Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It Was a Mad World

It had to happen. Just as many other popular-culture icons have been examined academically, a book about a television series already in cult status, Mad Men and Philosophy, has just come out. The essays are "written by Mad Men fans for Mad Men fans who can't help but think about the characters, events and issues long after they turn off the television." Like Star Trek and Twin Peaks, I think the AMC series will have a loyal following for some time to come.
You can't take a snack break while this dense program is on; you'll miss one or more subtle plot points. As with a carefully crafted Hitchcock story, you will discover new clues when you re-watch episodes that explain events (and give you a delicious "aha!" moment) much further on.
The essays include "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom" (point: we're blinkered by our time and place), and "What Fools We Were: Hindsight." These explore those shocking examples of racism, sexism and homophobia that hit the contemporary viewer right between the eyes. And what is the source of the all-ecompassing oral fixation which drove our early '60s society to nonstop smoking and drinking?
I see the skinny ties and pencil skirts relecting the repression and smothering conformity of the era -- and I remember it well from everyday life back then. A principle of totalitarianism that I heard later explained what it felt like: That which is not specifically permitted is prohibited. The Madison Avenue masters of the universe were at the other end of the telescope from us, of course: an adults-only swingin' WASP world that wasn't going to be so splendidly self-contained for very much longer. Those kids that weren't on their radar would find their voice, and they liked Volkswagens, not Oldsmobiles, thank you very much.
They were also watching Route 66 from 1960 to 1964, not Uncle Miltie. Buz and Tod, knocked off the path to the American Dream, were expanding their known world through authentic experience, and they were, as un-American as it seemed to the elite, socially conscious.
" 'The Ethics of Advertising' -- a contradiction in terms!"

1 comment:

  1. And so it was, and is. More and more programs on the mindbox will be focused to the boomers as we grow older. Spend your money on whatever they offer and smile at what we remember.