Lest anyone think that I oppose
advertising, I wish to correct that assumption. I can enjoy print and TV advertising
when it’s innovative and attention-getting. A 2012 Bloomberg Businessweek
book review of Jane Maas’s Mad Women: The
Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond (conforming to
a consensus that it was hastily thrown together to exploit the popularity of
“Mad Men”) notes that
something desirable. There are different ways to move the merchandise—this car
or that cereal or this beer will make you feel younger, slimmer, sexier. This
may be the only thing the Pillsbury Doughboy and David Beckham have in common:
They mean to persuade you that dinner rolls and cotton briefs, respectively,
are something you need—or better yet, crave.
“crave,” want, or even need. Vance Packard and his thesis in The Hidden Persuaders (published in
1957) to the contrary notwithstanding, I can watch and enjoy a car or cereal or
clothing commercial without being hypnotized into “craving” the
product. I think I speak for most TV watchers. Advertising is a means of
letting you know that a product exists. The keys to good advertising are
getting your attention and persuading you of the value of the product. An ad
can be entertaining, bland, crude, or a bucket of lead. I have an envelope somewhere
at home fat with some of my favorite print ads, mostly from the 60’s and 70’s. I
remember the last Benson & Hedges cigarette TV ads, and also the smarmy
Northwest Airlines TV ad in which the captain announces to passengers a
plane-wide no-smoking policy, and all the actors cheer.
collectivist effort copasetic with the anti-individualism theme of the series.
To date, eighteen directors and counting have directed all the episodes, several
many times, including Matthew Weiner, the genius behind the series. Two
principal cast members of the series have directed episodes, Jon Hamm and John
Slattery. By the end of Season Six, there will have been 78 episodes. There
is a bewildering trainload of writers. So many hands in the pot accounts for
the rudderless direction of what I call a super-sized soap opera.
Victims, and Lies,” I focused on how lies are a crucial element and
driving force of the series. They are important from a leftist and naturalist
literary perspective, because without the constant evasions, lying, and
deceptions – of each of the principal characters to each other, and internally to
themselves – there would be no story and no overall plot/theme, which is: Man
is a weak creature who must fake reality for others and for himself in pursuit
of an illusory happiness promoted by a capitalist society that worships
materialism and money.
dogma, the wealthy men of “Mad Men” just can’t help themselves. They
are the bourgeoisie pawns of an evolving dialectical materialism, and so their arrogance
and duplicity, which cannot be forgiven, come naturally to them. The class
these “Mad Men” hucksters represent will be overthrown because their
greed, avarice, selfishness, and corruption are internally self-destructive. Ultimately,
when the revolution comes, they will be either sent to the guillotine or to reeducation
camps to get their minds straight. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Pol
Pot, the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, Bill Ayers, Obama, oddly named North
Korean dictators, and the Clintons all said so. Also, Osama bin Laden and his
heirs in terrorism.
Marxist premise, the “hidden persuader,” and schedule of coming
events underlying the series. The “exploiters” will be exploited in
turn and trounced by “the people.” Don Draper, Pete Campbell, and
Roger Sterling will all get their dialectical comeuppance.
Hegelian process eventually leads to the depiction of the “natural”
intrusion of the civil
rights movement and the invasion of the hippy-dippy, pot-smoking
“counter culture,” of the rise of feminism
and lesbians coming out of their closets. Fans not entirely satisfied with
the Progressivism of the series are watching it closely to see if Don Draper and
his partners and the 60s culture dissolve into their deterministic futures. And
soon all the monarchs of mendacity will be shown the door. It’s “historical
materialism,” you see. Resistance is futile.
worked into the characters’ words, actions, and personas. A correspondent
objected to the length of my “Villains, Victims, and Lies” column,
saying that Mad Men is just a rubbishy remake of Lover Come Back, the 1961 Doris Day and Rock Hudson comedy that’s
also set in the advertising world, and in which an advertising man must create
a product that’s already been advertised.
creators of “entertainment” such as “Mad Men” which I have
never seen asked by other critics is: Why are they stuck in that particular
creative rut? Why are stories that are pro-individualism, pro-happiness, and
pro-freedom impossible to them to conceive of and develop? Is the world so dark
and conspiratorial in their epistemological and moral outlook that baneful
tales of deceit and corruption are all they can produce? In the end, it is a
rut of their own choosing. But what causes them to choose a rut so often
traveled by their predecessors that it is now as deep and muddy and appealing as
a World War I frontline trench?
orthodoxy no one dares challenge, the orthodoxy of the Left. It is not
necessarily the only one, but it is an important one. Like the typical Islamic
terrorist or suicide bomber – and like Marx himself – Marxists and Progressives
and socialists of all the varieties of pink as a rule hale from well-to-do
families and circumstances. Their penchant for “revolution” reflects
a guilt for their “privileged” upbringing and comfort.
attended the Park
School of Baltimore, an upper-class school modeled on John Dewey’s
educational philosophy, and then the equally exclusive Harvard School
for Boys (now Harvard-Westlake, coeducational) in Los Angeles. Then he went to Wesleyan,
and finally to the University of Southern California’s Film School.
Street Journal interviewed Weiner about the impact of “Mad Men” and
its cinematic antecedents. Weiner confessed several influences:
deep impact on me,” Mr. Weiner recalled. “So did a movie called ‘Cash
McCall’ , with James Garner. When I created Don Draper, in my mind I saw
Garner, whose ease I always liked. People describe Don as an antihero, but he
is not—at least not to me. Jon Hamm reminded me of Gregory Peck, who starred in
‘Mirage’ , about a businessman who’s lost his memory. That was definitely
there when I was writing ‘Mad Men.’ And I shouldn’t leave out ‘Dear Heart
,’ with Glenn Ford and Geraldine Page. Another big one for me is ‘The
Bachelor Party’ , with E.G. Marshall and Jack Warden.”
depicts an ad agency, can be felt in various ways on “Mad Men,”
including its ethos and mise-en-scène.
But the show’s defining dichotomy originates elsewhere. “It seemed there
was this great story to tell of the battle between the creative and the
commercial,” Mr. Weiner said. “That’s why I picked advertising,
because it’s a great way to ask this big question: Is there a job where you can
be creative and also make money?”
and make money. So Weiner trashes advertising, where one can make money by
being creative. His seemingly eclectic cinematic influences, all of which were
produced before he was born in1965, are not so eclectic. In all those movies
deceit, evasion, and faking reality are contributing themes.
for example, is a teleplay about the cruel and heartless tactics of a business owner,
played by Everett Sloane, to force an executive colleague to resign, instead of
firing him. In the end, he causes the man, played by Ed Begley, to die of a
heart attack. In the climax, Sloane delivers a brief and nominally correct
philosophy of business. Begley’s newly-hired replacement, a younger man played
by Richard Kiley, expresses disgust with Sloane’s tactics, and accuses Sloane
of being inhuman and without decency. But, instead of quitting as he had originally
intended, he agrees to stay on and swears to exact vengeance on Sloane, and
become as “cruel and heartless” as his new enemy.
depicted in the one-hour show are recreated in “Mad Men.”
like Weiner see themselves as modern day moral heirs of Charles Dickens and Jacob
Riis, both champions of the poor and the “disenfranchised.” The question
might be posed: Were Weiner and his co-producers and directors consciously pushing a Marxist worldview
of Madison Avenue (and by implication, of the rest of the country)?
cohorts were simply expressing the worldview they were taught all their lives
and that it was correct and right. It’s the only thing they know. They were
prepped from grade school on up through graduate school to reject anything or
any idea that conflicted with or contradicted their worldview orthodoxy. They
are not on George Orwell’s intellectual level of being able to write or produce
fiction with explicit political themes (such as Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal
Farm). And they are certainly not on Ayn Rand’s level. If they were, they
would not have used Rand’s novel Atlas
Shrugged in so brief a throw-away instance of sly agitprop.
device, but I doubt that any of the directors, including Weiner, have ever read
the novel in its entirety. They had heard that it was about greedy, selfish
businessmen going on strike against the welfare state, and because they had
been taught that greed and selfishness were evil and certainly had no place in
a kinder, caring society where everyone looked out for one another and made
sacrifices, that novel and that philosophy had to be dismissed as the playbook
of amoral scoundrels, such as those who populate “Mad Men.”
products of an ideology they never bothered to question or examine, an ideology
that proposes to override an individual’s volition and freedom. Instead, as
congenital advertisers of statism, they have imbibed the Alinsky
tactic of targeting, isolating, and freezing a specific liberty, and escalating
a campaign for or against it. They do it without thought. Which means that
Hollywood leftists are knee-jerks. The tactic has been used by government and
advocacy groups for a very long time, sometimes crudely, often with stealth,
long before Don Draper downed his first martini and lit his first Lucky Strike.
intellectually defenseless and susceptible, “Mad Men” is indeed
“subliminal.” For those who are intellectually alert and on guard
against the “hidden persuaders” of altruism and collectivism in all
its forms, the series is part and parcel of a culture that induces spiritual claustrophobia
and an innervating cultural alienation Marx could never have imagined but would
have approved nevertheless.