Mad Men Musings.
I'm not sure how many of you are avid show watchers on cable or what types of movies you all fancy, but I like to think I'm pretty diverse as to what I check out and try to give everything a chance. The latest shows I've been keeping track of has been Sons of Anarchy, Weeds, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Fringe, American Pickers, Pawn Stars and Game of Thrones. Right now, most of these shows are either in production for the next season, extending their launch times for a new episode or they are in negotiations to see if they'll be given the green light for an additional run so, I've been looking for a decent show that has been getting praise from audiences as being really solid in storytelling, plot and originality among other characteristics.
After giving up on The Dead Zone, Top Gear (British version; yes, it's funny, but gets old quick), True Blood and Rescue Me, I started to lose hope. Different strokes for different folks, but I like engaging stuff. I had low expectations for Breaking Bad, but it turned out to be one of the best things I've ever watched; everything about it is addictive and riveting. Weeds had a great run of the same thing until the last season or so when the entire premise of the show just plummeted. The same types of nuances is what I expect in shows that I watch; solid casting, diverse roles, in-depth plot, multiple story lines, huge twists and dark flash backs. What I DON'T want is too much false reality to where it feels like I'm watching just a show. I want to be grabbed, shaken up, pissed off that a character died or leaves, maybe even sad and be amazed when I didn't see something coming or if I EXPECTED something else to happen and get the opposite. I don't think that's really a tall order for anyone that can appreciate real entertainment without all the bells and whistles we seem to get from modern programming these days.
That being said, what I didn't realize is that most of these series were lacking a certain atmosphere that I needed; a dramatic shift in the wind for my thoughts. I heard rumblings about a show from various people that said it was one of the most stunning shows they've ever seen rich with a great cast, mystery around every corner, so many side plots that it'll make your head spin and a grating look back on an incredibly naive chapter in American history. Not only that, but they revolve this entire show around advertising in 1950-60's New York City.
The show I'm talking about is Mad Men.
I fought tooth and nail to not watch it for whatever reason because the premise seemed silly and not worth my time. I finally gave in because, I'll be honest, I got incredibly bored and needed my fix. Let me tell you this, my fine heathen brethren; I'm glad I reached a level of such desperation that I gave into this show because it can teach everyone in this country a very valuable lesson; LOTS of them, in fact.
What Mad Men displays for our way of life today is what a mere shadow of what our culture has become. Values during that time reflected a booming economy after a war that brought everyone together through hardship and giving it all we had to win. Before that, the depression hit so, the 50's and a brief part of the 60's reflected a giant vacation for most of America. Of course, blacks were still segregated, racial bigotry was heavy in the air, McCarthyism was keeping people perpetuated with fear, the big bad Russians with their Communism and atomic bomb paranoia. It's not all bad, though; you have a populace that strives to be the best with wholesome values, a rich economy and a majority of the people being successful white suburban families being the poster of the USA. It's all a blanket of bullshit, of course, because behind that curtain we have ignorance in full swing, misogyny at an all time high, women being seen as nothing more than vessels, the beginnings of alcohol and nicotine related ailments, the infancy of the dreaded hippie movement AKA "beatniks" and the death of the remaining American innocence that is the war in Vietnam. Indeed, such a glorious time; if you have blinders on, that is.
So, what can we learn from Mad Men that we should all be paying closer attention to? Let's take a look.
1. Our country is an unstable affliction that can blow up any time it feels like it. The moment we let down our guard, that's when the explosion will hit us the hardest and it has. I feel like we've been holding the flask and experiencing hiccups in the mixture we've created for the past forty years or so, but have yet to see the real chemical reaction at it's full potential. That's a scary thought, isn't it?
2. No matter what type of drugs are out there, our industry will always try to find some way to make them seem just safe enough if the majority shows enough popular demand for it. We've seen it with Sudafed, various cough syrups, histamines, THC in pill form, heroin at one time, and, the grand daddy of them all, Tobacco. As long as it can be grown and/or manufactured at a cheap enough price to satisfy constituents and make a solid profit margin on all sides, they will demonize naysayers, lie to the public, place subliminal messages in any form of media regarding the product(s) to get mass appeal and assure to those that indulge that "it's perfectly safe." I can't even imagine what it would be like if pharmaceutical companies had the type of power back then that they have today; it makes me shudder. Cocaine may actually have been eventually made into "go-packets" reserved for Crystal Light mix.
3. Women will always be treated like dogs no matter what era we live in; period. Men just cover it up better with every passing generation and play the game with these regulations and "work ethics" that get introduced into the business world every new year. Yeah, that's about it on this thought.
4. A lot of people thought advertising was a joke at first. It wasn't until certain companies became financially dominant over those that couldn't hack it that they saw the profits involved, the ability to blind the public eye and trick people into trusting their products. In a way, advertising through art doomed how we see and live our lives in America. It was manipulated in a malevolent way and we never fully recovered. Even now, almost every piece of modern art we see is influenced by product placement or our surroundings and these "new age" fucks are too stupid to understand that they are just perpetuating an on-going brainwashing way of sick normalcy. Of course, I'm sure most of them see it as "cutting edge" or "revolutionary" when it's not any of that; it's just "business as usual." Keep in mind, I think some of these works are really cool and visually stunning, but they are what they are and no amount of jive language or alternative lifestyle is going to change that.
5. Acting outside of what is considered "common behavior" will always get you into some sort of social trouble. It's much more widely accepted these days because of our diverse culture, but there's always a type of spin someone puts on something that's seen by someone somewhere as "hideous, grotesque, scandalous, obscene, provocative, abnormal" or some mixture of words used to convey uncomfortable emotions associated with insecurities. On the show, there are a few people that stand out in this way. For example, one woman named Helen is a single mom that actually walks around the neighborhood and works a job which was seen as "strange, outrageous" and "pathetic" to these pampered, married housewives who never fully experienced anything outside of their families or college sororities. You'll always be accepted by a few, but never the many.
6. Family life is always in constant flux. As money gets harder to acquire and deal with, the idea of a family seems like an outdated notion to a good number of individuals. Everyone has their version of what a functional household is and it becomes more and more apparent that dysfunction is not a proper term anymore to describe what family life shouldn't be. A household without dysfunction is like a door-to-door salesman that sells for no commission; it just doesn't exist. Every family has a measure of issues that they each have to tangle with and the longer they go unaddressed and unresolved, the more unsettling the atmosphere becomes which leads to a ticking time bomb that can get ugly real quick. We can all thank religion to some degree for helping solidify the falsity of how Americans should look and act under one roof and to behave otherwise is "dysfunctional."
7. Despite an enormous growing food industry, we've been able to eat healthier with every passing decade. It's wishy-washy to think that just because moms stayed home and cooked for their family more than just pop in a Sara Lee into the microwave/oven that it doesn't mean that their kids weren't exposed to untested/under regulated meat, poultry, dairy and produce MUCH more than they are today under a ridiculously paranoid FDA and sanitation-phobic populace. Home cooked meals are much better to be eating rather than processed foods any day of the week, don't get me wrong, but the level of scrutiny in analyzing everything that came out of our supermarkets (a new thing back then) was so relaxed that they might as well have employed a bus boy at the downtown restaurant to make sure everything was quality goods. Consider that, and before mass production was even realized, and we've never eaten healthier even with all the fast food and TV dinners we've been shoveling down our throats without batting an eye. Ok, SOME of us eat healthy, but I demand proof!
I was going to make this a "top ten", but I just wanted to hit on the major issues here rather than create additional padding that doesn't mean anything. Maybe I'll add three more to this list at a later date, but this shall suffice for now.
Until next time!