The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Archive for the ‘Mad Men’ Category

I Really Don’t Know Love…

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Dear Kathryn,

What a finale! I’ve chosen the line from the Joni Mitchell’s, Both Sides Now, as the title for this post because – wow! – what a brilliant choice for a closing song for this episode. Certainly we had a set of characters searching for love and finding themselves punished by their efforts (Pete’s mother (!), both Ted and Peggy, Roger’s family failures all around – with his first set of kids and with Joan, even though he gets to be with Kevin and, really, Pete too, forced to say good-bye to his daughter while she sleeps…or lies dead…I wasn’t quite sure?! Didn’t she look kind of dead to you??). But it’s the final lines of the song that pick up Don’s story so perfectly: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down but still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.” After the first season moved away from the “who is Don Draper?” mystery, I wondered how crucial that story would be for the rest of the series. This season, via Bob Benson (who I’ve quite grown to like and hope sticks around for the final season) and his mysterious unfolding, we’ve returned to Don’s early self-creation. The slow seeping out of Don’s foundational lie has been so artfully done – in years of broken relationships, selfish decisions, a hubris that creates his own downfall and, finally, the shaking hands that reveal what we’ve all known all along but just couldn’t admit: Don’s a legitimate alcoholic, not just a cheery drunk. So the idea that it would come to a dramatic point when he’s asked to pitch a chocolate bar (!) felt so ludicrously true to me that I almost held my breath. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by themothchase

June 25, 2013 at 9:25 am

You’re A Monster

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Dear Kathryn,

I loved this episode’s bookends – with Don, in the fetal position on the bed, then the couch, having disappointed quite possibly the two most important women in his life (Megan, then Peggy). At least Peggy has the wisdom Megan lacks, and can call him out on what a monster he’s being. Megan seems willing to put up with being continually tossed aside by her husband (him changing the channel on her soap opera may have been a bit heavy handed there!). But in the same way Betty knows that Don is at home getting drunk (and Megan has no idea), Peggy too is able to call him out on his crap. Still, I’m left wondering just what it is about Peggy and Ted that bothers Don so. Sure, he mentored her, and she’s his proudest protege. And I’ve never really thought Read the rest of this entry »

Written by themothchase

June 17, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Get that girl a counselor!

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Sally Draper walks in

Dear Natalie,

How many times is poor Sally going to walk in on adulterous sex? She may not have made it to second base herself yet, but if there were a category in the Model UN on various sexual acts and positions, she’d be on the Security Council. It hardly helps her budding sexuality that each encounter is so loaded with lies, shame, and deceit. Or at least it didn’t seem to help the young Dick Whitman’s ideas of sex. Can someone please call Dr. Edna? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by themothchase

June 11, 2013 at 11:07 am

A Tale of Two Cities

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joan woos avon

Dear Kathryn,

While I know so many people were up in arms about the confusion of The Crash two weeks ago, I have to admit, it was this one that left me a little adrift; perhaps it’s because we were moving between coasts, I felt left somewhere in the Midwest, not quite sure what was going on. With something like The Crash, I can settle into the artistry of it, expecting not to have too much of a narrative payoff. But whenever Mad Men tries to do a ‘narrative’ episode, I find myself wondering: “so what?” Narrative movement just isn’t what this show is really “about,” and so while I didn’t dislike this episode, I can’t say I was all that into it either. I like it when the guys go to LA with their suit jackets and experiment with new girls and new drugs – but this trip out West wasn’t all that different than other trips out West the show has done. Although it was kind of awesome to see Roger get punched in the balls, and now we know that Carnation gets overly emotional about a cross-country time difference, the only real movement we saw was Don’s psyche opened up for a moment by hashish (is that hope or fear that Megan could be pregnant again, and just why would he feel haunted by the private he befriended in the season opener?). But I’m not convinced we had to go to LA to see that. But I suppose, who cares about LA when we could have Joan stepping into total success or total failure? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by themothchase

June 4, 2013 at 7:48 am

Two halves of the same person

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Father Abraham

Dear Natalie,

This week was a reminder of just how formally beautiful Mad Men can be, plots, characters, and visual clues layered in symmetrical folds, creating a perfect origami swan of symbolic excellence! The connecting thread (to mix my metaphors) was the strange couplings – the connecting halves of disparate and sometimes perfect pairs – that wove their way through every plot point. Peggy names the theme when she yells at Don for pretending that he and Ted are not involved in a passive-aggressive odd couple routine, determined to divide the newly united SCDPCGC into teams: “sometimes you are the same man.” Megan echoes this later that night at dinner when sharing her frustration at trying to make Chloe and Colette into recognizably different people (and did you think for a moment that Megan might have gotten her part precisely because she could do that hammed up French accent so well?!): “they are two halves of the same person, driven by the same desires.” Perhaps precisely because he heard that speech from Peggy a few hours earlier, Don requests they skip the dinner Megan just cooked and “turn on the tube.” Thank god that Megan finally acknowledged how boorish and distant her erstwhile committed spouse has become, but more on the Don/Megan dyad in a moment. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Not from Somewhere Other Than This Moment?

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Dear Kathryn,

There are a number of threads in this episode on which we could pull to try to unravel it and get at its meaning. I feel like the whole thing was full of one-liners, each of which could constitute the central focus of a whole blog post. The one I want to tease out is history. But first a brief aside: Mad Men gets consistently accused of being heavy-handed; indeed, I know I’ve made that accusation myself. Sally’s realization last night – “And then I realized I don’t know you at all” – or Don’s exclamation that every time they get a car “this place turns into a whorehouse,” hot on the heels of a set of flashbacks to his being raised in a brothel both offer examples of this classic Mad Men move of hitting us over the head with content summary. But last night I came to the conclusion that these moves are the show’s strength, not weakness. Because it’s not like any one of them makes the meaning of the whole thing so much clearer. Instead, they provide small footholds for reflection. I began to wonder, in fact, if when we bloggers like to point out how heavy-handed these moments are, it’s really because we’re a little overwhelmed by just how smart (and, by extension, confusing) this show can sometimes be, and we want to respond with something like, “don’t think you’re smarter than me Mad Men, because you’re not…I’m on to you!” An episode like this – that bends time and reality (brilliant use of lighting at various times makes hours pass unnoticed as a character simply walks down a hall to his office…I imagine alluding to whatever blackouts the drugged state may have been inducing) and opens up new dimensions for characters (I. Love. Stan. Now) – puts its meaning just beyond our reach. And in that, whether Don’s got time for art or not, the show, I think, comes as close to art as anything running on tv right now. Now, back to history. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by themothchase

May 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I Need You. And Nothing Else Will Do.

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Dear Kathryn,

Sylvia was definitely the star of this episode for me (and how am I only just realizing now that she’s Lindsey from Freaks and Geeks? This was a bit of a rude awakening to the fact that I’m about the same age as many of these characters…even those I think of as “older”!). But I digress. At the end of the episode, Sylvia ends the affair because she feels ashamed – what isn’t made clear is precisely what has shamed her. Is it the adultery itself (what is, perhaps, implied), or the power-play sex-game maneuvering through which Don has put her? The danger up to this point is that the two would fall in love with each other – but this episode reveals that love was never really on the table. The minute Don hears those words – not only that he is needed, but that he is a unique form of need; he is singular – something clicks inside him. The transition from the ad-room conversations about Napoleon inventing margarine were the perfect pre-cursor to the shot of Don, seated on the hotel room throne, asking for Sylvia to bow before him. Weren’t you reminded of so many imperial portraits of Napoleon in that moment? And so the power of his own uniqueness went to Don’s head, and in an effort to live much too fully into that power, he invented a fantasy scenario that was – as the ad-team puts it with reference to Napoleon’s margarine Read the rest of this entry »

Written by themothchase

May 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm