aug 24

Identity via Implants

I've heard this complaint about Mad Men: It forces current events onto the screen in a way that isn't like actual life. History isn't that deterministic, goes the argument. A good example was when Roger Sterling spoke of a "Yetta Wallenda-sized misstep." I don't know if that criticism is fair, but I'm going to try entering "Jasmine Fiore-sized identity" into contemporary usage.


i don't think i understand the complaint. do you mean like when episodes are centered on some historical event like nixon vs. kennedy or the cuban missile crisis? are you saying that these events seem to have more importance to the lives of the characters than historical events do in real life? that's probably true but only because it's a fucking television show, a fictional television show that is set in a particular period in history. would you make the same criticism of "Angels In America?" or am i totally misunderstanding the complaint and just swore at you for no good reason?
btw: wasn't jasmine fiore a scott thompson character on kith?

posted by alex at 1:58 AM on August 25, 2009

Yeah, the complaint is that history doesn't affect individuals at such a great degree. Like, did the mass majority of women across offices in NYC really cry when Marilyn Monroe died?

And since Mad Men is all about historical verisimilitude, it doesn't have the leeway of, I dunno, Seinfeld.

All of that said, I don't really agree with this. I think one of the great things about Mad Men is that it shows how history and events actually do affect people. I've been thinking -- what would a show with a contemporary setting, one that's trying to historicize the present, look like?

posted by Rex at 8:52 AM on August 25, 2009

I don't agree that "Mad Men is all about historical verisimilitude." It's too self-consciously stylized for that. If anything, it's hyper-realistic, its attention to detail creating an image of "the 60s" that's intentionally too perfect. I feel like there are a lot of criticisms surfacing these days that don't seem to address what the show's actually doing. (Not that the show's above criticism, but complaining about how "realistic" it is seems beside the point.)

Anyway, the joke was that MSG dude didn't get Roger's reference -- maybe a meta-commentary on the show's historical topicality, or just a gag about how the ad guys live in different cultural world than their clients.

posted by Keith at 4:16 PM on August 25, 2009

That's f'ing interesting man. I always thought that the sole purpose of putting those situations (Marilyn Monroe's death and the Cuban Missile crisis) in the show were give us a point of reference as to what date we're in. The show doesn't go into great detail about the effect of these historical situations, only that it happened and they were around to witness it. This is true if you take this show and the time frame upon which it takes place. A lot on things happened in the 60's and we haven't even gotten to the JFK assassination, Woodstock, the Moon landing and for all intents and purposes, Vietnam. I think when a show, such as Mad Men, is critically acclaimed as it is, people have a tendency to over analyze. There will be more I am sure; which is too bad.

posted by Hortie at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2009

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