Monday, September 28, 2009

Oh! Those Mad Men!


Well, now that I've fessed up to my crush on Clint, I suppose I might as well confess another obsession. Mad Men. I love them all. But Don, the ad man on Mad Man--the dark mysterious one? The man with the illicit past who isn't who everyone thinks he is? Yeah. That Don. Now he's interesting.

Then there's Betty, his wife. The cool, beauty who reminds us of Grace Kelly. But nastier. She snaps at her children and smokes and drinks like a fish while pregnant. Mystifying.



There's all the ad men at Sterling-Cooper who only wish they were as smart as the women they work with. And all that butt grabbing in the secretarial pool? THAT doesn't go on anymore. Much.

Do you watch Mad Men? I think it may just be the best written show on TV right now. Yet, under viewed. It's on AMC, I think. Why are folks obsessed with it? Well, (aside from JOHN HAMM!) maybe because it's a glimpse into the mysterious world of our (all of us baby-boomers) parents.

I can actually remember those days, with Naugahyde ottomans to cuddle while watching the Cuban Missile Crisis unfold on the black and white TV; my mother's rare evening out that required a hand-sewn, turquoise blue brocade dress; us sitting on the bed awaiting our turn to give her our approval. Swanson chicken dinners and my father's punctual arrival home at five thirty sharp. The cigarette smoke. The silent meals.

I was reading a Salon article today about the show that posed an interesting question: "Has Mad Men Gone Mad?" The happy-go-lucky-no-real-consequences-for-the-men seasons 1 and 2 are fading, replaced by the trouble-comes-home-to-roost, dark secrets that are beginning to unfold in this one. The grifters, the blackmailers, the lies are all bubbling up. So why is it that this so-long-ago series is relevant to us still so many years later? Why can't we get enough of it? The writer suggested that it's a metaphor for the meltdown that's taking place today in our world. The deception, the denial, the secrets that have, like some medieval alchemy wrought by greed, become our screwed up world of today. Wow. I totally love that theory. Micheal Weiner is a genius writer, understated with a firm grip on his characters. He isn't opposed to the slow unfurling of character, in no hurry to give it all to us right away. With little hints of the gold to come.

Every character, good or bad or indifferent, is 3-dimensional. With secrets. I remember an acting coach telling me one time to never walk into an audition without a secret. Because that gives you power. That's what you play. It makes them want to know more about you. So Weiner's characters make us want to know more, despite all their flaws. I'm compelled to keep watching. [Note to self: Remember this when plotting.]

I was lucky enough, last season to be a fly on the wall on the Mad Men set, as a background actor for a day. My first extra job ever and they called me for my favorite show! I was like, "Uh, YES!!!"

That's me on the set. It's a really horrible shot of me taken with someone's cell phone, but you get the general idea: a three mile beehive and check out the jewels! The wardrobe department was huge. Every bit of what I wore--including the, uh, underthings--was completely vintage. Their attention to detail is amazing. But the best part was, when I tried on wardrobe we finally decided on this turquoise blue brocade dress that (I swear) was the identical fabric my mom's dress was made of those many years ago. I had to wear it.

I got to watch this process close up, to see January Jones (Betty) in all her ethereal beauty, popping Skittles all day long. (How does she do that and stay so thin?) John Hamm's movie star good looks had every eye turned his way all day. You just can't stop looking at him. In real life, he's a smiler. He turns that smile on and people gasp. No seriously. It was fun. Plus, we had to smoke herbal cigarettes all day. Bleehhck! But they gave me a cigarette holder that was oh, so chic!

Anyway, I love the show. Can you tell? But it all makes me wonder... We've come a long way as women from this world of chauvinism. But when you watch Mad Men, do you still recognize it in today's world? Have we really come as far as we should have, or is Mad Men simply reminding us that we're still living with some of these stereotypes that hold us back, either in reality or in our own thinking. Do you watch this show? What do you think?

18 comments:

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Barbara: A great review of Mad Men. Haven't seen it - even when I scroll through the guide on cable - but did read that it has won or been nominated for Emmys.

Interesting to compare those days with ours. I think each generation thinks it has come such a long way and is so much more advanced than previous ones. However, we still have our blind spots, carry secrets and prejudices, struggle with our own inner wounds and scars. The process is the same, just the content has changed.

Great provocative piece here Barbara. If you tell me your big secret, I'll tell you mine . . . mmmmmmm, then again. . . maybe not.

:)

Sarah said...

Oh Barb you were reading my mind. I sat up late last year to watch you do your piece on the show. Well..yup I have been completely hooked ever since! John Hamm - yeah he is something that one! I spent four hours Sunday watching every episode from this years season - all in a row. Oh oh oh the tangled web we weave!! Amazing show.
I guess what continues to facinate me..beyond the fact that the writing, acting, sets and direction are amazing... I remember that time...all the things you mentioned about our parents!! Being that I was so young during those years..I think what facinates me is the dynamics of the period..yup I'm hooked!!
Wonderful post hon and watching you in the show was just the cherry on top of my sunday!!
Love, Sarah

Snap said...

Great post and I don't watch Mad Men, but I'll have to now! We just don't have the tv on much ... evenings are for reading or doing handwork or vegging or listening to music or all of the above! I remember the black and white television and the Swanson Chicken Dinner and the look on my Dad's face when he brought those frozen dinners home for the first time!

Renee said...

Can you believe that I haven't even seen it. I am going to have to rent the series.

You look beautiful.

xoxo

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

I am totally impressed and terribly jealous! I would love to just sit in the wardrobe room of the series...me being a vintage junkie and loving to wear 50's clothes. I started to watch the series when it first came out, but the husband refused to watch it with me. So I stopped but not for lack of wanting to. He was in advertising in NY & too many of the scenes rang true.
I'm not so sure that we have come that far when it comes to chauvinism. I think we "think" we have, but today's woman is just packaged differently, but the same things rule. OF course, just my opinion!

Barbara said...

Bonnie, You're not alone in not having seen it. I'm sad not more people are watching it, thought I don't think its in any danger of being cancelled. It's just that it's such a great picture of us. In such a wierd, scary way.

And yes, we do still have our blind spots and spots that are oh, so visible. Those of us who grew up back then, I think, still have vestiges of that life still within us. I think that little voice that says, be a lady! Don't make waves, still niggles. Even though, I'm opinionated as most of my friends would tell you. Still, there are parts of me that can't wrap my brain around aspects of what we've fought so hard to achieve as women. Doh. Thanks so much for you support and comments, Bonnie. It means so much to hear your feedback!

Barbara said...

Sarah, I'm so glad you got hooked. I know, remember that ottoman we lovingly called a 'hassock'? Oh the hours we spent rolling on it in front of the TV! Thanks honey.
xoxoB

Barbara said...

Snap, It's hard to argue with spending time reading and doing other esoteric things in the evening, instead of watching TV. It's our business, but shows like that make me excited! I'm so glad I'm not alone in remembering all those things. We boomers need to stick together! Thanks, Snap!

Barbara said...

Dear Renee, Thank you so much! You're too sweet. :p) Hope you're doing better...
Hugs, B

Barbara said...

Oh, Alicia, you would go crazy in that place! Seriously, they brought out this tray of vintage jewelry for me to pick from! I was like a kid in a candy store. I'm like, "You want me to choose? Really?" It was like I was dressing myself for an evening out. In the sixties! Fun.

And I think you're right about packaging ourselves differently. In some ways, (namely young girls) I feel like we've taken a huge step backward. Well, not even backward. To some other place altogether that's not good. Thanks for the comment, hon. I really enjoy hearing from you.
xo B

Diane said...

Lookin good! So fun and exciting to be an extra and see the glamorous and not so glamorous side of TV. :O)

Sarah said...

Oh he is just so good lookin'!! Yup he is....and you just stunning hon!! Love that shot!!
BTW..leaving you a treat on my blog tomorrow....

Renee said...

I will never forget that park bench story either.

Love Renee xoxo

challee said...

Nice pic mom:) I really liked last season and for some reason and a little less interested this season. I just can't believe all the drinking and smoking while pregnant! But all you boomers seemed to turn out ok!

Sherry Byrum said...

Sarah told me about your crush on Clint. I remember him from Rawhide when I was five years old. He is my hero!! To actually meet him? I think I would faint!! And I'm really not one for crushes on movie stars. But I grew up with this man. :) He must have been all of 19 in Rawhide. So cute!!

Barbara said...

Diane, Thanks for stopping by! And yes, most of it is not-so glam. But fun.

Sarah--Love you! Thank You!! (birthday girl...)

Renee--(((Hugs)))

Oh, Challee! Thanks for dropping in. Luv and miss you madly, honey.
Even the lawn mower didn't get ya? Huh. What's a crazy mad man gotta do?? :p) xoxo

Sherry--Hi There! Thanks so much for the comment. I'm glad to know I'm not the only Clint-dicted person out there! Sarah says so many nice things about you!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I haven't seen Mad Men, but it's on my "Rent the whole thing on DVD and watch it" list! Now there's even more incentive to do so! (I don't know how I missed this post a few days ago -- #@$&!! Blogger!

A Palmer said...

I've only watched it a couple of times and did enjoy it. It did make me really see how much things have changed but at the same time, have not - just gone underground. I feel like the GenYers are going to make the changes for real, not lip service. We can only hope. One scene I remember was when your favorite guy was having a picnic in the park with his family and as they left they just left all their trash on the ground and walked away. I was appalled, but back then that's what people did. I think we've made real strides in litter at least...