakened her to a sense of self and purpose very different from the Maypole-dancing, blue relativism of Miss Farrell.  For once, Betty is seeking truth.  Can the same be said for Miss Farrell?  She, Don, her brother all seem to be play-acting roles.  Betty is forced into it at the end of The Color Blue, but I would be surprised if that lasts through the season finale.

Moreover, what to make of the traditional manic pixie dream girl and man in need of saving romance in which the writers have now plunged Don? From what I can tell, this is a purposeful and skeptical set up, but how do you think they will get out of it so as to avoid bolstering the cliche?

I think there’s a lot to be said in contradiction to this wretched piece in The Atlantic.  Not only does the writer unfairly and stupidly disparage January Jones and, in fact, the whole character of Betty Draper, but he also, I think, completely misses the boat on this analysis:

Most of the supplemental historical material in the DVD sets focuses on racial and gender issues and progressive politics, including a lengthy paean to the SDS’s gaseous Port Huron Statement. The takeaway is clear, as The Times approvingly quotes an academic who indulges in a rather Whiggish interpretation of history: “The show explains why the ’60s had to happen.”

Honestly, I don’t think there’s one lick of Boomer-triumphalism in the series, at all (and we’ve already discussed how Sally represents the boomer/flower child).  Isn’t Miss Farrell’s notion, that “the color blue” should be relative, that we should see the world through a child’s eyes, damning of a new generation of grown-up children?  It is, at the least, antithetical to Don’s aesthetic and ethic which is in itself a belief in the power to transform oneself.  In the end, as we have noted with Peggy and Sal, Betty is the one who is carrying out this ideal, right?

In any case, these are my initial thoughts, a few days out from watching the episode, how ’bout you?

Oh, also, wasn’t that Kinsey thing just totally trippy?!? Wow!  What do you think his idea was?

et cetera