I don’t like to get overly personal here…so let’s just suffice to say some shit came down and it made blogging feel like the very last thing I wanted to do. But I am compelled to shout into the void, or to be read by you Dear Reader, in regards to my final thoughts on the recent ending of Matthew Weiner’s brilliant tale of a decade…the super happy fantastic fun dramedy known simply as “Mad Men”.
I am an admitted cynic with a serious case of CBS (Canadian Born Sarcasm) and yet in opposition to those traits I am also a hopeless romantic and, if the wind is blowing right and I’ve had enough sleep, an eternal optimist. So I desperately wanted Don/Dick to find an experience/way of life that could make him joyful. And I wanted that the consequences of the actions which would bring him this joy would not result in making someone else miserable. Because more often than not, Don’s legacy has been to sow some very fertile seeds of discontent. Through all 7 seasons Don’s neurosis and failures have taken a heavy toll but there were moments of tenderness that informed Don as not being unredeemable.
So when Mad Men ended with the Coke ad ( which I have always loathed as a corporate co-opt of a movement that had nothing to do with consuming a chemical laden, health compromising , tooth rotting fizzy beverage ) I had a fist balling red hot anger…Don didn’t make it out. And I SO WANTED HIM TO MAKE IT OUT! And then, in the blink of an eye, my happy ending hungry mind changed the narrative. Don didn’t go back to McCann Erikson! He stayed at the retreat, got his poop in a group, rented a nice house by the sea and took up running on the beach. He learned how to brew beer and started one of the very first micro-breweries. Or something nice like that. Yeah. That was it. That was the ticket! “Don’t worry Birdie. Everything is going to be fine.” The Coke ad was a sarcastic take on what McCann Erikson did with a get to know yourself, embrace the other and find peace social movement. Don himself used the movement to become enlightened and healthy! Yay! Happy ending!
And then, I read the AV Clubs review and saw this…
Not cool man. I know an action oriented signifier when I see one. So this knocked my hopes back a bit. While trying to suss it all out I had a nice twitter chat with a fellow who felt Don going back to McCann Erikson to make the Coke ad was a little a-z-ish and I agreed. I thought (hoped?) maybe what we had here was the cosmic unconsciousness at play. Readers familiar with Repo Man will understand. Shrimp. Plate of Shrimp. Maybe the Coke ad lookalike was a Plate of Shrimp moment!
But I’ve been thinking about it. And I don’t think it was. I don’t think Weiner was indicting the ugly world of advertising and it’s part in driving an insatiable consumerism that has resulted in a plastic laden, toxic planet on the brink of a critical climate tipping point. Honestly, it blows chunks to come to the conclusion that it’s a very precise telegraphing of Don’s off screen (and fan imaginary!) future. Don went back to McCann Erikson to be a very expensive piece of horseflesh with a taste for CC whiskey, where he jumped on each and every chance to have soulless opportunistic sexual intercourse and every second weekend with the kids. Except, knowing Don, it’s more like every sixth weekend with the kids. If that…*insert unhappy face here*
Besides the clear symbol of girl/s with the same braids, Don’s story line of needing to be wanted is what sunk it for me. When he did seek sobriety, he took up swimming…the only time I ever saw him exercise and he happened to practice that which is most womblike. Unwanted by his birth mother, unwelcome by his stepmother and emotionally unconnected with his father, Don’s need to be wanted was hardwired in from childhood. Throughout the whole series the only person who wanted Don, who kept at it, through all the ups and downs was Jim Hobart at McCann Erikson. Nobody else wanted to put up with his shit for very long. And while he was welcome in Anna’s life, she never hungered for him. Jim Hobart did. And when Hobart barks at Roger about being sold a bad apple it’s not even Don, who has totally done a runner, that he wants to fire. Don will *always* have a job with Jim Hobart. And why not, in theory upon his return from the retreat he was a part of one of the world’s most beloved ads of all time. Although I’ll say it again. I hate that ad. And I hate the Dove Real Beauty campaign ads too. Taste good, clean my skin but back up off latching onto and co-opting social movements to sell your shit because it’s just super creepy. And it’s really creatively weak, which also galls me.
Anyhoo…in closing, the final nail in my hope for Don Draper coffin happens in the episode Lady Lazarus (Ep 8, 5th season) when Don has the chance to hear The Beatles hypnotic enlightenment driving “Tomorrow Never Knows” for the first time. I know he’s got a great stereo system, he’s in a comfy chair with a bevvie and he still can’t do it. The dreamiest song of the 21 century goes right over his head. In fact, he doesn’t even like it…he gets up less than halfway through and turns it off. Now that’s an indictment of his inability to find meaning, be it within or without! Weiner paid $250,000 to be able to play about 45 seconds of the song while we saw Don try to sit it out, as other characters underwent various transformations to that groovy meditative rock n roll mind tour, Don remained the same.
So whatever…a tiger never changes it stripes. It doesn’t mean I love the experience any less. I don’t. I’m so grateful to have lived to see it through to end.
No one is promised today, never mind tomorrow.
And now for something completely different… Here’s something from the studio I’m working on…trying to get a price list together and take a bunch of stuff down to the gallery but working on my Mad Men thesis has taken up a lot of time!