Friday, October 23, 2009

better late than never on Mad Men

This last episode of Mad Men (titled "The Color Blue") was so very lovely. It was all about memory, mystifying memory -- trying to recall, trying to forget, trying to understand. The episode allowed me to relax for once instead of be completely mired in metaphor. This universal nostalgia theme is interesting because it is so broad and common but at the same time so intimate. The "color blue" is the only metaphor in this episode of which I am aware. I do love metaphors, don't get me wrong, but sometimes there are so many in this show it becomes overwhelming. The charming teacher's tale of the color blue reminds me of an Anais Nin quote, "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."

The most obvious point about the idea of attempting to relive the past (and maybe the present as we wish it were) is Betty reading Mary McCarthy’s controversial 1963 novel, The Group. This novel portrays the lives, and aspirations of eight women, all upper class post war Vassar graduates. The women meet in New York to attend the wedding of one of their members and reconvene seven years later at her funeral. One Blog I found wrote this - "if The Group proves one thing, it’s that McCarthy had a piercingly sharp eye for all that goes unsaid in the great institution of marriage." Another blog stated that reading the novel in a bathtub suggests a rebirth for Betty. The motif of female school ties is suggested a number of times in this episode. Don asks Sally about school but not Bobby. Similarly, Lane Pryce laments that Americans never ask him where he went to school. Bert and Roger reminisce about the Sterling Cooper “class” of ‘33 and pointedly comment on a past female alumnus "remember her?”

But much more significantly, Betty’s reading of the novel parallels her discovery of Don’s secret life. At the close of the show, we watch Betty, as she watches Don, at the Sterling Cooper dinner. The empty chair next to her possibly suggesting that she’s contemplating a future without him. What I like about his ending is that thoughts of freedom are common for all females - but clearly a personal, intimate, problem for Betty.

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