Mad Men has directly helped me be a successful reseller. I've sold many an iconic "Dorothy Thrope" roly poly, portable bar or cute Betty Draper-style cute 60s kitchen piece. When Mad Men seasons would come back on the air, traffic to my Etsy shop would surge. I initially watched the show for market trends, I tried to start at Season 2 and turned off my rented library DVD a few minutes in, confused. Years later, assured by a movie buff acquaintance that I'd get sucked into the character's stories, I tried again from episode one. I predicted the pilot at every turn and it took a few episodes for me to get used to the extremely subtle and nuanced storytelling devices, but once I got it, I was absolutely hooked. Like all the other devotees, I eagerly awaited each new episode. Now that the landmark series has concluded, I thought I'd share some views on the show's major themes:
Major Themes of Mad Men
1) People Never Change Don boozes, cheats, and makes the same mistakes over. And over. And OVER. All the characters move in obnoxious self-destructive circles, and you know what, that's real life. We're born with flaws and these don't truly change. With work, we get better and identifying them and the battle to keep our flaws in check (procrastination, temper, etc.) is lifelong.
2) The Past is Not Who We Are
"Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will SHOCK you, how much this never happened."These are the famous words from Don to Peggy, the words that saved her life. We tend define ourselves with past experiences. Sometimes, we spin it into a hindering, unhealthy narrative. We tend wield the past like an excuse to stop us from facing responsibilities in life or doing what we truly want to do. We say things like, "I was bad at this as a kid and throughout life, so even though I desperately want to do it now, I won't." The BIG stuff in life, traveling, going after dreams, it's risky, it's scary. And humans want to avoid this as a natural instinct, we're meant to reduce stress in our lives, not pile it on. Don is a deeply flawed human, but his advice here is sound. It doesn't mean that our past won't reappear in some way, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't deal with it through a psychiatrist if necessary, it means we don't let it "define us". It absolutely does not. It's behind us. Live in the present moment and never let the past stop you from being who you want to be.
3) We Often Try to Fill Emotional Voids with Stuff or even People. Look Within to Heal.
"Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay."Above is my favorite Mad Men quote, it's from the pilot episode. Don hops from woman to woman (to woman..to woman...to woman...) and the new pleasure each brings is fleeting. This is a series about unhappy people using booze, shopping, sex, and work to mask problems instead of dealing with their problems outright and healthfully. I love thinking of the quote above when I'm considering buying or keeping things I don't need- buying is about temporarily fulfilling an emotional need, always. It's also a good quote for me to consider as a business woman, I have to make sure the products I share have a story and tap into an emotional need.
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The subtle story telling style rewards re-watches and creates a show rich with interpretive value. How do you view the ending? What themes to do you see from Mad Men? I feel like the central theme of people not changing can be discouraging, but also a way to challenge yourself to rise above your flaws and improve.
Of course, one of the biggest, if not more important reason we kept tuning is the absolutely perfection of the visual style. Each shot staging, each set, each costume; glorious. I'm going to count-down my favorite costumes and sets next week.
The editing and styling of this final season trailer just melts this retro movie nerd. Dear God. Perfect.