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?