Monday, August 9th, 2010
42

Footnotes of Mad Men: The Youth Machine and Godzilla Handjobs

THE LOVER. THE FIGHTER.The main ingredients of American counterculture formation all guest-starred in last night's "Mad Men" episode: abortion, Berkeley, Vietnam and, most ominously: young people. The ‘youthquake' is not just an explosive population boom, it's when, supposedly, teenagers and college students seized control of culture from adults. At the very least, they seized control of the consumer goods market. Beginning around the 1920s, a common theme in advertising was to offer a return to youth and vitality (and relevance in the towering industrial age) through consumer goods. Oatmeal, face creams, sodas all made mention of youth in their slogans. But that was selling youth to the aging. In the 60s, the symbolic role that youth played in American culture-honesty to self, renewal, rejection of ancient values-became a driving market force. This notion was really that becoming an adult meant participating in consumer culture. This is perhaps the most loathsome legacy of the Boomer's ascent to cultural dominance: the perpetual teenage mentality of rebellion through buying things.

PROTESTY
• The dogma of parental authority was being slowly dismantled through the early 60s and was eventually bulldozed, thanks in part to the protest movement coming from Don's Long Beach Lolita's college. Throughout much of 1963, Berkeley students were actively involved in mass protests against banks, grocers and city government for racial discrimination taking place in nearby Oakland-a suburb that played host to a tiny affluent population and a large, mostly black population mired in grinding poverty. After enough business owners and politicians complained to the school's administration for their unruly and cantankerous student body, the Berkeley dean took action: student political groups were banned from using the school's plaza to solicit support for "off campus political and social action." This sparked giant and immediate demonstrations on the plaza, in front of the administration's building and eventually inside of the dean's office. In the melee, a charismatic young man with wild hair and a riveting manner became the de facto leader of the protests when he gave this impromptu speech in late 1964, before leading students into halls of the dean's office for a sit-in.

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

• Joan has had abortions or, as she refers to them "procedures," but now Joanie would like the option to have a baby. Though her doctor has proven himself to be a condescending finger-wagger when it comes to ladies and family planning (remember in season one, when he warned Peggy not to become the "town pump" if he gave her the pill?), he was willing to put not just his medical license on the line but possibly his own freedom, as he once performed an abortion for Joan. Aborting pregnancies in 1964 in New York, depending on the length of pregnancy, could mean jail time for physicians.

...If Joan were to find herself with an unwanted pregnancy-as a married lady-she could have put in application to the Mount Sinai abortion panel in New York. She would have needed the recommendation of a psychiatrist that her life would be in danger if she were to become pregnant-due to threats of suicide or a promise utter mental collapse. Then two consultants would have to be consulted and one would have to testify before the abortion panel. 1 out of 4 abortions approved by the panel in 1958 were given to married women. It wasn't until 1965 that abortion reform would begin to loosen state laws around performing legal abortions for rape and incest victims.

• Lane Pryce with his lower-upper class accent and prim disposition! He makes me want to salute the Union Jack every time he comes on screen. (Or, apparently, off-screen.) He was finally on camera long enough to get a look at that distinctly continental apparel. The English suit that Pryce dons is heavy even for winter, nothing like the less-elaborate suits of Wall Street in the 60s, or the slanted pocket Italian suit with the barely-there-lapels. Pryce's suit is purebred English: with vest, tie with a full Windsor knot, in muted browns, grays, and blues-if you want to get cheeky you could go cream-a white pocket square (no patterns), with the shirt quite starchy with hard collar. (He's an interesting contrast as Don's ties are getting ever-thinner.) And on the jacket, beautiful buttonholes. As Oscar Wilde wrote, "A really well made buttonhole is the only link between art and nature." An Englishman's business style rested upon the idea that through conformity to tradition there is dignity.



You can always find more footnotes by Natasha Vargas-Cooper right here, or, you know, you can get a whole book of 'em.

42 Comments / Post A Comment

Abe Sauer (#148)

Pryce never should have gotten involved with the Umbrella company.

He had to save his daughter!

Is this a video game reference?!

Abe Sauer (#148)

Dorothy wins by knowing the right answer, by which I mean Dorothy loses by knowing he right answer.

Is this about Morton's salt?!

Abe Sauer (#148)

Your Resident Evil vocabulary is alarmingly poor.

THAT WAS THE VIDEO GAME REFERENCE!!! I WIN!! I KNEW WHAT YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT!!!!!

BardCollege (#2,307)

Dear sir, I believe you meant to say "Umbrella Corporation"

According to Alessandra Stanley, it's "Bryce", not "Pryce." haha.

LondonLee (#922)

How pathetic was Don's come-on to the Berkeley chick (I can say "chick", right? This was the 60s). I'm terrible at picking up women but I could have done better than that, he really is a sad sack this season.

Surprised you didn't sat anything about Lane and that steak. Laugh of the season so far.

LondonLee (#922)

Oh, apart from the "this movie is really good!" while watching Godzilla.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Lane making fun of the Lucky Strike Princeling was just gorgeous, and wonderful that others in the restaurant were just cackling at the drunk guy with the meat belt-buckle without full appreciation of his little joke.

Don this season is a ridiculously accurate divorced guy in his 40s…even down to the bizarre assumption that a college student would regard him as anything but Auntie's old buddy.

"What percentage, would you say, are getting handjobs?" Or whatever that line was.

I still think the german accent thing was the most knee slappy!

Yes. Yes. Yes!

David Cho (#3)

I don't get why girls are so not into Don this season.

Is he more female repellant as a divorcee than as a married man? Can someone explain this to me?

Yep.

Two things. He's taken a number of swings, awkwardly, and it's fucked up his game, he pushes too hard and too quick. He's been rejected a number of times and that rejection feedback loop will fuck up any one's game. His desperation and panic is creeping to the surface. I say this as somebody who went through a spell where with every turned down offer the next offer I made was even pushier and clumsier.

I've been hesitating from saying this because I know that it will cause eye-rolling but being married signals to other ladies that you're desirable. Divorced with kids signals the opposite. That's convoluted and unfair but it's true. Don in turn, is not operating from a position of power like he did when he was married, you can see that he feels failure and rejection from the divorce, it radiates out.

LondonLee (#922)

It's true, I've been beating them off with a shitty stick ever since I got hitched.

Maevemealone (#968)

I know people say this and others will agree it's true, but I've never had this happen, nor have I ever found myself more attracted to taken men. It's just icky.

Daisy (#2,667)

I think it's also because he's drunker, and more often.

Maevemealone (#968)

So, do you think one of Joan's procedures was Roger's? And seriously, I it's getting a bit nauseating to see Don hitting on literally everything with two legs.

I'm stealing from a comment that was pointed out to me on OTDN
"You wouldn't even need an abortion if Roger knocked you up. You could just put a tumbler of whiskey and a hooker in front of your pussy and the fetus would saunter out.""

richard43 (#6,735)

"Does Howdy Doody have a wooden dick?"

Donkey dick joke was also appreciated.

BeRightBack (#59)

Gamera Handjobs! GAMERA!!!

Though it's still an anachronism, Gamera wasn't released until 1965 in Japan and in the US the following year. BUT STILL.

Besides, Pryce looks like a turtle, it's a nice thematic tie-in to him going hog-wild in Manhattan.

Why don't people make more Soddom and GAMERA puns?!

BeRightBack (#59)

They're Gamera-shy.

Aatom (#74)

"We're not homosexuals, we're divorced!" One of many great lines embedded with layers of humor and meaning last night. You are an absolute delight, as always, Natasha.

Daisy (#2,667)

It was all about dicks! Dick, his Howdy Doody joke, the comedian's come-out-with-your-hand-up joke, Greg's donkey joke, the handjobs-in-the-movie-theater joke, Lane's belt-buckle spazzout. . .

But why aren't we talking about how sad it is that Don's losing the only real love he's ever known. Anna has come so far and lived so much since meeting him, but he still needs her. And my friends and I can't agree: Did she know about her cancer or not?

Also. I am just not smart enough to understand exactly what Joan was trying to say to Greg when she snapped at him about marking off days on a calendar of their future or something?

Omg, it's true, this episode was about dicks, most important dick of all: WHITMAN.

It's so sad that Don is losing Anna! Do you think he should have told her? I do? I don't? I don't know! But my lip was trembling for sure!

I THINK Joan's marking off the calendar comment was about her being too old to have kids? The doctor hinted at that in the beginning scene.
Her Hawaii dress made me sad too.

LondonLee (#922)

I watched it again last night and I have to say I don't really get the relationship between Don and Anna. He stole her husband's identity, paid her off, and somehow they became platonic soul mates with her cheering on his every success?

They're existential soul sisters?

Daisy (#2,667)

Oh, aloha. Sad, sad Japawaiian sheath. You're totally right, I'm sure, about her kid-having anxiety being the cause of that outburst. Thank you!

I don't think Don should have told her, but I do think he maybe should have passive-aggressively asked her again about her leg, and maybe about her health in general? Or not. God, I don't know! My mom says people handled health matters that way commonly in the '60s(keeping knowledge of terminal illness from the sick). Which is sick!

But I do not think she knows that she has cancer. It was clear that he'd found out, and I just don't believe that she would have kept pretending, knowing she was putting him through agony in the process. If she knew, then once she knew that he knew, she'd acknowledge it, I think.

Also. I don't know anything about Catalina, but bison?

Yes! The famous bison of Catalina! I have thimble commemorating them.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/12/1217_TVbison.html

barleyherb (#3,744)

Another incipient SIXTIES storyline brewing in this ep: Vietnam. Frankly I'm worried it could capsize the whole thing, and I wonder if Joan's handsome rapist being shipped off there to (presumably) die there is going to get mawkish or weird.

barnhouse (#1,326)

He's got some boiling latent weirdness already that I don't quite fathom but imagine what it might morph into, yikes I hope they don't waste it by bumping him off. (Also: I loved how he fooled her into having her shot, because she loves him in this way of loving men that she has of they are all little boys, but then he is actually the competent one once in a while and she doesn't actually even know how to handle that.)

scrooge (#2,697)

This is perhaps the most loathsome legacy of the Boomer's ascent to cultural dominance: the perpetual teenage mentality of rebellion through buying things.

I'd like to protest against this gross oversimplification on behalf of the millions of boomers who actively rebelled against the consumerist culture. In fact, anti-consumerism was perhaps the main plank of the hippie platform, and its failure was really due to the non-hippie portion of the generation. As for the "cultural dominance" reference – what the hell else could have happened other than cultural dominance by a group which represented such a huge slice of the global population?

Is NVC implying here, also, with the use of "legacy" that the subsequent generations were somehow forced to behave in the same way? I understand that modern youth is pissed off with boomers for creating the ghastly world we live in, but it might be more productive to stop whining about "boomers" (as one vast homogeneous stereotyped group) and start thinking about solutions, maybe even acting on them by ceasing to buy blasted iProducts.

Lane Pryce with his lower-upper class accent

The accent is fine. There was really no distinction between Upper and Middle in terms of accent, with the possible exception of the royal family themselves, who had their own peculiar phonetic quirks, and the Lower Middle, which is roughly what just about all English speak today.

You would protest! ;)

kat klags (#6,848)

I always find it interesting when the show goes to California… each of these episodes builds up a stronger dichotomy of California being the future and NY the staid, bourgeois (for lack of a better word) past. One thing I was thinking about was how the groups of people we've "met" from California are from a very high class (those Palm Springs nomadic "aristocrats") and a lower-, closer to working-class (though clearly still educated, comfortable, etc). And yet the ethos between both classes is fairly similar, and ironically it seems to be Don's lowly origins that make it easier for him to be "cool," to fit in with the rich pretty well, and as we're starting to see I think, have a foothold into the future generation. I think it also was what helped him ingratiate himself with Mr. Hilton, while that lasted. Compare Pete Campbell back on that astronautics trip, who met the Palm Springs people and responded with businessy East Coast etiquette, and they couldn't have found him less cool — or in this episode, Harry just tries to get Don to take a meeting at a trendy restaurant. Obviously it's a very New York-centric show, but it'll be interesting to see how they bridge this sort of geographical-temporal divide.

scrooge (#2,697)

Very interesting observation. Note, also, Harry's transformation from fat, insecure guy worried about his job to the more brusque, assured persona of a man who knows he's the leading edge.

One thing maybe missing from the California depiction — these days, at least, the cognoscenti of Los Angeles also have to have East Coast Cred in order to be taken seriously.

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