September 14, 2009

Mad Men Mondays Double Feature!

Episode 3.4 "The Arrangements"

Basic thoughts: Grandpa Gene is the best. Seriously. That German WWI helmet was boss. Shut up, Don! So what if it's a dead man's hat. It's a dead WWI German's hat! That's frickin' cool!!!
I was very sad about Grandpa Gene's passing. I hope he comes back as a ghost.....

Which leads me to Episode 3.5 "The Fog", last night's ep. Grandpa Gene is back!!!! Woo hoo!!!!! Yeah, he's only back as a hallucination in Betty's drug-induced mind, but Head!Gene is better than no Gene. The fact that Betty named her new baby boy "Gene" in honor of her father makes me very, very happy. Even though Betty doesn't seem very happy about having to wake up in the middle of the night to feed little baby Gene. Oh well.

See, the thing is, Mad Men, you and I might be on the verge of having a falling out.

I'm not saying it's going to happen for sure. The show is still well-written and amazingly acted and gorgeous to look at. But the feeling of dread I had as the third season began has only been increasing as the season has gone on.

And what is this feeling of dread? Basically, this: Mad Men is turning from a show set in the 60s to a show about the 60s.

For me, this is bad. I can't stand shows about the 60s. They've been done. They've been overdone. They're tedious, predictable bits of navel gazing from aging hippies/lefties. I don't need another liberal sermon about racism/sexism/classism set against the backdrop of "social change" and "upheaval" that has become the national myth we like to call "The 60s."

That's what made Mad Men so refreshing in its first two seasons: It was set in the 1960s, but it was about unique, intriguing characters who happened to live in the 1960s. The time period served as a backdrop for the lives of complex characters; these characters were products of their time, but they also transcended it. They were individuals, not term paper examples. Now I fear the characters will begin serving as examples to make a "point" about the time period; they'll lose what made them unique in order for the writers of the show to make a statement about the social change of the 60s.

Maybe I'm being paranoid. Maybe the writers will zag when I'm dreading that they'll zig. I hope I'm wrong. But I was hoping back in season 1 that Betty Draper's storyline wouldn't turn into a Betty Friedan wet dream; I was hoping the writers wouldn't go for easy cliches. And in seasons 1 and 2 they didn't. They made Betty more than the "bored housewife." They made her a gloriously messed up freak! She was awesomely weird! She wasn't your "typical housewife", not on the inside. On the inside she was as complex and inexplicable as every person ever born. She was a human being. Unique. Real.

But now as season 3 progresses, I feel like Betty's freak flag has been folded up and she's turning into a symbol, into an archetype, into the same tired "60s" cliche we've seen a million times. If she reads "The Feminine Mystique", I'll have to quit watching the show. I feel like it's just a matter of time before the other characters become symbols too. They'll start to lose what made them fresh and one-of-a-kind and they'll turn into stiff, tired, cliche symbols of "the times they are a'changing." I'm afraid the show will become less about the characters and more about "the era." I want real people, Matt Weiner, not Great-Gatsby-green-light symbolism for your critique of the American Dream.

Question: Have there ever been any period piece TV shows set in the 1930s? The 1940s? And if not, then why? Those decades were cool too!!!

There have obviously been dozens/hundreds of movies made in the last twenty years set in the Great Depression/WWII era, but why hasn't a TV series ever attempted those eras? I mean, maybe TV has and I missed it, but seriously, why does it always have to be the 1960s?!?! I want a kick ass 1930s drama (that does not involve gangsters) on next season's Fall TV schedule!!! Make it happen Hollywood!

Quote of the episode: "I left my lunch pail on the school bus and I'm having a baby."

Honestly, Mad Men is so well done as a show, there's no way I'm gonna stop watching. Really, I still dig the thing. But for some reason, this week's episode bothered me while I was thinking about it today. This has been my rant.


  1. lol at you mentioning Grandpa Gene as a ghost. You and Sally would get along

    I see what you're saying, and I understand your fears, but c'mon. This is Mad Freakin' Men. When has it ever led us astray? Whatever you think is going to happen, is never what happens. Didn't last night's episode teach you that? ;)

  2. Yeah, I think I was just getting paranoid last week. It's just, the whole 60s myth has been done TO DEATH and I didn't want one of my favorite shows to go down that cliched path.

    I'm hoping it's true, what you say: Whatever I think is going to happen is never what happens.

    Last night's episode, btw, was crazy-madness!!!! It was as bizarre as the Betty-with-a-gun episode from season one!!!