For drama, in the Greek sense, to resonate with the modern viewer it needs have three elements: Acknowledgement of the universe's benign indifference, recognition of the utter loneliness of human existence and a commitment to something or someone outside oneself even in the face of those two principles.
Watching Don Draper emerge from chlorinated baptismal waters, gasping for breath in a cavernous public gym, brings to mind John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer," from 1964. "I've been a little out of sorts, lately," Don confesses to his date. Likewise Cheever's main character, Ned Merrill. Beginning at the public pool, Ned, in an attempt discover Bullet Park's hidden topography, decides to swim through the private and public schools of his Westchester neighborhood, creating an aquatic trail back to his home. Ned starts the expedition with great hope, as he enjoys the sensation of swimming: "He had been swimming and now he was breathing deeply, stertorously as if [...]
If real intimacy comes from shared vulnerability, perhaps there is nothing that makes one feel more used than false intimacy. We saw examples of this all throughout last night's episode: the invasive psychological test that went straight for the Freudian soft spot (how do you feeeeeel about your father?); Peggy's wormy baby-faced boyfriend cajoling her into sex; the instant kinship between creepy Glenn and Sally; and of course, the great climax featuring a broken Don Draper who, after a lonely Yuletide party, breaks all his own rules not so much for a quick plow on the couch but for a sleepover with the woman who knows what his kids want [...]
You know what hitting an emotional bottom sounds like? It's the open palm of a hooker's hand making contact with stubbly face in a darkened room on Thanksgiving as she joylessly rides you! That's what it sounds like: slap, slap, slap, welcome to the fall of 1964! This is the moment for which three seasons have prepared us: the cool and muted extended twilight of the Eisenhower patriarchy has at last gone pitch-black.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: Dan Kois! I consider you a top critic. A man of refined taste and considerable insight. How do you defend your love for such a subpar project as "Treme"?
Dan Kois: Natasha! I consider you a canny TV viewer, and a recognizer of quality in all its forms. How do you defend your dismissal of such a quality project as Treme?
Natasha: A Battle of Wits!
Dan: Let us first define the terms of our debate.
Natasha: Personal attacks: allowed!
Richard Rushfield, the preeminent American Idol scholar of our time, and author of the forthcoming Hyperion book 'American Idol: The Last Empire,' has long maintained that the television singing competition show is being destroyed by young girls-but helped by older women voters. Natasha Vargas-Cooper, the preeminent scholar of lady sexuality since Camille Paglia went off wherever she did, and author of the forthcoming 'Mad Men Unbuttoned,' is not having it.
Natasha: Have you ever seen such a calculated and pandering move the likes of Casey James Singing to Older Ladies this week, with â€˜Mrs. Robinson'?
Richard: That was a brilliant maneuver worthy of Von Clausewitz in the [...]
Now that he is tasked for real with directing the adaptation of The Emperor's Children, we must take Noah Baumbach for serious again. And so….
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: What was it like for you to go on a Bromotional journey into Ben Stiller's Acting cred? How was it spending 2 hours with a character you HATED?
Julie Klausner: It was better than dating one! But I did like the movie.
Natasha: Have you dated a G-berg?
Natasha: Ok, Explain what a G-man is.
Julie: Somebody who thinks honesty is not only a value, but THE MOST IMPORTANT VALUE. But honesty should be a [...]
I don't need to tell you what going through puberty feels like, with all its urgency, eroticism, and ugliness. You went through it yourself. If you didn't go through it as a female, I can tell you that the desire to appear adult is consuming. Whenever there's role-playing to be done, the pubescent female will assume the role of Teacher in School, Doctor in the Hospital, Mother in House-and beware the girl who played student, patient, baby. For young girls, the thinking goes, if they exude an air of maturity, they'd be chosen to enter the world of adults. A young girl's desire to play cook is not only [...]
Don Draper didn't know his father, so he examines figures of male authority that he dreads becoming. One is Roger Sterling. Unfortunately, Don's current trajectory points to a Sterling finish. Right now, he's an entitled lush who skips out on his family, cuts corners, sleeps with the secretaries and-worst of all-he settles for mediocre copy. One day you're taking a drunken self-congratulatory lap around a conference room of potential clients, the next day you're in a dusty corner office wistfully dictating your memoir to a bored secretary.
Julie Klausner: A big pet peeve of mine is when people confuse Bob Fosse's stiff jazz hands for spirit fingers.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: UGH! Jazz hands are like Lady Liberty's crown of spikes. They make a precise statement. Spirit fingers are for RENAISSANCE FAIRE WEIRDOS.
Julie: They're deeply sexual, Fosse's hands, especially when you consider that he stuck his troll pole in every chorus girl.
In advance of the new season of Mad Men starting this weekend, today Mad Men Unbuttoned is released! Written by your friend and mine, Natasha Vargas-Cooper, the book launches way out from her cultural exploration project, The Footnotes of Mad Men. Here's a little chapter on some history of advertising in the period of Mad Men, from Doyle, Dane, and Bernbach, the real-world firm that haunts the halls of TV's Sterling Cooper.
It gets messy in the Idoldome. But all of the mania happens on stage, not in the audience. The colossal disco lights create a dizzying swirl. Fifteen-foot sheets of white fabric are propped up by a hurried squadron of grips. A pack of deposed Idols appears. They are chunkily boxstepping and no one can answer the question "How deep is your love?" Cameramen circle the 12th place and 4th place contestants as they try to remain on key, then, black-out. Poof! Ryan Seacrest materializes on a massive rafter, the two-chord theme for the show booms over the speakers, a disembodied voice screeches "Two minutes!" A man in a rhinestone [...]
Richard Rushfield, the preeminent 'American Idol' scholar of our time, and author of the forthcoming Hyperion book 'American Idol: The Last Empire,' has long maintained that the television singing competition show is being destroyed by young girls. Natasha Vargas-Cooper, the preeminent scholar of tween girls of our time, and author of the forthcoming 'Mad Men Unbuttoned,' has had enough. For better or for worse, we've asked them to take their ongoing argument on the matter public.
Natasha: Can I ask you something?
Natasha: Do you 'get it'?
Natasha: Like Gaga overall.
Choire: I *largely* get it. I mean, obviously I groove on the, I guess, excitement level? And I don't despise the music, although it's remarkably unremarkable. But I get it!
Julie Klausner: You and I are, it's safe to say, closet Camille Paglia appreciators.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: Safe.
Julie: Closeted because she occasionally says crazy craziness, like when she wanted to rub herself all over Sarah Palin.
Natasha: Her political stuff is bonko but I intensely adore her cultural criticism.
Julie: When she got "politikul," twas a folly. Yet, I think Paglia is a better writer than her fellow agitators like say your Katie Roiphe.
Natasha: Don't bait me with my love of Katie Roiphe.
Julie: She's also funny, she can spin an adjective and she's persuasive.
Natasha: I love Paglia because she's she's bawdy [...]
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 â€˜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 [...]
With this introduction, we begin a brief series on the recent life of the American musical. No, for real! The hideous, hilarious, wonderful, big-business of musical theater. This series is guest-edited by our own Natasha Vargas-Cooper.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: Julie! Are musicals, as a genre, dead?
Julie Klausner: You startled me! What are you doing in my home? Wearing my favorite shirt-dress!
Natasha: Nobody expects the musical inquisition.
What do young women really talk about when they talk about The Twilight Saga: Eclipse? We asked experts Mary HK Choi and Natasha Vargas-Cooper to fill us in. Warning: contains spoilers, multiple pop culture references and graphic sexual language! Their analysis may also cause sudden-onset epilepsy in people under 18 or over 33.
Natasha Vargas-Cooper: What are your loins telling you about Twilight Part 3. Sparklequest?
Mary HK Choi: WELLZ. I LOVED it!
Natasha: It was exactly what I desired.
Mary: Plus? The dialogue was better this time.
Mary: Last time, I had to re-up my understandingness and suspension of disbelief every 6 seconds [...]
Paul Newman and James Dean were the two leading contenders for the part of Cal Trask, the dark-spirited lead in East of Eden. The screen test for the role was a face off between Dean and Newman. The two stood shoulder to shoulder, and then they were asked to glower at the camera. Dean was haunted, wry and burning with intensity, whereas Newman was flirty, caddish; he seemed to rely too much on his good looks. Lee Strasberg once supposedly told Newman that he could have been Brando-if he wasn't so damned pretty. It may or may not have been his looks, but there was something about Newman that prevented [...]
Most news coming out of the American labor movement can be categorized as "depressing." The news of Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern's impending resignation is no exception. It means that Stern's aggressive, and often sloppy, campaign to rehabilitate labor of its unhealthy tendencies-turf wars, stagnation, bankrolling of weak Democrats-was a failure. Throughout his 15-year tenure, Stern has gotten it from all sides. Within the left, the attack most often levied against Stern was that he has been a ruthless union boss, bent on consolidating his own power. In this version of events, Stern squelched union democracy by cobbling together local union chapters, deposing local leadership, turning rank [...]