Sunday, May 17, 2015

Man Men Finale Tonight: Because Moral Ambiguity is Both Compelling and Exhausting

So my mentors in all things pop culture (and maybe all things) talk about THE MAD MEN frequently and so I've given it another go.  I watched the first season back when it began in 2007 when I was still somewhat of a newlywed and had a bit of idealism about life and love.  It was intriguing, but I ultimately nixed my viewing after the first season because the themes are dark.  It's not really a show that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside very often, and there are no clear happy endings.  And that doesn't really jive with my typical outlook and worldview.  Plus I taught 8th graders and needed some pure escapist television in my free time.  Because reading 80 essays can require not a little measure of fortitude.


I've started with this half of the seventh and last season of the show.  It is visually stunning for one thing, and I have to give the main character's wife, Betty, some serious props for being an early 1960s housewife.  Though she is beautiful and privileged, her husband keeps his real identity and the inner workings of his heart and mind from her.  He has an idolized view of her, his angel on the pedestal, and won't allow her to be a true partner to him.  She can act childishly, but I have to sympathize with her now as a woman a few more years into my own marriage with children to raise.  I mean, the woman waits the whole day to see her husband come home for dinner-- maybe-- and treats it as an event.  Children are already fed, bathed, and ready for bed when King Daddy comes home to tuck them in.  She has dressed for dinner, complete with freshly rolled and set hair, with a full skirted frock, accessorized (of course) with pearls and red lacquered nails.  You pity her, you feel for her, and you roll your eyes at her poor choices.

And then there's the main character Don.  I'm mean: Don Draper.  He's an enigma wrapped in a mystery. War hero, ad man, Hollywood leading man looks, with intelligence, warmth and kindness to the weak.  Balanced by his alcoholism, fractured psyche (to say the least, though he disdains psychology) and general neglect to the true needs of his family; he's a mess.  He's juggling a wife, a mistress, and a new love interest when the story opens in Episode 1.  Clearly he's got some things to work through.  I'm utterly fascinated as I've blazed through seasons 1&2 in the last 2 weeks, but I'm often telling the screen: Don! Stop being so weird!  Go home and eat a sandwich or something!

The finale is at 10 tonight on AMC.  Who is watching? Thoughts?  How to wrap up such a complex show and character?  I doubt there will be a neat ending as that's not how show has been set-up, but I do hope Don makes some choice to step over the line from selfish individualism and make a permanent stake in his children's lives, who unbeknowst to them, are about to lose their mother Betty to cancer.

Though I doubt it.  This is a show that underlines the fact that people don't really change from their essential nature. Here's hoping.

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