Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dramatically Speaking.......... of Mad Men, MLK, 1968. & Another Anniversary, A Niner!

Mad Men is the only TV drama we currently follow "live" (as against on DVD). We caught up on the first four seasons via DVD, then went "live" last year, with attendant frustration caused by plentiful commercial breaks. Mad Men, though we're mildly hooked on it, really is no more than a polished time-warp of a soap opera. It does try, and sometimes succeeds, in being a bit of an arty-farty soap opera, using barely hidden metaphor and crafty insider references, which simple-minded dum-dums like me have to discover later from reviews.

Action of classic soap operas, at least those with which I was familiar in the UK (Coronation Street, everyday story of working class folk in the north of England; Eastenders, everyday story of working class folk in London's East End; Emmerdale Farm an everyday story of country folk in Yorkshire for example) took place in the present day. Real world disasters and dramatic events had to be factored in in retrospect, if at all. Mad Men, an everyday story of advertising folk in New York is set in the 1960s. In Season 6, now showing, the year is 1968.....yes THAT dark and dreadful year for the USA! Matthew Wiener and his writers have the luxury of hindsight - long distance hindsight at that. They now are aware of how those dramas and tragedies of 1968 fit in to the pattern of action in ensuing years and decades. That fact is a good thing in some ways because, after all we're watching fiction, not fact; in other ways though, treatment of such events as the murder of Martin Luther King is necessarily going to be affected by "what we know now". It's something akin to revisionist history, I guess. Revisionist historians know how the story ended, those playing their parts during events in question didn't. Key factor!

Sunday's episode of Mad Men had MLK's murder as its set piece. I cannot say how true to life or how skewed the depiction of reactions of the Mad Men gang were. I was living in the UK at the time, in a small apartment, no TV, only a portable radio whose batteries blacked out regularly, and I seldom bought newspapers. My only source of news from the USA was from chat at the office with my boss or visitors from other departments. I have no memory at all of the reporting of MLK's murder, whereas I do still recall where I was when JFK was shot around five years earlier. I asked my husband if he could recall where he was when MLK was shot - he couldn't, but like me he had clear memories of where he was when JFK died.

Now, and for many years, Dr King's death has become such a key event in our consciousness, everyone, not only African Americans have seen and appreciated the full weight and worth of his teachings and speeches. So, if Mad Men did portray its characters' reactions differently from how they would truly have been, or if the writers felt uncertain, then it's easily understandable. In this episode there was hushed shock at a radio announcement during an advertising executives' gala dinner. There were people wondering next day whether offices should be closed as a mark of respect. The couple of fairly newly added African American cast members were shown, accurately I'm sure, in states of numb shock and despair. One secretary responded warmly to her female boss's hug, while another seemed coldly unable to respond to a similar show of condolence. In another scene lead character, Don Draper, took his son to the cinema to see Planet of the Apes as a distraction from the sadness of events that day. The now almost iconic final scene of that movie (y'all know it) added even more pathos for we viewers in 2013 than it would have in 1968: All the time it was... we finally really did it. [screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! (camera pans to reveal the half-destroyed Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand).

What I craved immediately the episode drew to a close was to see Across the Universe again. I remembered the very same day in 1968 being a part of that movie too, but in a different context, and using songs written by those (Lennon, McCartney, Harrison) with personal knowledge of the dramatic 1960s years. So, as husband never refuses a chance to hear Beatles music, we watched our DVD once more. This is one scene from the film and aftermath of that fateful day in 1968:

Actors: Martin Luther (singing) and Jim Sturgess


Today, 30 April = 9th anniversary of the day Himself and I married in 2004, back in the UK. The civil ceremony was held in a room at the Town Hall of the coastal town where I then lived, and was streamed over the internet. My husband's family members, in the USA, were able to watch the proceedings over breakfast at 8am, in the UK it was 2pm. Just him, me, car driver and photographer who acted as our witnesses, that was the cast. No grand wedding, none of the usual fal-de-ral (never did go for any of that, even in my youth). The music I chose made up for other lack of grandeur:

Thanks for 9 lovely years....and counting, Anyjazz!


♥ Sonny ♥ said...

I tried watching Mad Men several times and just couldnt handle the male attitudes- though I did live thru them in my childhood:) our family was more 80's than 60's as my Mom was Pack Leader- had her own business and just The Master General type in every way, lol..

Happy Anniversary to you and AJ~!
may your love and happiness last 100 years.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Though I was a young adult through the 1960s I didn't ever come across the male attitudes as depicted in Mad Men - didn't mix in those kinds of circles - thank goodness! Like you, I had a strong female for a mother (and a father who adored her unconditionally). I was lucky - though sometimes I didn't think so! My compass was set by what I knew from childhood.

In my own experience, the classic male dominant theme was nearer to happening at least one generation back from my parents. Even then, though, neither of my grandmothers were anywhere near being wilting violets, and grandfathers were not domineering.

So, for me Mad Men's men are as fictional as Captain Marvel or Batman. :-)

Thank you kindly for your good wishes Sonny!

anyjazz said...

Nine years and you are still that soft spot in my heart. Let's do nine more and then nine more. I'm having a good time.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~ 9 more and then 9 more? "Nine....nine....nine...nine....." (Beatles?)
Yay! Hope so! We'll travel along, singin' a song, side by side....Don't know what's coming tomorrow, maybe it's trouble and sorrow, But we'll travel the road, bearing the load...side by side... tra..laa.... x0x0

LB said...

Happy Anniversary Twilight!

When Mad Men first came on, I was hooked. Don Draper looked so much like my dad did way back in the 60's. I don't watch anymore though. It's too bleak.

I remember all the cocktail parties and how everyone (except my mom) seemed to smoke and drive drunk. And everyone dressed up; I used to love watching my beautiful mom get ready for an evening out.

Unfortunately, I don't remember JFK's or MLK's assassination - wish I did, especially considering the environment I grew up in. We had lots of neighbors who'd been involved in the Civil Rights movement, one family friend was quite well-known. I also don't remember watching Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon, probably because I was too preoccupied with my own survival.

Even back in the 60's, my mom was fiery. She rarely deferred to my dad, being more the spaghetti-throwing type.

Twilight said...

LB ~~ Thank you for your good wishes! :-)

Ah! Another lively mom then! Good!

I enjoyed the first two seasons of Mad Men best, the next two were okay, but last year's (we watched it on TV) was nowhere near as engaging. Things are slightly better this time, but I feel the writers have all but lost their mojo, and are trying to be hip and clever with the metaphors and references, at the expense of good story lines and dialogue. But it's something to watch - in an attempt justify what we pay for cable.

Kaleymorris said...

This post is sweet in many ways. I will be sitting down to another viewing of "Across the Universe," too, now that you've put the idea in my head.

I, too, hope you have many more Number Nines.

R J Adams said...

Happy Anniversary, Twilight & AnyJazz! Here's to many more of the same...(raises wine glass and imbibes enthusiastically)...great choice of music.

Chomp said...

Anonymous - Message to the American People http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1I1e4TfZEI

This is an interesting link, about the recent laws...

Twilight said...

Kaleymorris ~ Thanks from us both!
I love Across the Universe
It's one of those movies one can watch again and again and never tire of it.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~~ Thank you RJ! :-)

Twilight said...

Chomp ~~ Hmmmm - depressing! Best to be aware though.
Thanks for the link. :-)

Juno said...

Hi Twilight :)

I totally agree about MM the last two seasons. The writers have lost their mojo, yes. I LOVED the show the first few seasons, probably because I was born at the tail end of the 60's and it was like rediscovering that era that my older siblings all remember. The writing used to be much better. DD just bores me now.

Twilight said...

Juno ~ Hey! Yes, a series and its writers have to be something extra special to be able to successfully extend the thing past three seasons without loss of quality.

One problem with Mad Men is that the types of story lines available (about advertising and these particular characters) are limited, so it becomes formulaic and repetitive. After 3 seasons we knew all we needed to know, really.

We still watch -just one more episode to go this season - but are no longer as keen on it, and it seems more like a chore than a pleasure.