Monday, October 12, 2009

A Dream

I was writing jokes and thoughts in my head regarding football, Nobels, and baseball, but then Matt Weiner had to go and blow it all up with one of the darkest, most disturbing Mad Men episodes ever (and that's really saying something).

The main character, Don Draper, completely loses control. A slave to Bert Cooper and now to Connie Hilton, he's trapped and his usual self-destructive rampages can't lead to him disappearing to California for a couple of weeks. Instead, he drinks heavily -- it wasn't obvious but every time he got home, they showed him reaching for his stash of liqour -- and he turns towards what will be his most destructive affair yet. The really disturbing part, of course, has to do with his disdain for Sal. Sal, who as the closeted self-deceiving homosexual, was once the comic relief on the show, has now become a tragic figure. Don saw Sal experimenting with his sexuality in the season premiere and in this episode, a major client threatens to leave because Sal, who rebuffed the male client's advances, was not fired. When Sal tells Don what really happened, Don insinuates that Sal should have just slept with the guy, after all it wouldn't be the first time, as far as Don is concerned. When Sal insists that he's married, Don spits out (with the maximum amount of hatred brilliantly summoned by Jon Hamm), "You people."

"You people." It's the theme for the episode in a lot of ways and it left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mad Men has mostly dealt with gender roles and has generally stayed away from civil rights associated with race and sexual orientation. But tonight not only featured Don's disdain, but also included the period from August 28th to September 17th of 1963, with the "I Have a Dream" speech on the radio and a TV report on the funeral of the girls murdered in the church bombing in Birmingham. In talking about King's speech, a suburban housewife says that she can't believe the only way "Negroes" can be heard is to descend on Washington. Carla, the Drapers' African-American housekeeper, is obviously disturbed by the girls' funeral and Betty remarks on it by saying that with all of the violence, maybe "this" isn't the right time for civil rights to happen.

Think about it. This episode dealt with the acceptance of a gay character and how he's treated worse than a woman (it's hard to believe that Don would have been annoyed at Peggy for not sleeping with a client). It dealt with civil rights and how people who do not see how they are directly affected by the struggle are eager to avoid any unpleasantness. It dealt with a march on Washington.

Do you see where I'm going? It dealt with all of these things on the day of a huge march for gay rights in DC.

Could it be coincedence? Perhaps, but this episode was co-written and directed by two people who worked on The Sopranos, a show notorious for being planned out to the smallest detail. It's entirely possible that Matt Weiner didn't mean to show an episode about civil rights and a march on Washington on the day of a march on Washington about civil rights. But, that would be a heck of a coincedence, wouldn't it?

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