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Mad Men
(Courtesy AMCtv. OMG, that's totally Harry Hamlin as Cutler, Gleason and Chaough head of accounts Jim Cutler, the man who made the law look so cool that the author of this post became a lawyer.)
Harry: The clients won't take make-goods; they want their money back.
Pete: That's disgusting.
Harry: I don't know. Enough of this crap already. All these special broadcasts preempting the prime-time schedule. Bewitched, Merv, Dean Martin. You know they might cancel the Stanley Cup?
Pete: How dare you! This cannot be made good. It's shameful! It's a shameful, shameful day!
Mad Men is, as I've said before, a show about the 1960s told through the perspective of the squares who ruled the 1950s, so it's no surprise that when we reach the horrific evening of April 4, 1968 (Bono was wrong), it's through our white protagonists' eyes that we see the hours which follow, and not through the few secondary black characters in our universe.

And because it's Mad Men, a lot of it looks awkward to contemporary eyes, chiefly Joan's uncomfortable attempt to hug Don's secretary, Dawn, who wants nothing of it; and Harry Crane's focus on the business bottom line and his white privilege ("It's costing all of us. When is it gonna stop? Nobody will be happy till they turn the most beautiful city in the world into a shithole"). But most seem deeply and authentically affected by the tragic news, even Roger Sterling.

Which leads to the question of what they do with the news. Betty gets selfish while her husband Henry Francis acts nobly (true to life). Pete, while perhaps the most liberal of the SCDP principals, still uses it as an opportunity to try to woo Trudy again. The guy last seen as Ethan of The Others on Lost seems just as creepy as an insurance executive-slash-LSD buddy of Roger's.  Peggy focuses on real estate and her future, one in which the 2nd Avenue Subway still never happens.

And Don ... well, Don regresses again, caring more about his mistress in D.C. than about how his kids are processing the news, taking Bobby to see a movie (Planet of the Apes) and hitting the bottle again, and then, somehow, we see him reach a moment of clarity we haven't seen since that episode with all the swimming:

Megan: You’ve got a bottle. Is this really what you want to be about when they need you?
Don: No. I don’t think I ever wanted to be the man who loves children. But from the moment they’re born, that baby comes out and you act proud and excited, hand out cigars. But you don’t feel anything. Especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them but you don’t. And the fact that you’re faking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem. Then one day they get older, and you see them do something and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have, and it feels like your heart is going to explode.
We're left, again, with the question which opened Season 4: Who is Don Draper? And who does he want to be? Because 1968 doesn't exactly improve from here for the world writ large.  A concluding thought, from Matt Zoller Seitz:
I was torn about this episode. On one hand, it seems to me a pretty realistic portrait of how upper-middle-class to wealthy white New Yorkers might have reacted to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It doesn’t do anything that you wouldn’t expect a Mad Men episode about a major historical event to do. It’s true to itself in that respect.

But at the same time, this is the episode where, to intentionally mangle a Malcolm X phrase, the chickens of Mad Men’s whiteness finally came home to roost.

Originally posted to Adam B on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 03:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.


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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't think Don's newfound clarity will last... (10+ / 0-)

    Based on the concerns Bobby expressed to him about Henry's safety, it's clear who he sees as his father figure.

  •  Not even so (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam B, devis1

    I did not, could not, buy Pete's reaction to Harry there.  Yes, it does illustrate how much the landscape has shifted when even such a quintessential Republican would be so outraged at King's murder, and I understand Pete needed an outlet for his frustration and rage about unrelated developments in his personal life.  But it's just too far from the Pete we've come to know.

    I thought the funniest sight gag was Harry's antique French desk in the middle of that 60's white steel-and-plastic officescape.

    Ideology is when you have the answers before you know the questions.
    It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

    by Alden on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 04:20:28 PM PDT

  •  What's cool is that for someone who doesn't... (6+ / 0-) the show, this is so totally random and dissociative that it's like reading aphasia.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 05:00:20 PM PDT

  •  ack.... must. not. read. story.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Christin, thankgodforairamerica

    I don't want any spoilers, and I'm still watching season 5!!  

    "The death penalty is never about the criminal. They've already done their worst. The question is always "will we join them"?" - jlynne

    by Hopeful Skeptic on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 06:30:08 PM PDT

  •  This... (0+ / 0-)

    ..contrived crap makes me long for the arrival of the last 8 episodes of Breaking Bad.

    To any Republican reading this, I request you write a diary about why Republicans are such assholes. I promise to tip & recommend such a diary.

    by wyvern on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 06:31:18 PM PDT

    •  To each his/her own (8+ / 0-)

      But I always wonder why Mad Men haters feel a compulsive need to read articles/diaries on it and then comment negatively on it and compare it to Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, etc.

      •  EXACTLY. (4+ / 0-)

        I am a huge Breaking Bad fan.
        I am a huge Walking Dead fan.
        I am a huge Mad Men Fan.
        I love all three shows.
        They are the only three shows I really watch.
        Oh. Except for a few on HBO.
        And Showtime.

        Comparing Mad Men to BB.
        Or BB to TWD etc.
        Is so silly.
        Each are so different. So brilliant in their own way.
        All about such different things.
        I mean I think of the walking dead....and wonder how i could love the show so much now that MM is back.
        I mean the dialog on TWD is a joke and the plotholes are insane.
        But I love it anyway.
        I don't watch it for the dialog.

        I'm with you - why comment in a MM diary if you hate the show? Just to let us know you hate it?

        We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites, passions and organs with our own, and fill the slaughterhouses daily with screams of pain and fear. Robert Louis Stevenson

        by Christin on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 06:55:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I LOVE BB (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but you think that stuff's not "contrived" - are you serious? A giant magnet? Really? And he's just going to convince all these different dealers that he's badass through his tough talk? Oh, and his brother's in the DEA and he's been keeping Heisenberg secret all this time, right in front of his face, even though in almost all his other dealings, Walter's a complete and total fuck-up with horrible leadership skills, horrible management skills, horrible people skills?

      I love BB and think it's one of the best shows on TV, but there's a whole crapload of contrivance in that show that viewers have to accept if we're going to follow the narrative.

      And my baby's my common sense, so don't feed me planned obsolescence.

      by vadasz on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:29:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How would Mike Bloomberg have handled (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah, thankgodforairamerica

    the City's response to the assassination?  I'll take a wild guess that it would have involved preemptive air strikes on Harlem and Homeland Security filling the streets with APCs.

    Ever get the feeling you've been sold a monorail?

    by Troubadour on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 06:41:33 PM PDT

  •  Some parts missing ... (7+ / 0-)

    There was a lot of good stuff in this episode. Admittedly this season has become rather heavy handed with metaphors, but it's still pretty good.

    The hug with Joan and Dawn came directly after the hug with Peggy and her secretary. We are clearly meant to contrast the two scenarios. Peggy treats her secretary as part of the group, saying the whole office should close and go home. Don and his clan treat Dawn as an other, saying she should go home. Now the reaction to Joan's hug makes sense, and why Dawn's mom told her to go to work - to prevent being an "other." But it's too late for that.

    The whole Planet of the Apes movie was (even at the time it was made, likely) a ridiculously heavy-handed metaphor of the Civil Rights Era. Don said to Meghan he wanted to watch the riots inside, on TV. Then he takes his son to view the movie ... aka the riots ... in the theater. Don claims later to Meghan that he finally felt love for his son when his son had his precious reaction to the end of the movie. But the movie is the riots, and watching it is what you do when you're sad - that was Don's son's words. This effectively makes the catastrophe comforting.

    This idea (catastrophe as comfort) ties in nicely with the opening scene of the first episode: Don reading Dante's Inferno. He subsequently takes an Italian wife to accompany him on the road to Hell.

    At any rate, trying to take on a night like MLK Jr's assassination was bold on the part of the writers. I personally hope Stonewall shows up too, as a way to re-introduce Sal, but we may not be comfortable enough for that yet.

    •  I think Don's moment of love (2+ / 0-)

      came because Bobby told the usher that "when people are sad, they go to the movies," which, of all that whites-showing-expected-compassion-to-blacks moments in the show seemed the least awkward, or even calculated, even if it was fairly shallow (coming from a kid, after all).

      And my baby's my common sense, so don't feed me planned obsolescence.

      by vadasz on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:32:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Paul Newman (3+ / 0-)

    The inclusion of Paul Newman in the episode throwing his support to Gene McCarthy brought to mind that Newman along with some other notables (Gore Vidal, Joseph Mankiewicz) formed a group "Democrats for Keating" in 1964 to back the Republican against RFK for Senate in 1964. He really didn't like RFK.

  •  Our city of Indianapolis had a unique response to (6+ / 0-)

    MLK's death, and to this day holds deep respect for both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy  On the evening of Dr. King's death Robert Kennedy was to speak at a  megabuck fund raising event in an Indianapolis hotel.  When Bobby Kennedy heard the news of Dr. King's death as he arrived at the airport, he bypassed the money raising event and went into the inner city to speak to the black community.  He had a few notes on a yellow notepad which he scribbled on the way to 17th and Alabama Streets.  He made one of the most beautiful speeches of his life, standing of the back of a truck.  His words soothed the crowd and Indianapolis was one of the few large cities that remained peaceful on that night.

    I'm not very computer literate, but the Robert Kennedy speech of that fateful night is out their on the net if someone knows how to link it.  

    There is a beautiful park at 17th and Alabama Streets to honor that evening.

    •  Here it is (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thankgodforairamerica, drmah


      I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please? -- I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

      Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

      We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

      For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with -- be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

      But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

      My favorite poem, my -- my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

      Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
      falls drop by drop upon the heart,
      until, in our own despair,
      against our will,
      comes wisdom
      through the awful grace of God.

      What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

      So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King -- yeah, it's true -- but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love -- a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

      We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past, but we -- and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

      But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

      And let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.

      Thank you very much.

      In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

      by vcmvo2 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:51:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  i never saw that speech- thanks for bringing it up (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

      by thankgodforairamerica on Wed May 01, 2013 at 08:37:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Darkness layered on darkness (4+ / 0-)

    Once again the anomie of the characters is compounded by horrors of the outside world.  

    An interesting continuity between Sylvia's words to Don at the end of the last episode (I pray that you'll have peace) and Don's break out of his shell about his kis in this one.

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:10:23 PM PDT

  •  It just isn't the same (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I’m beginning to think this show should have ended after the fourth season.  I miss the good old days, when we could enjoy the guilty pleasures of watching the politically incorrect characters of Mad Men offend with their insensitivity and unabashed prejudice.  And I miss Don's living in fear of his past catching up with him.

    My only hope is that either the cigarette lighter will lead to Don’s being arrested as a deserter, or Sylvia’s husband will walk in and catch her and Don in flagrante delicto.

  •  Well-above average episode, I thought (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thankgodforairamerica, Adam B, fladem

    One theme that came through: lots of people saying the wrong thing.

    False note of the night: realtor highlights the second avenue subway. Matt Weiner was being a little too cute.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:27:06 PM PDT

  •  how cute was peggy? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kerflooey, madronagal

    i love how happy she was when abe told her he pictured them raising their kids on the west side.

    i also loved stan giggling in the meeting.

    "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

    by thankgodforairamerica on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:33:12 PM PDT

  •  Donny giving up his horndoging ways? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's about as likely as Roger becoming a Buddhist and moving to India. Ain't going to happen. I notice a pattern where Don comes back after nailing his latest squeeze and slumps into some kind of existential pose with hand to head against a wall or something. Funny as hell. As if all his difficult past is some excuse for his present sleazy behavior. On the surface he's sometimes likeable. Underneath it all, he isn't, at least to me.

    It's funny how we've hardly seen Bobby this season and now he has an opportunity to come to the forefront. After his long absense, who cares any more. He'll disappear for another three or four episodes and then turn up again. Zzzzzzzz. I had forgotten that Pete was liberal in race matters. He's such a personal slimeball, it's easy to forget he's not a complete one.

    I think the show is on autopilot. There will be ad deals, sex deals, and history breaking in every now and then, but it's usually more of the same, but the same is pretty good that it's still fun to watch, but one more season and out is likely a good idea.

    Wonder if they'll also take a significant look at RFK's assassination, which happened only two months after King's? Too soon to make it a big deal or maybe a little is the world coming apart theme.

  •  There are times (2+ / 0-)

    when Madmen expresses truth that you NEVER see on TV anywhere else.

    At several points you see white people struggling to try and express sympathy to Blacks about MLK - and in every instance it seems stilted and forced. Almost comical.

    I defy any white liberal to tell me they have not had the same experience when talking about race with African Americans.

    As a father I can absolutely relate to what Don says about his children.  Something else you would never see on TV.

    At times it is just a soap opera - and at others it is as good as TV ever gets.

    The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

    by fladem on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:37:36 PM PDT

  •  ~yawn~ (0+ / 0-)

    I hope no one who is slobbering all over "Mad Men" complains about how "Downton Abbey" has become just another soap opera.

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. " --Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jg6544 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 09:55:21 PM PDT

  •  I absolutely love Mad Men (2+ / 0-)

    It is a period piece in the truest sense of the word.  As an elder statesperson of Gen X, I can tell you that they are spot on with their portrayal of the times.  The 60s were extremely tumultuous, with women taking on roles normally reserved for men.  It really was a revolution.  I vividly remember many a conversation in my grandmother's kitchen of "how women are behaving these days."  I also vividly remember the conflicts I personally experienced of what was "appropriate" behavior for women, and this went on between my mother and myself!  Everyone needs to watch this not only to understand the mores of the time, but also to understand the social progress that was made because of women like Peggy Olsen and Megan Draper.  They were pioneers before they even knew it.

    I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and shit a better argument than that.

    by TigerMom on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 10:29:34 PM PDT

  •  Not true to life (0+ / 0-)

    By 1968 MLK was seen by many blacks and radicals as a middle of the road figure. His assassination radicalized many who had up to that point been for nonviolence as a path to civil rights. But the rhetoric of the Black Panthers and others on the left had already embraced violence as a response to racism and oppression.

    I think the show misses the confusion and radicalism of the late 1960s. It's disappointing because the changes between the early 1960s and the late 1960s have been obscured. The difference between 1963 and 1968 was much larger than the show portrays.

    The white characters would have been much more clueless, but the black characters would have been much more profoundly affected...mainly because of the existence of a very radical black rhetoric that everyone was aware of at that time. That part of the history has been forgotten or erased.

    Skepticism of all the elite institutions, not trust, is what required for successful leadership in this era. Digby

    by coral on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 11:22:13 PM PDT

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