Analyzing Audio-Visual

Mad Men

The Falling Cat         

Mad Men's opening credits give a preview of what's going to happen to Don in the show. In the first part of the animated sequence Don sets his briefcase down and then everything in the office collapses — suggesting that his actions make everything fall down or fall apart. This connects to the second part, where he falls past advertising images containing alcohol and women — suggesting that he falls as a result of the very things he promotes in his office. Instead of crashing onto the pavement, however, Don lands safely — suggesting a cat-like ability to land on his feet no matter how hard he falls. The credits thus prepare us for Don's precipitous life of drinking and womanizing, and for his ability to land on his feet — a cycle which repeats itself throughout the series.  

The long second part of the credits visually suggests that Don falls because of a combination of drinking and womanizing. Drinking and womanizing are explicitly linked: across from a fish-net stocking’d leg is a beer being poured; next to the gigantic mascara’d eyes of a brunette model is a giant tumbler with ice. Don also falls between two images of beautiful women straight into a giant tumbler of whiskey. Beneath the tumbler is a diamond ring sparkling on a finger — suggesting the marriage Don betrays by sleeping with other women. Don then falls past a tall man, a blond women, a boy, and a girl — suggesting Don, Betty, and their son and daughter. Opposite this image of the happy nuclear family is the image of the beautiful woman with the tumbler and the thick mascara. Juxtaposing this woman with large, bedroom eyes with the happy family suggests that Don will lose his happy family because he keeps falling for other women.

Don's fall in the credits is seen again and again in seasons one and two (where we see his marriage with Betty fall apart), and it recurs later in the series. In "The Phantom" (S5 E13), Don literally walks away from his second wife Megan (who is ecstatic and tells him she loves him) and into an dark ornate bar, during which the James Bond song, "You Only Live Twice" starts to play. Don orders an Old Fashioned, which usually contains whiskey and other ingredients served in a tumbler — thus echoing the tumbler Don falls into during the credits. A beautiful young woman comes up to him, asking if he wants to join her and her friend. Don looks at the woman with bedroom eyes, which indicates to the viewer that he’s about to repeat the second part of the credits by falling for yet another woman who isn’t his wife.

In the third part of the credits, Don's sitting comfortably on a couch, which suggests that he’ll land on his feet — as he does after his break-up with Megan, and as he does after he loses his job in season six. In the credits, Don's office collapses and he falls to the temptations of the commercial and sensual world he manipulates in his office, yet just as he doesn’t drown in the tumbler of whiskey, so he doesn’t fall onto the pavement and die. While we don’t see him land, we do find him sitting elegantly on a couch, the white cigarette in his hand offset by the white collar of his black suit (the clothing he’s worn throughout the credits and throughout the seven seasons of the series). Don’s cat-like ability to land safely can be seen in the last episode of season six: after losing both Megan and his job (his office collapsing metaphorically), he takes his children to look at the brothel where he grew up. As they stand looking at the decrepit house, we see that his daughter Sally still loves him, and that he has every chance of making her a part of his life.

(650 words)

The Falling Cat

The credits prepare us for Don's precipitous life of drinking and womanizing, and for his ability to land on his feet — a cycle which repeats itself throughout the series.  

The long second part of the credits visually suggests that Don falls because of a combination of drinking and womanizing.

Don's fall in the credits is seen again and again in seasons one and two (where we see his marriage with Betty fall apart), and it recurs later in the series.

In the third part of the credits, Don's sitting comfortably on a couch, which suggests that he’ll land on his feet — as he does after his break-up with Megan, and as he does after he loses his job in season six.

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Analyzing Audio-Visual: Moulin Rouge! - Mad Men - Lord of War - Gandhi

Preface - 1: Space2: Time3: Character4: Relationship5: Theme 6: Style

Introduction - Contents - Outline

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