Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The "Mad Men"-osphere

This might lose or not hold the interest of those who don't watch "Mad Men," and actually few outside the elite seem to, but:

The countdown's on; the final episodes are being broadcast Sunday nights (me, Monday mornings, bought online per episode). It's 1970, a year I remember (the character Kevin Harris and I are the same age); the golden era is phasing out (and I've been chasing it since); the show began set 10 years earlier (style pointers).

As I've mentioned a few times, the leftist hipster elite seems to love this show. The ostensible plot is really celebrating their parents winning the culture war; the nostalgia is probably unintended but even they feel it. Rather like I understand with Fifty Shades of Grey, the political incorrectness is part of the turn-on. So I imagine many/most viewers would denounce red-pill/manosphere principles (really just street/home truths about human nature and the sexes, and social skills, not necessarily about pickup-artist cads) yet the show dramatizes them well. (Don Draper is "a miserable drunk" as the actor who played him has said, but the girls watching can't get enough of him, as they pretend to cheer for Peggy Olson.) It's part soap opera, part soft porn as much as American Movie Classics can get away with, which by modern standards isn't much. Sadly, a show about nice people wouldn't sell (wouldn't get viewers). Centered on Ken Cosgrove and Trudy Campbell (they and Megan Draper are arguably the show's only nice adults), you'd have a show about Middle America then, like a better version of "Happy Days." The name and setting fit: back then, Madison Avenue and its surrounding culture were crazy.

So I'm watching it for same reasons as others but in reverse: celebrating the golden era AND getting a look inside the lefty brain as it celebrates the era's fall.

Anyway, a manospheric look at the final episodes so far.

Joan Harris' (played by the pretty and ferally sexy Christina Hendricks) new beau: looks don't matter so much for men (he's very average, no Don Draper), or when men get older, they get better! I didn't grow up with his type but I recognize it: an alpha from the golden era but, midlife crisis, already into Me Decade selfishness? (Or maybe his marriage was awful; who knows?) A man of means, he gets the girl, early on, because of that and because he's not needy; he loves Joan but she's not calling the shots, even with her considerable appeal which would cow a lesser man (and turn her cold just like that; Joan is cold most of the time). The manosphere point: with men, it's about the attitude, not the looks.

Then you have the other extreme, poor clown Harry Crane, whom the Sixties ran over like a truck (while alphas Roger Sterling, until very recently, and Don have changed very little; Don still has his pomaded short hair and fedoras; Harry started off as a bow-tied version of me). You know his pass at Megan will fail; no rapport to begin with, and he just pours on the compliments; desperation. The man has no game and nothing to build on there anyway.

Glen Bishop's weird but alpha: the attraction with Betty Francis is mutual.

The manosphere isn't just about sex: that socially tone-deaf young blond adman (reciting Don's line out of context so it backfired) also lacks alpha state control (control of his emotions, saying "f*ck" at a meeting) but had the guts to talk back to Don, knowing he'd get fired, but it's ineffectual beta rage until/unless he learns game.

Some other notes: Sally Draper's speech sounds suspiciously 2015; not obvious anachronistic slang ("like... awesome"), a subtlety maybe hard to counteract/control in a teenager (Kiernan Shipka probably can't hear the difference), but "Mad Men" is usually a stickler for details like that. (Which accidentally produced nostalgia: sales of Lucky Strike and Canadian Club have actually gone up.) Namely I hear vocal fry and 2010s "Really?" in her tone. January Jones sounds like that in real life but in character as Betty, she and the others sound like what I consider normal; I'm of the last generation to grow up before Valley Girl talk was invented/became a national thing (I remember when it started, in the early '80s, all because Moon Unit Zappa recorded a song making fun of the haughty high-school girls she hated).

Quality: Matthew Weiner's keeping us guessing to the end.


  1. A year later, "All in the Family" would debut on CBS. Norman Lear intended us to laugh at Archie and Edith, but deep down we were rooting for them. Those were the days!

  2. Love the commentary, John.


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