Tuesday, May 19, 2015

MADMEN Perfect Recipe for Modern TV Drama Viewers

 







MADMEN - WHY THE EXCITEMENT OVER A TV SERIES SET 50 YEARS AGO? MADMEN Perfect Recipe for Modern TV Drama Viewers



 "I love the fact, that in one point  in time all women didn't look like cheap whores, this show captures that, and many things of that nature."


 " ...people have a lot of nostalgia for an era when you could be a complete cipher in 1956 and leading a rich ad agency in 1963, just by getting someone drunk and lying about having received a job offer (as Draper did)... or dropping acid at Woodstock in 1969 and protege of a F-500 CEO in 1974... or completely average and able to buy a house at age 24. The era when no one had heard of the Satanic Trinity (healthcare, housing, and education costs) that would begin eating the middle class a few decades later. That doesn't exist anymore."


Matthew Weiner, the series creator, sets lead Don Draper up with a full stack of attractive qualities, then mixes in just enough self-destructiveness and amorality to repulse us. Ideal TV fare ala Breaking Bad if you're into this sort of thing. The postives of the early '60s era get pretty much trashed, as expected, in typical lmodern TV screenplay.





             With the seventh and final season of AMC's  blockbuster  'Mad Men'  cable TV series now concluded, it's of interest  - at least to those who follow  society's trends and sociology - to explore the amazing following the program has had, especially with younger folks who weren't even alive during  the time   the story line took place.  Add to the fact that that era of  the 1950s and 1960s has been pretty much disregarded (except perhaps for the late '60s) by the same younger population (and mainstream media)   as   racist and  repressive   without the all-encompassing technology which is pervasive and key to   their world today.  




       With over 3 million viewers  for the final episode over the weekend, it's viewership may not be record-breaking but it's up there. The show is considered  one of the better written and more subtle series with an underlying message, tailored to reach the ardent watcher of modern TV drama.  Madmen creator Andrew Weiner, who  wasn't even alive in the early 60s  , says he's proud the the series gave women a voice, showing the mistreatment of women and how they courageously dealt with it.  Like most of today's programs, writers have taken license to color the earlier eras with a paintbrush, usually depicting  a time much more 'backward' than  today's more tolerant and accepting society; if we think we still have problems today, boy, look at the those 'mad men' of the 50s and 60s, Weiner might say.  Long gone are true portrayals of earlier eras, and for that reason we didn't watch but an episode or two of the program - enough to see a somewhat contrived depiction of a much misunderstood - and, yes, underappreciated - era.  And, despite all of Weiner's efforts to ignore or gloss over those better elements of  of the  post-war era, it's exactly  those qualities - romance, honesty, realism and 'happy days' - that have attracted so many viewers, despite the poetic license to alter the true flavor of the era, which wasn't quite as bad as it was made to appear.




Yes, the rich, white men could be bullies who took advantage of 'the softer sex,' and who played into racism of the times to some extent. But, it wasn't quite as  black and white from what you would get watching the series.  It was an era before health care, education and housing costs have all but wiped out the middle class, and perhaps a nostalgic quality to that , alone, though the writers do their best to depict the era in a depressing light. Or, perhaps, it's more the human failing.  Again, the writing is done to appeal to the modern times, perhaps trying to make us feel better than the sad sacks getting drunk and going crazy before our eyes. You may have a show set in the '60s but the writers will even admit they would color things with a modern view point; for example they weren't hesitant to make a 'dowdy' (as they were called in the day) woman look even dowdier just for effect.





Says Weiner, "I was raised by a strong woman. I have two powerful, professional older sisters. My wife is a powerful, professional woman. And I have four sons, so I haven't been able to pass that much on – except the fact that [as a man] you'd better listen, and you'd better not act like you're in the majority, and you'd better perceive the world as a human being and not in terms of gender," he said. But, that may be exactly what attracted women to men of the era - a strength where men were men and women women, even if the men would go overboard.  How many times did the woman keep running back to them - or the man to the woman.    Perhaps women wanted to put up with a sometimes over-the-top man who really showed love and care, rather than equivocation. Even if he did sometimes drink too much or become belligerent at times.  After all, marriage rates have only gotten worse since then.  





Despite all the 'colorization' today's audience could see through to the REAL substance of an era when there were real families, when people dressed up and  real romance ensued.  Yes, there were dress codes then and rules that many would later rebel against, but that's exactly what many today seem to miss and yearn for.   There was even an honesty then in the deception that existed.



Something about the debonair Don Draper ending up in a hippie commune doing yoga just seems a bit contrived.  Maybe true, and perhaps the problem with society quickly jilted from the 'happy days'  early 60s Kennedy era to the post-Kennedy  'flower children'  times when men gave up their macho honesty for squishy, phony 'feel good.'   Without having seen the episode, what if Don Draper would have NOT gone to the hippie camp and maintained more of his honest macho-ism.  I just have to assume that Don started getting squishy to appeal more  'today.'    Just to see the photo of the still white-shirted, Madison-Avenue-looking Draper there in yoga pose with hippies seems to say it all.    Would be interesting  to hear if women preferred the early 60s Draper or the 'yoga' era Draper.  I would guess many would say the former, despite the politically-incorrectness.
                                  
Believable?    Or, more poetic license?   How easy could people really CHANGE from their early '60s persona to a totally different late-60s mindset?  Matthew Weiner, the series creator, sets lead Don Draper up with a full stack of attractive qualities, then mixes in just enough self-destructiveness and amorality to repulse us. Ideal TV fare ala Breaking Bad if you're into this sort of thing. The postives of the early '60s era get pretty much trashed, as expected, in typical lmodern TV screenplay.




A few comments from the peanut gallery (as they used to say): 



"I love the fact, that in one points in time all women didn't look like cheap whores, this show captures that, and many things of that nature."

"  add the lens of the '60s and the wild contrast between today's world and that period culturally, and you have the perfect backdrop to examine aspects of our history that seem mundane now that they've passed, but were critical and electrifying socially at the time. It's easy to forget how different things were in this country even 40 years ago, and that lends a certain voyeuristic aspect to the show, as well as a visual distinction that makes it unique from almost everything else on TV these days. Avant garde decor and fashion of the day are jarring in comparison to what we consider chic or stylish today.'



"I think it can be a good show but it just gets boring after a while. I liked season one and the Whole 'who's Don Draper' arc alright but I didn't find much interesting in season 2 and finally gave up in season three a couple of eps in. It is a lot like the Sopranos in that some episodes are really good but you have to wade through mountains of boring garbage to get there and have it make sense."



“Mad Men” is the flagship of the new Intellectual Vegetable Television complex, the kind of meticulously crafted TV that the formerly bookish spend their intellectual leisure taking in. It’s reached the point where lacking cable is worse than announcing you’re illiterate. “But I stayed in and read Dante,” you whisper, feebly. Why are you being like that? everyone asks. Dante was agesago. Why aren’t you taking advantage of the Golden Age of Television and being part of The Conversation?A'





 " I've seen a few episodes. The sets, the interiors, and the clothing are fascinating....but for me, it felt like "there was no *there* there." None of the characters seemed particularly interesting or memorable to me, and everyone just seemed kind of "empty."

I can't enjoy a show about "empty" people.

Also - my parents were young-marrieds in the 1960s. But they were university people and listening to them talk about what they did (had dinners with the international grad students where different couples cooked food from their countries, went to plays and concerts, refinished furniture) seems so much more interesting than the slick surface world Mad Men presents..."








So, perhaps Mad Men appeals to a certain type of person willing to while away hours on a program that really goes nowhere, tries to preach a little. Perhaps, as one commented, the contrasting atmosphere of a bygone era had some appeal and the soap-opera-like characters appeal to those who like soap operas, maybe. Or, if you like the phony world of advertising maybe that's another appeal of the show.  But, certainly, the essence of the 1960s is missing. It's really a show about characters. Though time moves on, apparently the characters go nowhere, really.



Why has the this program, set in the so-called repressive era of the 1950s and '60s  rung so true with so many today?



Even though Hollywood has gone out of its way to portray the early part of the '60s in a negative light where men were men and womenwere downtrodden with racism pervailing and all - and with the end of the '60s a little more romanticised. But, apparently it's the EARLY 60s, repression and all, that seems to appeal to alot of people, today.  




Women have commented that they would like to go back and live in that period.  This is younger women who weren't even born then and older women who would like to return to those days.  




Many say that there was REAL love then as compared to today in the somewhat manufactured society we now live in under technology's mighty reign, where a date is a text away rather than a more personal phone call.  Love letters, by the way, are a thing of  the past.  Of course, nobody would want to try to decipher my handwriting, which has gotten only worse with lack  of opportunity. 




Somehow, even though men may have been more sexist then, it was a GENUINE sexism without fake airs. Men admitted to being sexist , yet there was still real love. Whereas today, if there is real love, it's often hidden somewhere within the layers of technology. Phony sentiment where men are told to 'play the game' and treat women a certain way even if it's not really 'them'. 



The women's movement in recent decades has loved to make fun of the Leave It To Beaver era and June with her pearls and high heels in the kitchen washing dishes. But, in fact, that is exactly what a large segment of women, and perhaps men, want today.  A real family life, even if over-glamorized, where women (and men) dress up.. Maybe that is one of the things that's missing today.  A lack of dress code - and rules, in general.  Maybe  having a set of guidelines wasn't so bad, afterall. Could that not be beneficial and help towards a more organized, interesting life. And what's wrong if men are men and women are women?  Today , the sexes have so much closed in on each other  one can instantly pull a Trans-Jenner.  Was it not a more refreshing time not to have to see people altering their appearances - and sexes - or, maybe we just like seeing others go through it to make ourselves feel better. Or, then, maybe it's just prurient interest for titillation value more than anything.  
So, for all the fun that's been made of Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best, maybe it's all coming back to roost.  I loved those shows as a kid- and today would rather watch them than most anything that's on TV today, including Mad Men.   One could say those early shows were contrived, too, but there was a certain honesty in those defined roles. 

For what sexism and racism there was back then - and there may have been a lot, the fac t of the matter is that people still got along - and better, perhaps , than they do today. If you're a white person how many black friends do you have, or vice versa? Probably none. Poverty was one-third among blacks -and society in general- of what it is today. And, outside the South, races probably got on better then than they do now.  I cannot recall all the bickering and racist accusations then as we hear today.  Ask someone who lived then and now which era saw races getting along better, and, e ven with 60 years of so-called healing and trillions of dollars of government busing, wellfare, food stamps, etc. they'll probably tell you  there's not a lot of difference between then and now, if anything then was better.



So, in summation, why all the fuss over Mad Men?  Something to do with your time. And, if you are one who can sit in front of TV for hours watching something that's relaxing and enjoyable to you, more power to you. Your friends may watch it and so you watch it and then you share some thoughts. OK, fine. But, if you're looking for a true depiction or period piece from a bygone era with real drama, intrigue and TOP CHARACTER ACTORS why not  watch  a singular movie classic like 'Sunset Boulevard.'  In two hours you can watch a true epic from a screen writer who lived the times and part - and save yourself a lot of wasted hours.