Mad Men: The American Dream

Rebuttal to Heather Havrilesky’s analysis of “Mad Men”:
Life is an art. Living life is an art form.
As the mass of men lead their lives in quiet desperation, the mad men of Mad Men are living theirs with presentiments of contentment.  Outwardly, they are reserved, cautious, honorable, virtuous, and maybe even heroic.  But it’s all a beautiful lie.
True; no life is a picture-perfect fairy tale as we’d been led to believe.  There are no knights in shining armor, princesses or prince charmings: there are just schmucks.  We can’t fly over the rainbow like bluebirds, Dorothy.  Maybe this is As Good As It Gets, Helen Hunt: lonely, displaced eccentrics with issues. But don’t fret, pet.  Remember, even Snow White had a sister named Rose Red, who would have been a hoot at parties… Not far behind her are Mickey Mouse, McDonald’s, Pokemon, Hello Kitty and countless other characterizations of Capitalism that all rode their little rowboats to dynamic financial success.  It’s marketing.  It’s packaging. It’s putting a pretty, gaudy, shiny bow on a grave!  Isn’t that what we love most about being American? Our options: myriad and readily available.  Our ideas: limitless as the sea.  Our notions: complex and unstable.  All of these are exactly the reasons why Don Draper can’t commit.  Advertising didn’t start the fire.  It burned in the 18th century when snuff could cure your nerves, in the 1900’s when Colgate sold everyone on a smile, and in the 60’s when we wanted to buy the world a Coke.
The problem isn’t the era we’re in.  It’s want.  It’s greed.  It’s grass-is-greener.  It’s avoidance. It’s guilt.  It’s fear.  It’s pain. It’s envy. Draper knows the lie. He’s managed to succeed from it, hide it, manipulate it, and live it.  The trouble is, he doesn’t enjoy it.  If he could afford the house and the car with a job he has pulling the wool over other people’s eyes, then what wool has been pulled over his?  Why isn’t he “happy”?  Why isn’t he “satisfied”?  That would make anyone go “mad”.
It isn’t that our lives are soulless.  That’s a cop-out.  Ordinary life can be thrilling and sensual and colorful but only if we’re paying attention.  The trouble is right under our nose…it’s us…the collective “We”.  The challenge to permit ourselves to look at things through rose-colored glasses is overwhelmingly difficult in times of stress as naysayers abound.  It’s allowance.  It’s acceptance.  It’s awareness.  There’s no trick to it.  One has to feel satisfied with the rain, a bit of praise for their culinary prowess, or an unexpected Facebook friend request.  In short, you gotta want it.
So Rose Red, no matter how long you stayed at the party, it always got better after you left; that’s the way of the world. 
Well, perhaps this new episode is foreshadowing that things are gonna change; Don has created “The Spin”.  Pure intent on his part to re-define himself as the cocky success everyone has imagined that he is.  He’s stepping up by meeting with The Wall Street Journal reporters who will undoubtedly buy into Don’s view of his last days at Sterling Cooper.  Nevermind the trappings of a failed marriage, confused children, an unsure nation, discerning co-workers and a reckless, womanizing lifestyle that hasn’t suited him at all.  Don is taking the big leap and casting out his naysayers one by one from his impeccable offices.  Bikinis be damned!
Who knows where the cast of Mad Men will be leading its viewers this season? No one knows.  But fans will be sitting in front of their flat-screens on their Raymour & Flannigan couches with TiVos at the ready watching each episode. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily…life is but a dream.


2 Responses to Mad Men: The American Dream

  1. brennagee says:

    I loved this. Mad Men behind the curtain. I agree you have to allow yourself to be satisfied with the rain, a compliment, a Facebook request. It takes guts to not join the stream of stressed. Be aware.

  2. Pingback: Do You Have the Guts to Choose Happiness? | space2live

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