Mad Men Notes

Two Lyrics - S1 E1 Structural Chart - The Dramatization of Prejudice - 1130 Time-line

Two Lyrics

In the rhetoric part of the course, we'll analyze the opening credits to Mad Men, and I'll refer you to the sample essay, "The Falling Cat" (in CS Rhetoric), which includes a reference to "The Phantom" (S5 E13). In class, we'll look at how the Bond song "You Only Live Twice" is integrated into the final sequence of "The Phantom." 

You Only Live Twice  (S5 E13; Barry & Bricusse, sung by Nancy Sinatra, 1969)                  

You only live twice, or so it seems
One life for yourself, and one for your dreams

You drift through the years and life seems tame
Till one dream appears and love is its name

And love is a stranger who'll beckon you on
Don't think of the danger or the stranger is gone

This dream is for you, so pay the price
Make one dream come true, you only live twice

And love is a stranger who'll beckon you on
Don't think of the danger or the stranger is gone

This dream is for you, so pay the price
Make one dream come true, you only live twice

On a number of occasions we'll look at the opening episode "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (S1 E1), which ends with the song "On the Street Where You Live."

On the Street Where You Live  (Loewe & Lerner, 1956)

I have often walked down the street before
But the pavement always
Stayed beneath my feet before

All at once am I
Several stories high
Knowing I'm on the street where you live

Are there lilac trees
In the heart of town?
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town?

Does enchantment pour
Out of every door?
No, it's just on the street where you live

And oh, the towering feeling
Just to know somehow you are near
The overpowering feeling
That any second you may suddenly appear

[the rest of the song isn't included in the final credits]

 

S1 E1 Structural Chart ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes")

Below is a narrative line -- a structural chart, similar to a story board — for the opening episode, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." We'll go over it in class. The chart highlights the themes of gender (especially the dynamics between Don, Rachel, Pete, Peggy, and Betty) and exclusion — specifically African Americans (the waiter), gays (Sal), and Jewish people (Rachel).

This type of structural chart can help you visualize the relationship between different elements of a text or audio-visual piece. It helps you to 1) see relationships, 2) come up with arguments to explain the relationships, and 3) provide specific information to back up your arguments. You may want to do the same type of chart for Carr's rhetoric in "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (Week 3).

 

The Dramatization of Prejudice

For some, Mad Men’s dramatization of prejudice and exclusion may be painful. Yet the guiding logic of the American Dream is that the nation moves toward the ideal, which is after all a dream or hope. Those bothered by the re-enactment of exclusion might note that exclusion is no longer so severe or entrenched. Others might get from the show a better understanding — perhaps even an emotional understanding — of the bitter experience of women, gays, African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, etc. By dramatizing ways in which the Dream has been deferred, the series helps viewers to understand the historical moment. Viewers get an in-depth, personalized view of the 1960s, a decade lying between our present decade and the first decade of the 20th Century — a time when women couldn't vote, gay rights weren't even near the table, the Civil Rights movement hadn't begun, and Hitler's genocidal 'solution' was still unthinkable. 

Here’s an excerpt from Sarabeth Berman’s “How Mad Men Helped Me Understand the Anger in My Mother's Feminism” (Jezebel, May 2015), an article on the generation gap between today’s viewer and the women of Mad Men:

I was the youngest of four children. My mother had me when she was 43 years old, and I grew up hearing the word feminism before I knew what it meant; in our house, the subject of breasts couldn’t come up without my mother reminding me that, when she was a New Hampshire state representative in the nineteen-seventies, she had been the first woman to breastfeed on the floor of the legislature. When hair started growing on my legs, my mother warned me that if I started shaving then it would be “a burden for the rest of your life.” She begrudgingly let me get my ears pierced when I was 12, but told me, “This is a barbaric tradition that you will grow to regret, as I have.”

She and I were always close. We have the same face, we take pleasure in the same things. I followed her to Barnard. And, yet, her feminism—her battles, her struggles, her victories—always felt remote and exhausted. I rolled my eyes at her when she talked about training my father to do the dishes and when she complained about how little he was around to raise my older siblings. The father I knew was the breadwinner who managed to squeeze in carpools, help with homework, and sometimes cook dinner. There was an edge to my mother’s feminism, an aggression, that made me uncomfortable. Today, I shave my legs. I don’t regret my pierced ears. And, while I’m consumed with questions about how I will someday juggle a job with kids and still be able to fit in a workoutI’ll never feel the type of anger my mother did.

I’ve been a fan of Mad Men since the beginning, and every time I watch it, I think about my mother. Like so many other women my age, it’s the female characters I’m drawn to. Their storylines keep me watching even when—especially when—their experiences are maddening. And it’s a defining part of Mad Men that their experiences are exactly that. The first line that Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, wrote for the pilot was Don Draper snapping at Rachel Minkoff, the department store client: “I’m not going to let a woman speak to me like that.”

We see the complexity of the times in all the ways the leading ladies respond to their circumstances: Betty Draper trying to keep the old ways alive, Peggy Olsen competing with men at the game they’ve defined, and Joan Holloway, who leverages her femininity to create her own domain. In the opening show of the final season, Joan and Peggy are sitting in a board room, having risen to positions of great responsibility. But, even there, they are forced to sit through a barrage of infuriating jokes about breasts and legs from the executives at McCann. The culture hasn’t moved nearly as far as they have.

Over the years, I’ve wondered: how true is it? I called my mother to talk to her about the show recently. She didn’t like it, she told me. It harkened back to an unpleasant and familiar time. It was then that I realized, this was what my mother came from. No wonder she was so angry. I was born 25 years later, by then, my mother and the women who joined her at the feminist retreats on the weekends had already accomplished much of the bitterly hard work to change the parameters for women. I was born into a time that felt so different precisely because of all that their mode of chest-beating feminism had achieved. I was lucky, I realized, that my mother’s breed of feminism felt so remote.

Today, though the issues are different, they’re no less urgent…

 

1130 Time-line

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