Tuesday, May 14th 2013
I need you, and nothing else will do.
When chaos overwhelms a part of your life that you usually dominate, like Don does his workspace, a natural urge to control something, anything, takes over. When my life becomes chaotic, I crawl inside myself and make strange lists, like Ted admits with his Gilligan’s Island-margarine pairings. During the darkest times in my past, my house was impeccably clean because, while I couldn’t control what was happening to me, I could absolutely control the space around me.
Taking control over another person is tricky. It can be an exciting, freeing experience for both, or it can be a warning of potential abuse; control must be given as freely as it is taken, and trust must exist on both ends. For Don and Sylvia, their short game of dominance and control was exciting and cathartic, but ultimately, with too much time for Sylvia to consider the truth of their play, an ending.
What a gift though, to read another person well enough, like Don did Sylvia, to know that she needed, for a spell, to lose control; to not know what was going to happen next, but trust that she was going to enjoy it. Don, in turn, was able to know with complete certainty, that while his work was muddled and confused with new people and change and challenges, there was something beautiful waiting for him, something even more beautiful than Megan because Sylvia was waiting on Don’s order. She existed only for him.
We’ve seen Don’s dominance take over with nearly all his relationships. We’ve heard him tell more than one woman to stop talking. We’ve seen his need to control take an abusive turn with Betty, and a filthy worded role play scene with Megan. What we ultimately see with Don though, with the women he cares about – Betty; Megan; Sylvia – is a boyish need to keep things as they are, even if the woman is miserable. “Please,” Don begs Sylvia as she calmly explains to him that their relationship is damaged and doomed. Don doesn’t want to stop playing; he doesn’t want the beautiful, smart, lovely woman to leave him.
After shaming, ignoring, shoving and calling Betty a whore, when she finally tells him it’s over, he lowers his head in a darkened room and weeps. A strong shouldered man, broken because the beautiful woman he loved tells him he’s not good enough. When he and Megan fight at the HoJo after she turns down his delicious orange sherbet offer, he violently kicks in a door, chases her while she grips her hairbrush, like an angered father attempting to control his defiant daughter. When they fall together, and Megan holds an aching limb and cries, Don’s face looks terrified and exhausted. She stands, proud and frightened, and he crawls to her, clutches her, and suddenly, he’s the frightened child.
Every woman Don chooses ends up finding a voice that says, “I don’t need you”, and it terrifies him. For Don, there is nothing more frightening than being insignificant; unneeded; unwanted. He keeps a loose hold on one woman while wrapping himself around another, and when one fails, he grips the one that’s still there, hoping that she doesn’t go away, hoping that he can always return to her and find her, sweetly waiting for him. The foreshadowing image at the end of the episode, while Megan sits on the end of the bed and cries watching the footage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, and Don sits near her, facing away, looking shame faced and tired, is a glimpse of what it would look like if Don lost Megan too – just a sad lonely man, filled with remorse.
Wednesday, May 8th 2013
Monday, May 6th 2013Tweet
Sunday, May 5th 2013Tweet
Tuesday, April 30th 2013
Then one day, they get older and you see them do something, and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have. And it feels like your heart is going to explode.
Sharing grief with an entire nation of people is a surreal, sensitive experience. In 2001, three days before September 11th, SB’s Great Grandmother died. SB told me that she felt as if the whole world was grieving alongside her. The world was not aware of her, or her loss, but everyone was experiencing the shock and terror of grief.
On Sunday night’s episode of Mad Men we observed everyone’s reactions to losing a leader, a real father, and a symbolic father to his followers, and everyone released their fear and sadness in different ways. Betty, who saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot on live television, forbid the children from the TV and squirreled them all away in one room before sending them to their father where she could have the TV on while she waited alone, just in case. Megan readjusted her fear at living high and enclosed but still amongst the sound of angry reaction by tumbling all her emotions onto her father and his uncouth words. Henry and Abe, who would strangely benefit from the event, reacted with a heart palpating excitement. Joan doled out hugs amidst tears. Dawn, eyes wide in shock, ached for her routine, something normal amongst the chaos.
Pete misdirected all his anger and fear and loneliness onto Harry, who exists only on the surface. Such an easy target, someone who says exactly what they’re thinking when they’re thinking, even if what they’re thinking is selfish or unnecessary. Pete, who tried throughout the entire experience to reach out and could find no one, finally found a passionate interaction with the office buffoon. We watched him wait frantically to make a call right after hearing the news; we watched his awkward interaction with Trudy, who, though gentle, had no interest in comforting or seeking comfort with Pete. And finally, in Pete’s last scene, we watch him in that sad lonely apartment attempt to talk to a delivery person who either didn’t, or pretended not to understand him. And there Pete stood, alone, with no words to share or recall except an impassioned speech to a person he doesn’t even care about or respect.
Don reacted the way he does best, by not reacting. Whenever grief strikes Don’s life, unless it’s very personal and very solitary, he seems to resemble the calm quiet voice of reason, offering reasonable solutions to problems, conjuring up wise words to steady the breath of someone actually feeling an emotion, but the truth is that Don isn’t feeling anything. We have seen Don feel. We know what it looks like. We saw it at the end of the episode, Don, deep inside a bottle, admitting what many parents never admit, that they go through the motions with their children until their children do something quietly extraordinary.
That afternoon, waiting for the encore of Planet of the Apes, Bobby Draper became a real human person to Don and to us as well. Bobby has become a bit of a joke to fans, hasn’t he? Four Bobbys, each one popping up to annoy Betty or deliver a cheeky one-liner. Nobody has paid much attention to Bobby, but now Bobby says something so decidedly Don that it makes us whimper. Now we know that Bobby frets for Henry. Now we know that Bobby curses. Now we know Bobby needs order and obsessively tears at the wallpaper that doesn’t line up. Now we know Bobby can offer wise advice to a stranger that he, through observation that Don was completely unaware of, knows his father does. Go to the movies when you’re sad. Watch it again if you’re still sad. Escape. It’s one simple, beautiful way to both cope with grief and reveal to a withholding frightened father that loving you will help heal his broken heart.
Thursday, April 25th 2013Tweet
Wednesday, April 24th 2013Tweet
Tuesday, April 9th 2013Tweet
Just be yourself.
My biggest aging fear is not wrinkles, or sagging skin; it’s not memory loss, or finding the music too damned loud. My biggest aging fear is losing myself in a decade. I’m afraid I’ll spend a steady amount of years successful and happy and as the times a’change, I won’t be able to change with them. This decade will define me and I will be old and sad; so profoundly sad. I will hold so tight to the way I looked and behaved during those years that I will forget how to adapt.
It is lovely to hold on to a thing or two from your past. I was in high school during the whole school girl knee-socks & pleated-skirt phenomenon. My Mom hated the look and wouldn’t let me wear it. Now, because I’m eccentric and don’t look my age, I am taking advantage of that lost time and totally wearing a version of the trend. That’s fine! Rock on! Picking and choosing an appealing trend from decades past to repeat is a fantastic fashion choice. What I haven’t done is totally adapt my wardrobe to resemble that of a 17 year old girl in 1995. That would be sad. Not because I committed to a trend. I know plenty of women who commit themselves to dressing in entirely retro clothing and their dedication is an inspiration. However, if I dressed entirely in clothing from my teen years, I wouldn’t be dedicating myself to a look, I would be trapping myself in my past.
Here’s Don, it’s almost 1968, and aside from the clothing Megan dresses him in during their vacation, he looks like an older version of Don circa 1960. Last season Don turned off a psychedelic Beatles album after a short listen, was hurt when Megan rejected his favourite iced dessert, and furrowed his brow disapprovingly at a young girl backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. Don will smoke weed because he’s down for whatever, but would never seek out the current era’s drug of choice. Don is sleeping with a woman whose kid is in college. Don looks like the Ken doll Sally played with back when she was Thally Draper.
Even Don’s idea of the profundity of love is somehow antiquated. He is starwort, verbose only when overwhelmed with his distaste at the way the world around him is moving. When on a decadent Hawaiian vacation he won’t even speak unless he finds someone who wants him to reminisce and treat him like a wise older man. When he discovers later, that the man he shared a spontaneous and profound experience with had a youthful catchy phrase engraved on the lighter that Don accidentally ended up with, Don rejected the experience, discarded it, refused the connection. The first 10 minutes of the sixth season premiere reveal Don in various scenes looking bewildered and bemused. His slight brow furrow, his small tight smile hiding, what we see as the episode progresses, a deep sadness; a death wish; a curiosity about our inevitable end. It feels as if he just wants it to be over.
There’s such a disconnect between Don and everyone around him. He can exchange words, laugh at a joke, make love to his wife, make love to another man’s wife, but everything is on the surface, and he’s just waiting for the ocean to swallow him whole. The only thought that seems to consume him is whether he’ll let the ocean find him, or if he’ll shed all the various skins he’s cloaked himself in and wander into the abyss himself, leave everything behind without anyone ever really knowing who lived at his center. All we’ll know is that Don felt safe in the glamour he wore in 1960.
Sunday, April 7th 2013Tweet
Mad Men season 6 character portraits
Megan looks fiiiiierce!
Happy Mad Men Day everyone! Season 6 premieres tonight on AMC with a 2-hour episode.
Make sure you’re following Mad Men Footnotes for all the important post-show facts.
Also be sure to check out the Mad Men Words I write this season. It was fun to journal though my feels last season.
Tuesday, April 2nd 2013
Mad Men, season 6 stills
Tuesday, March 26th 2013
Get a first look at Jon Hamm on the cover of our new issue. In the cover story, Hamm explains how drastically he differs from Don Draper, his pre-Mad Men struggles in the entertainment business and his plans when the show goes off the air in 2014. Keep an eye out for the issue on newsstands this Friday.