Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mad Men: a new era

by Natalie Rivera

Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds
The first half of the final season of Mad Men begins in, what could be, an alternate universe. Though we witnessed the fall of Don Draper and the rise of Peggy Olsen last season, viewers may be surprised by “Downer Don.” The idea of having a “Draper” at the bottom of the food chain seems intriguing, but seeing it is almost depressing – in a clinical sense. Fans feel almost as trapped as Don. At times, our desire for escape seems to eclipse Don’s own desperation.

Season seven starts with Draper’s life . . . lost. A year has passed since he took involuntary leave from Sterling Cooper . . . Draper? The ad agency.

Changes in the ad agency coincide with the end of the 60s. Favorite mad men, such as Ginsberg and Harry, are still around. Fresh faces from last season remain, and remain unfamiliar. The effect of Don’s absence on the agency was best summed in episode three. Olsen says to a dumbfounded Don, “I can’t say we’ve missed you.”

The first couple of episodes could be called “the limbo arc.” Don’s in limbo. Pete and Ted are also in limbo. But they are in limbo “light,” under the Los Angeles sun. And that makes this season hard to adjust to. The first four episodes go back and forth between the offices in New York and the offices in Los Angeles.

Don’s wife, Megan, lives under a microscope in Los Angeles. Oddly, her desperation to be a star, while clinging to a man who lies daily about a job, isn't endearing. Her problems define #firstworldproblems. Honestly, most of these characters’ “problems” evoke the opposite of caring.

Before, viewers were intrigued by the history Mad Men presented: women’s rights or civil rights. We saw the past’s sexism and racism unfold in modern day. Is that over now?

What should viewers care about, when they tune in, every Sunday, to this now-too-heavy drama? Maybe the rebellious psychedelic era offers some promise. Though viewers rooted for strong female characters like Joan and Peggy, in the beginning of the series, it seems that they've become a bit overdone and boring. To fill that void, the writers gave us Sally.

Sally Draper is now a teenager at Miss Porter’s School. She’s a rebel. Sally’s character was the portrait of the perfect daughter. Now, she’s become the poster girl of Mad Men’s year of ’69.

Roger Sterling’s daughter, Margaret, is another representation of the rebellion. She left her clean-cut husband and darling child to join a pot-smoking cult. Fascinating? Fascinating. As Sterling put it, “I understand the temptation.”

Dawn, Don’s African American secretary, now has her own office. Peggy is Don’s quasi-boss. The show’s current theme seems to be drugs, music, and hippies. I want to see more of that.

Hopefully, the writers provide more of that temptation to break rules, and live outside of society. Joan, Peggy and Dawn have money, and office doors adorned with name plates. But, what’s outside of the office? Mad Men, give us more go-go boot wearing Sally, and psychedelic hippies (and Woodstock!), and I may stick around.
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