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View Full Version : What's the point of Mad Men?


halfliquid
04-02-2010, 11:10 AM
Just to show that the cheaters, the uncaring, the vapid, the immoral, and the insane are the types of people who rule the world?
God, that show gets on my nerves!
I can't stand that I've purchased the first three seasons on DVD.
Aaaaaagh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!

statsman1982
04-02-2010, 11:13 AM
Yep, that's about it. It's because the cheaters, the uncaring, the vapid, the immoral, and the insane are interesting. Normal, straight-laced people are boring.

You're just now figuring this out?

halfliquid
04-02-2010, 11:16 AM
...It's because the cheaters, the uncaring, the vapid, the immoral, and the insane are interesting. Normal, straight-laced people are boring...
Now I know why I keep going back for more.

woodstockbirdybird
04-02-2010, 11:19 AM
I'm pretty sure the point is to entertain you. And since you're going back for more, it's doing its job.

Alessan
04-02-2010, 11:20 AM
I didn't realize drama had to have a point.

MTCicero
04-03-2010, 08:04 AM
A related question: does it ever get interesting (e.g., does it ever quit focusing so goddamn much on Don Draper's boring-as-all-get-out cipher of a wife) again in the first and subsequent seasons? I had high hopes after a) hearing the premise/setting of the show; b) learning of its pedigree (created by Matthew Weiner, one of the writers on my beloved Sopranos); and c) getting drawn in by the excellent pilot. So, I checked the first season out of my local library, proceeded to watch the first three or four episodes of season one, and found myself bored and disappointed when the focus started to shift from Don Draper and his travails/adventures at the office (plenty interesting) to the troubled but (intentionally? unintentionally?) poorly played Betty Draper (about as interesting as watching paint dry).

So I once again ask: does it get better?

salinqmind
04-03-2010, 08:46 AM
The OP went out and BOUGHT three seasons of this show, just like that? Must be NICE to have that kind of disposable income lying around!

halfliquid
04-03-2010, 09:23 AM
The OP went out and BOUGHT three seasons of this show, just like that? Must be NICE to have that kind of disposable income lying around!

It is. :D

Elendil's Heir
04-03-2010, 09:28 AM
It is. :D

You don't work in... advertising, perchance?

halfliquid
04-03-2010, 09:29 AM
A related question: does it ever get interesting (e.g., does it ever quit focusing so goddamn much on Don Draper's boring-as-all-get-out cipher of a wife) again in the first and subsequent seasons? I had high hopes after a) hearing the premise/setting of the show; b) learning of its pedigree (created by Matthew Weiner, one of the writers on my beloved Sopranos); and c) getting drawn in by the excellent pilot. So, I checked the first season out of my local library, proceeded to watch the first three or four episodes of season one, and found myself bored and disappointed when the focus started to shift from Don Draper and his travails/adventures at the office (plenty interesting) to the troubled but (intentionally? unintentionally?) poorly played Betty Draper (about as interesting as watching paint dry).

So I once again ask: does it get better?

I think I keep watching it hoping it'll get better. I'm almost through season three and it hasn't gotten better. It has it's moments, but I seem to forget what I've watched as soon as I turn off the TV.
I thought it would center more around the advertising world, but there's a lot that goes on with their home lives and too many petty personal things.

halfliquid
04-03-2010, 09:31 AM
You don't work in... advertising, perchance?

No. :(

Exapno Mapcase
04-03-2010, 10:20 AM
I thought it would center more around the advertising world, but there's a lot that goes on with their home lives and too many petty personal things.

Season three was horrible this way and even the biggest fans were complaining by the end.

Every indication is that season four will be far more focused on the ad and business side than Don's home life. We'll all hoping.

DianaG
04-03-2010, 10:28 AM
Clearly, the point is to relieve you of your money, occupy inordinate amounts of your time, and annoy you.

Perhaps you consider having children instead. ;)

halfliquid
04-03-2010, 10:36 AM
Season three was horrible this way and even the biggest fans were complaining by the end.

Every indication is that season four will be far more focused on the ad and business side than Don's home life. We'll all hoping.

The lawn mower incident was unexpected.

halfliquid
04-03-2010, 10:39 AM
Clearly, the point is to relieve you of your money, occupy inordinate amounts of your time, and annoy you.

Perhaps you consider having children instead. ;)

That's cute. :)

Caprese
04-03-2010, 10:46 AM
I'm halfway through season 3 (Netflix) and still enjoying it, even though it is bleak.
When I first heard about the show, I stayed away from it because I was about Sally Draper's age. I had a happy childhood, but did not especially feel the need to revisit that time.
But I have a love/hate relationship with advertising and could not resist Mad Men's production design, which is so good it is almost eerie. I've bombed through all the episodes in the past few weeks.
What's the point? I suppose it is show us when America lost its innocence (if we ever had it to begin with).

suranyi
04-03-2010, 11:19 AM
I find this OP kind of funny, because just the other day, when I was watching one of my shows, my wife said to me, "What's the point of watching all those dramas with the crime and the cheating and all that? Isn't there enough trouble around in real life?"

She watches almost nothing but the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and HGTV.

Oh well, I love her anyway.

ralph124c
04-03-2010, 11:37 AM
I liked the show, because it illustrated the late 1950's-early 60's "ethos" of NYC advertising-shallow, vain, and willing to do anything to "get ahead".
I particularly remember the episode where the guy HAS to have that Cadillac-complete with 2000 pounds of chrome and tailfins. He was probably the type to ride around with the sales sticker on the window-so his neighbors would know how much he paid for the thing.
I also liked it, because it reminds me that successful people aren't happy ! :D

Merneith
04-03-2010, 11:46 AM
It's a disaster movie, only spread out like a tv show. The audience knows there's an iceberg out there that's going to sink the lives and assumptions of all the main characters. The first three season was spent establishing their pre-iceberg personas. This was demonstrated in a small way by the wedding that was scheduled for Saturday, November 23, 1963.

Joan's response to the lawnmower incident really summed up the whole jist of the show: "I bet he felt great when he woke up this morning. . . . But that's life. One minute you're on top of the world and the next minute some secretary is running you over with a lawn mower."

Jophiel
04-03-2010, 12:39 PM
What's the point of Mad Men?
Make money for AMC?

An Arky
04-03-2010, 12:42 PM
I find this OP kind of funny, because just the other day, when I was watching one of my shows, my wife said to me, "What's the point of watching all those dramas with the crime and the cheating and all that? Isn't there enough trouble around in real life?"

She watches almost nothing but the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and HGTV.

Oh well, I love her anyway.


See, we married the wrong people! :D I'm the one that's like your wife; my wife likes the dramas.

drastic_quench
04-03-2010, 03:01 PM
Its point is to be the best show on television since we lost Deadwood.

Caprese
04-03-2010, 03:43 PM
Its point is to be the best show on television since we lost Deadwood.
That about covers it for me, as does the Joan lawnmower quote.
Joan and Roger have come up with some good one-liners, almost as good as some of the stuff that Swearengen used to say.

astro
04-03-2010, 03:45 PM
So, I checked the first season out of my local library, proceeded to watch the first three or four episodes of season one, and found myself bored and disappointed when the focus started to shift from Don Draper and his travails/adventures at the office (plenty interesting) to the troubled but (intentionally? unintentionally?) poorly played Betty Draper (about as interesting as watching paint dry).

So I once again ask: does it get better?

Re Betty Draper

Question about January Jones acting performance in Mad Men (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=537094&highlight=draper)

She's gorgeous, but her acting kind of confuses me. She is absolutely dead on her character, and inhabits that role like no one else I could imagine, but her range as the character Betty Draper is so constricted, as Betty is an emotionally compressed and relatively affectless personality I wonder if is it an amazing acting job, or does it not really just not require much acting (but a lot of scowling) so maybe it's not such a tour de force and any competent actress could handle the role.

It is less is more in this case or not?

alphaboi867
04-03-2010, 04:22 PM
...Every indication is that season four will be far more focused on the ad and business side than Don's home life. We'll all hoping.

Which is good, Don & Betty is pretty much played out. I do however want to see more of Peggy's homelife. Maybe an episode where she's on vacation and not doing anything work related. Weiner did mention on the commentaries for season 3 that he wanted to do more with her and her roommate.

MTCicero
04-03-2010, 07:02 PM
Re Betty Draper

Question about January Jones acting performance in Mad Men (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=537094&highlight=draper)

Thanks for the link.

Honestly, my impression of her performance is/was that she has/had even less personality than does/did Orlando Bloom in any performance, save LOTR or Extras.

And that's saying something.

salinqmind
04-03-2010, 07:12 PM
The core characters left the agency and started up their own, so I think we'll see more work, less home life, at least Don + Betty. And society is going to change really fast now, we'll see men in suits swilling scotch at the country club clashing with hippies in love beads protesting Viet Nam. All this has been leading up to social changes coming and how the 'old' will deal with the 'new'.

halfliquid
04-04-2010, 09:43 AM
The core characters left the agency and started up their own, so I think we'll see more work, less home life, at least Don + Betty. And society is going to change really fast now, we'll see men in suits swilling scotch at the country club clashing with hippies in love beads protesting Viet Nam. All this has been leading up to social changes coming and how the 'old' will deal with the 'new'.

Well, good then. I have something to look forward to when season 4 comes out on DVD.

Exapno Mapcase
04-04-2010, 11:01 AM
The core characters left the agency and started up their own, so I think we'll see more work, less home life, at least Don + Betty. And society is going to change really fast now, we'll see men in suits swilling scotch at the country club clashing with hippies in love beads protesting Viet Nam. All this has been leading up to social changes coming and how the 'old' will deal with the 'new'.

Not unless they skip way ahead again. The show is now in early 1964. The Summer of Love was 1967. The New York advertising culture didn't change for years after that.

We may get to see a bit of Greenwich Village folk life, but hippies are the far distant future.

Caprese
04-04-2010, 11:44 AM
Not unless they skip way ahead again. The show is now in early 1964. The Summer of Love was 1967. The New York advertising culture didn't change for years after that.

We may get to see a bit of Greenwich Village folk life, but hippies are the far distant future.

Hippies went mainstream in 1967, but they, and their long-haired unconventional lifestyle were around before that. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters were doing their Acid Test thing back in 1964-66 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merry_Pranksters).
I am still working my way through the series, but I thought Don already got at least a taste of Free Love during his soul-searching trip back to California.
What happens when such worlds collide? Don't know how Creative at the agency will handle the social upheaval, but I still have ephemera from the 60's which indicates that people certainly figured out how to profit from the hippie movement.

Exapno Mapcase
04-04-2010, 01:43 PM
I still have ephemera from the 60's which indicates that people certainly figured out how to profit from the hippie movement.

Really? I'm curious about this. Could you tell us more?

pepperlandgirl
04-04-2010, 01:48 PM
Not unless they skip way ahead again. The show is now in early 1964. The Summer of Love was 1967. The New York advertising culture didn't change for years after that.

We may get to see a bit of Greenwich Village folk life, but hippies are the far distant future.

They skipped 15 months between S1 and S2 and 6 months between 2 and 3. I don't see any reason why they couldn't skip anywhere from 6 months to 24 months. I doubt they'd go directly to 1967, but it's not as though hippies didn't exist before the summer of love.

Exapno Mapcase
04-04-2010, 02:27 PM
They skipped 15 months between S1 and S2 and 6 months between 2 and 3. I don't see any reason why they couldn't skip anywhere from 6 months to 24 months. I doubt they'd go directly to 1967, but it's not as though hippies didn't exist before the summer of love.

They spent the entire season building up to the establishment of the new agency. Does anyone think they're now going to just skip the whole process of their having to build up the business? Everybody who suffered through last season wants to see them get clients and do ads and create a hot new company. Why would they jump ahead by years? I put it at two months.

And while hippies did exist before 1967, they were the tiniest blip on the fringe of mainstream American culture. The whole raison d'etre of Mad Men is to give us that glimpse of the lost world of mainstream Americana. Why would they change that? I'm sure you'll have a moment or two in the b-plot for culture clash. But no more.

That's why I really, truly would like to see evidence from Caprese of profiting from hippies in those years. My position is that hippies and that whole culture did not exist in mainstream advertising at the time. Go to Google Books and page through a Life magazine from 1964. Or 1965. Or 1966. Hip was putting the Munsters into an ad. Hot cultural references were to James Bond or the Jet Set. (The Jet Set was what Don ran into in California, and was as similar to the free love movement as Paris Hilton is to Britney Spears.)

The 60s were not the 60s until the 70s. Even if you were a kid that was true in most of America. (I was in high school in 1967 and I assure you that hippies were not mainstream. They didn't exist in my world, even after we started to grow our hair a bit longer. There was the Monkees and ... nothing.) It was especially true in the world of business in 1964. Kids didn't buy products or spend money or form a cultural force. That all came later. You're remembering it wrong. Check it out and look at what advertising was in those years.

I predict tiny references around the edges that modern audiences will get better than the characters. But the look and feel and timeliness of the show won't change. Because a) we don't want it to, and b) the world didn't.

F. U. Shakespeare
04-04-2010, 02:55 PM
I enjoy the show, but I've only seen the first two seasons (I buy it when it comes out on DVD. Speaking of, I guess the third season is available now? Woo hoo!)

IMO, the show does a good job of fictionalizing an era in which many things (overt sexism and racism; ubiquitous smoking and drinking; middle-class men settling differences with their fists; etc.) seem really foreign today. Yet, the era is recent enough that some of us can remember it, at least partially.

To the OP: in the audio commentary on one of the DVDs, Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper) opines that the animation during the opening theme, where a white guy in a suit falls down between skyscrapers, is trying to say (IIRC) that the era was the highest that white, white-collar American males ever were in terms of status, privilege and wealth. And that as barriers (to women and minorities, who were previously not allowed to compete) fell and the rest of the world recovered from WW2 (more competition), those guys have been 'falling' ever since. I may be embellishing - talk amongst yourselves.

If there is a 'point' to the show, I would say it's to look at the rapid change since that time.

halfliquid, semi-seriously: you want to sell me the season 3 DVD?

Caprese
04-04-2010, 03:33 PM
That's why I really, truly would like to see evidence from Caprese of profiting from hippies in those years.
I did not say I have stuff from 1964-65. I said that hippies were around then.
But I suppose some of my stuff might indeed be from then. I did begin collecting this and that in 1964 or so, as a pre-teen.
What I've got is are a few cartoons, scraps of advertising clipped out, a button or two, stuff like that. This is stuff I collected while living in Levittown, New York, where I lived from '63 through '69.

The 60s were not the 60s until the 70s.
I think this is where the definition of hippie always gets tricky. There was the hippie fad, the full-blown Summer of Love, the filthy long-haired hippies, many of them runaway wannabes, that the Establishment loved to hate on, and there were the people who really sincerely thought there could be another way to live, and had been doing so for awhile.
Drop City (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_City)

Even if you were a kid that was true in most of America. (I was in high school in 1967 and I assure you that hippies were not mainstream. They didn't exist in my world, even after we started to grow our hair a bit longer. There was the Monkees and ... nothing.) It was especially true in the world of business in 1964. Kids didn't buy products or spend money or form a cultural force. That all came later. You're remembering it wrong. Check it out and look at what advertising was in those years.

I predict tiny references around the edges that modern audiences will get better than the characters. But the look and feel and timeliness of the show won't change. Because a) we don't want it to, and b) the world didn't.
We are not in disagreement here. My little mementos are tiny references.
A certain font, a catch-phrase, that's all I have, on little pieces of paper cut from magazines. Some of them I cut out and put on my little carrying case of 45s.
None of them are dated, but one in particular struck me: A little piece of paper with the phrase "You're 'in.'" Not in as in In like Flynn. Just 'in.' That term is so imbedded in our speech now, but wasn't always. Can I pinpoint the exact year of when it caught on, let alone when I cut out that piece of paper? No.
My point had been that ad people are usually quick to catch on to the next new thing, and capitalize on it.

Locrian
04-04-2010, 05:49 PM
Unbelievable! Mad Men is the best tv series I have ever watched, and I watch a shitload of tv.

I put it above Lost, Twin Peaks, Law & Order, etc.

The point is historical drama. Like when the plane crashes into the Hudson River taking off from Idlewild (JFK). It happened on the same day as the John Glenn parade. So, in Mad Men we get to play with history by watching Roger bitch about parking and watch the shocked, stick-up-his-ass Peter when he learns his father was on that plane.

How about the Kennedy election or the assassination? Those were great episodes too.

I hope there's ten more seasons.

halfliquid
04-05-2010, 09:04 AM
IMO, the show does a good job of fictionalizing an era in which many things (overt sexism and racism; ubiquitous smoking and drinking; middle-class men settling differences with their fists; etc.) seem really foreign today. Yet, the era is recent enough that some of us can remember it, at least partially.

To the OP: in the audio commentary on one of the DVDs, Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper) opines that the animation during the opening theme, where a white guy in a suit falls down between skyscrapers, is trying to say (IIRC) that the era was the highest that white, white-collar American males ever were in terms of status, privilege and wealth. And that as barriers (to women and minorities, who were previously not allowed to compete) fell and the rest of the world recovered from WW2 (more competition), those guys have been 'falling' ever since. I may be embellishing - talk amongst yourselves.

If there is a 'point' to the show, I would say it's to look at the rapid change since that time.

halfliquid, semi-seriously: you want to sell me the season 3 DVD?

I should watch the commentaries that come with the dvds--before I start my mouth about how I don't understand the show.
Actually, reading the postings others have made has helped me appreciate the show more.
I think I'll keep the season three dvd--I still have half to go and I promised to lend it to someone when I'm done--he's currently got my season one and I think he's hooked on it! :)

pepperlandgirl
04-05-2010, 10:54 AM
They spent the entire season building up to the establishment of the new agency. Does anyone think they're now going to just skip the whole process of their having to build up the business? Everybody who suffered through last season wants to see them get clients and do ads and create a hot new company. Why would they jump ahead by years? I put it at two months.

.

Matt Weiner has done a pretty good job of subverting all my expectations, so I have absolutely zero thoughts on how S4 will begin. I agree that nearly all other television shows in this situation would do as you say and skip ahead at most 2 months. Maybe it only skips ahead 6 weeks and the season begins with Betty coming back. On the other hand, if the first episode opens with Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce already established in their own office building and thriving, I wouldn't be the least surprised. Weiner is going to do whatever he wants, regardless of what "everyone" wants to see.

Also, I just wrapped up S3 this past Sunday, and I didn't consider myself "suffering" at all. A lot of other Mad Men blogs I've been reading as I watched clearly enjoyed S3. You've stated in pretty strong terms twice now in this thread that you think (and by extension everybody else, apparently) that you found S3 subpar, but I think it was probably the finest season of television I've ever seen. It was consistently wonderful, without any weak moment or character. There are many things about it to adore, though I love the way the season repeatedly rehearsed Kennedy's assassination, showing random, brutal acts again and again. Acts that completely change the entire way the character views the world.

To answer the OP more fully, I only recently discovered Mad Men, and I found the first four episodes to be a bit of a struggle, but by the time I finished the fifth one, I was completely hooked. The creator of Carnivale once said that the brilliance of television was that you could create a novel. I took that to mean you could tell a story slowly and deliberately, building on the themes and the characterizations until you have a multi-faceted, layered, interesting, emotional piece of art. That's what Mad Men is. I think what I find most compelling about it (aside from the nuanced characterization) is the subtext of violence running through the series. They don't hurt each other overtly, but they don't need to be overt. That also leads to the most tense and suspenseful moments in the show--usually those moments don't pan out like you'd expect, but there's always the possibility that something will go horribly wrong.

salinqmind
04-06-2010, 09:14 AM
Mad Men is not a documentary about the advertising business! There's the parts about the characters at work, and there's the parts about their home lives, and it's all intertwined as it should be. Outside events, the coming shakeups in society, SHOULD have an effect on the characters. This is foreshadowed in some instances by portraying Peggy, a meek repressed Catholic girl when she started out. She went out and got The Pill (from a scolding paternalistic doctor) and is now enjoying a somewhat controversial sex life. Sexual freedom for Peggy = sexual liberation in society. Take Betty, a classic case of pre-Betty Friedan trapped housewife. She left philandering Don and her Happy Suburban Houses for...what? It's unclear right now what's to become of her life. But I think it's reasonable to assume that women's lib is going to make an impact on Betty's life. Little Sally Draper, I can see her getting fed up with her cold neglectful parents and running off to San Francisco to live with the hippies, smoking dope. Joan's husband is a doctor who joined the military and is headed for Viet Nam. He might now come back - sets up Joan to become a war protestor (OK, that one's a stretch). Point being, if the Mad Men characters are not affected by societial changes, then Mad Men doesn't have a point! They have to be affected, to have their lives changed. Don Draper changed his life at the very beginning.

halfliquid
04-06-2010, 03:42 PM
Season three has me hooked. Finally, some kick ass. And I'm glad Joan's back--she's Red Hot Riding Hood and Jessica Rabbit personified. I can't wait for season four to come out on DVD.

gaffa
04-06-2010, 04:02 PM
Just to show that the cheaters, the uncaring, the vapid, the immoral, and the insane are the types of people who rule the world?
The point of the show is to have large numbers of attractive people smoking cigarettes because the tobacco companies are no longer allowed to advertise on TV.

It really should be titled "Lucky Strikes Presents Mad Men".

astro
04-06-2010, 06:09 PM
I still do wonder how accurate the ad presentations are with respect to how they went down in real life. The Kodak Carousel presentation was just awesome.

Eternal
04-08-2010, 10:34 AM
Mad Men has the same point as any other soap opera: A pretty distraction for the bored and listless. This one is just really pretty. And the characters aren't constantly talking about what's happening so you can read anything you want into anything that happens.

I think of it like the Sopranos and I hope it has as unsatisfactory an ending. Actually, I'm 100% confident it will.

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