Monday, August 11, 2008

mad men: the wheel

After watching the first two episodes of Mad Men on AMC, I decided I needed context in order to really understand the gendered tones of the show. Netflix accidentally sent me Disc 3 first (and it's just as possible that I mixed up the order in my queue), but I'm no stranger to watching shows out of order (West Wing, Battlestar, etc.). After watching the last four episodes, I now understand what makes this show so great. The blatant sexism really is a commentary on the era (whereas in season two I wasn't really getting that from the scripts), but everyone, male and female, is equally faulted and immoral. Even our hero, Don Draper. But in the last episode, "The Wheel," Don gives an advertising pitch to the folks at Kodak who are releasing a slide projector called the wheel. Don takes the product to a whole new level, and I realized that the actual advertising industry's process is the most interesting part of the show.

During Don's presentation, he has slides of his family and wife project onto a white screen.

There is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product. […] Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is new, creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. (during the slide presentation) Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship. It’s a time machine. It’s goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels, around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.
Don then goes home to an empty home. And that's how the season ends.

If you want better images of Don's family slide show, AMC TV's blog has the entire presentation for you. Very nicely done.

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