Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Mad for Mad Men
So I realise this post will alienate many readers but when I have something to say I need to write about so if history and the best modern drama ever made doesn't tickle your fancy stop reading, or keep reading you might just like what I've got to rant about.
So this week's episode of Mad Men sent me into a flurry of emotions. The penultimate episode to the last ever half season finale of this perfect 50 minute drama reminded me why I love and worship this show more than any other drama to date (this statement is true for the present time, The West Wing would come a very very close second). The episode titled "The Strategy" executed historical accuracy to a fine art and cemented my absolute adoration of Peggy and Don's perfectly structured relationship. The most talked about scene this week was of course this; every Mad Men fan's eyes started to swell as Don and Peggy sat drinking in an office belonging to neither party, working together and sharing their deepest, darkest moments. It was a return to the genius days of "The Suitcase" an episode that resonates in each and every viewer. An episode almost entirely dedicated to fleshing out this beautiful relationship. Some devotees yearn for a romance between the two but I have never seen it that way. It was established way back in episode one with the little Brooklyn born innocent Peggy, a little uncertain on how to behave in an office, she wanted to please, so she heeded Joan's advice and tried some moves on her handsome boss, but right at that moment their relationship was cemented, Don always respected Peggy, she was the one secretary he never slept with, she was the secretary who would become his protege and possibly even outwit her master. Fast forward to today and Peggy and Don are the only people that truly know each other; Don is the only one that knows she bore Pete's child, Peggy learnt back in "The Suitcase" Don was living a lie. It's an almost father, daughter relationship they understand each other completely and they make each other better.
Not only did this intimate scene bring back the glory days of Peggy and Don but it resonated a truth for women of then and today. As Peggy tries to find the perfect ad pitch she's caught up in her own desires, regrets and fears. She is 30 and she is successful but she lacks a family of her own, she says she never wanted to be one of those women who lie about their age and yet here she is. As she looked across the country and starred into cars full of families she asked herself "What did I do wrong?" and that's when anyone watching with any uncertainty in their lives, any questioning of why not me? Or when is it my turn? Will it ever be? just wishes they could leap in and give Peggy a hug to tell her the sad truth that in 2014 things aren't much better. Yes, men like Pete Campbell can no longer say to a woman ”You know that she’s every bit as good as any woman in this business!” without getting fired and charged with sexual harassment but the societal expectation that women can and should have it all to be deemed successful is still at large. Don then comforts her with a truthful "you are doing great" and as Frank Sinatra's My Way starts playing Don invites Peggy for a dance. This is when I wanted to grovel at Matthew Weiner's feet and kiss the ground he walks on because these few minutes made me weep with elation. Peggy rests her head against Don's chest and with a natural glance he kisses her head, two people who need each other, two people whose lives aren't want they wanted and are more than broken are doing exactly as Sinatra preaches "regrets I've had a few, I did what I had to do ... I did it my way".
This episode relayed so many truths about history, how far we have come and how far we still have to go. A time where gay men were forced to make arrangements with their lady friends in order to play a part, to live happy lives and be great businessman. A time where it was shocking to see women at the top of their game and to still be undermined and relegated to being the mother figure. A time when chauvinism ruled the streets and perfect women "shop all day and screw all night". Gender roles are no longer confined to these outrageous barriers but this kind of inequality and lack of understanding and acceptance still roam this so called free world. This show is not only beautiful to watch with iconic shots imprinted in my mind some monumentous and powerful and others painfully sad or just plain outrageous (John Deere lawn mower is all I have to say)it brings light real life issues both of the world and of the personal. Whether you are struggling with identity, trying to build your career, a mother who struggles to be a good one, a businessman working too many hours or just have a perchance for advertising Mad Men will reward you with something. It might be comforting or it might hit too close to home but it tells the story of people, of relationships and of life and for that I thank it and all who are responsible for it.
I have complete faith that Mr Weiner will continue the outstanding quality of this show right down to the final ever credits. I can't begin to even speculate how this show will end, I'm scared for the fate of Don, I have feeling Peggy will always be "just" a career woman, Pete may end up drowning in his supressed depression, Joan may "die hoping to find love" and Roger Stirling, well LSD might just get the best of him. All I can say with complete confidence is that no matter how this show ends it has brought me hours of magic. It is the one show that effectively uses a not so distant past to reflect modern day issues and progress. Mad Men makes me want to walk into an ad agency and be Peggy Olsen, Mad Men makes me wish I knew a man like Don Draper - not for all the brokeness and womanising but for the mind, the writers who gave him a voice I tip my hat.
And as the curtains begin to close on seasons of unforgettable writing I throwback to the pilot episode where we meet this seemingly "got it all" New York ad man delivering lines such as this:
"What you call love was created by men like me to sell nylons"
I should be back soon with a more universally liked post. But for now happy 2014, if you've got a few hours in the night why not start Season 1, I promise you will be converted.