In Which The Sea Was Mad That Day My Friends

Remember When Is The Lowest Form Of Conversation

by Alex Carnevale

In reality, the late 50s and early 60s was a great time to smash barriers and get a baby in you as you climbed up the corporate ladder as a junior copywriter. If you don’t understand the glory part of that, you probably won’t like Mad Men, airing Sundays on AMC.

Besides the crafty corporate climber, Men gives itself over to more traditional roles – the oversexed housewife, the busty secretary sleeping with her boss, the meek, the demanding. Women. It’s like they never sleep.

betty, played by january jones

In a way, it’s a relief to learn, as we do in Mad Men, that there are only so many kinds of women. It implies that groups of women can be satisfied in similar ways, and that Jennifer Aniston probably won’t settle down.

“What type of man do you suppose you attract?” I asked a friend recently. “Canadian,” she replied.

It was reported by the girl who stole Moe’s job on Jezebel that strong, successful women shouldn’t change who they are for a man. Elizabeth Moss’ Peggy doesn’t seem interesting in doing that. Like most intelligent women, she prefers the company of sleaze.

the upscale corporate juno

The buttoned-up housewife of Don Draper, played to a scandalous tee by the model January Jones, is the show’s real heroine. The housewife always gets the most entertaining dilemma, because we always want a caged bird to sing.

She is the consummate observer of events, a housewife of sexual and physical strength, along with tender vulnerability. Betty attracted a man of ample creativity and exuberance. Don’s bad behavior means he’s destined to bang his wife’s former roommate. Betty’s saddled with his infidelities, borne of a desire for a woman more Jewish than his own wife.

Richard Yates wrote one of the ten best novels in English about this kind of gnawing suburbia. He called it Revolutionary Road.

In the season two premiere, Don and Betty spend their evening in a hotel, where they can service each other’s desires fully. Unfortunately, that took the form of filet mignon, not a hot bang.

tumblr has caged you like suburbia, january

And yet even in impotence, Don has nothing to fear. She’s not going to run off with some dude on tumblr, especially after she’s read all the offensive things Peter Knox has been saying.

Another friend had been living with his girlfriend for a couple of years. She told him suddenly that she was going to Missouri to work for Obama, and that she didn’t think they should talk in the interim six months. I told him to phone up Ryan Reynolds – they might have something in common.

This is now a realistic fear – your gf might leave you for Obama. There was similar concern during the days leading up to JFK’s presidency.

The Revolutionary Road is the road away from this kind of conformity. When you know what will happen next, you stop caring. (N.B. Molly described how Mad Men accomplishes this in her examination of the show’s first season, which I have reproduced further below for clever readers.)

ginger love is different from regular love

Although the female characters are largely archetypal, they pale next to their clichéd male companions.

In this dream, Men are plentiful. They dress in suits and their major function is also to reproduce. A man is every desk, every office. Plane and deplane. We already know what he thinks. As my current boss opined to me last week, “Men aren’t interested in people.”

Women have written an extensive literature on how female friendship is so markedly different from its male counterpart. During my father’s recent illness, my mother was stunned at the concern and sensitivity of my father’s friends. I was stunned at her outdated perception of sex roles, and I told her that she didn’t know what it was like. (When Danish is in trouble, I feel a little pinprick inside of my vagina.)

Whether in the past men have always tumbled knowingly to one another, it’s difficult to ascertain.

In the still images of Matthew Weiner’s masterpiece of the form, something deeper grows within men next to the creativity that drives them. Howard Roark didn’t just have a boner and a blueprint. He held something more.

So it’s not just women that make progress in Mad Men. It’s the men, too. When they let women take them over, their lives become sharper, more perceptive. A man on his own, that we can understand. The female shape opens the floodgates, and all is lost.

“Final Goodbye” – Rihanna (mp3)

“Shut Up & Drive” – Rihanna (mp3)

“We Ride” – Rihanna (mp3)

Good news for Alex, the death of Joey Bishop has opened a slot in the Rat Pack!

Period Piece

by Molly Lambert

Sopranos producer and TV vet Matthew Weiner came up with the idea to take the jazzy New York in the fifties sexiness of Good Night and Good Luck and meld it with The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit. Its subversiveness comes from how it highlights the toxic racism and sexism of the early sixties. It doesn’t hurt that they’re trying to sell Lucky Strikes.


Lucky Strikes remind me of my friends out on the West Coast

The pilot for Mad Men also features this summer’s other break-out star, Kristen Schaal, in a brief role as a secretary. Schaal plays creepy super-fan Mel on Flight of the Conchords.

Perhaps Mad Men’s greatest coup is that it gets to plow the hereforeto virgin TV territory of the “authentic” fifties as they became the early sixties. The “fifties” is a concept synonymous with “fakeness,” as though it gave way in the second half of the century to “the real.” That would be a simplification, and false. But that’s how it’s been depicted on TV in shows from Leave It To Beaver to Happy Days.

It’s a great idea to do a show about why the fifties were an era that begged to be rebelled against later on in the sixties, especially because TV was so instrumental in creating the image of that decade which has prevailed as a utopia for Conservatives. The misogyny and racism depicted haven’t exactly vanished from the Earth since then.


There’s no format for political commentary like a period piece, and Mad Men mines the tropes of classic film and television to expose the rottenness at the heart of the Patriarchy. All this and no gunplay!

“Talking can be heroic,” Mr. Weiner said in an interview here on the studio set serving as Mr. Draper’s living room, arrayed with linen drapes, needlepoint pillows and copies of Flair, the popular ’50s magazine. “I loved ‘The Sopranos.’ But not every problem can be solved by killing someone. When you take that out of the mix, talking is kind of what you have left, although a lot of problems on this show are solved by sleeping with people.”

Needless to say, I am riveted. AMC demonstrates that no cable channel is beneath the ability to host great art. It’s a populist honor these days to be the creator of a smart TV show.


And there have been so many lately. We’ve lost The Sopranos, but there’s still Big Love, The Office, 30 Rock. Did you know David Byrne does the music on Big Love now, and the first season’s was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh?

This can absolutely be a golden boundary-pushing era for the form, like film in the sixties and seventies. TV has grown up and become the medium of choice for dramatists. The long-form possibilities of episodic TV lend themselves well to that great genre, the serial.

Characters can change and learn over a period of time longer than two hours. Especially with the advent of DVD, which allows viewers to watch at their leisure, TV can produce much greater depth of story and feeling than film can even aspire to, due to the lengths at which they can draw them out.

The Season One finale certainly kicked out the jams. The unforseen flirtation developing between Peggy Olson (Elizabeth Moss) and Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton, the hot faux-Gosling who had his story “Tapping a Maple Tree On A Cold Vermont Morning” published in The Atlantic Monthly) is awesome. He totally gave her a neg with that “too bad your voice is so annoying” quip.


Real or fake? I mean her hair, obviously

Christina Hendricks as Joan the supervoluptuary redhead office bitch. Like all great actors, she got her start on MTV’s Undressed, and is best known for her appearance as Saffron on Firefly.

Junior Copywriter Betches! (this picture is from the Battlefield Earth premiere, yes really)

Elizabeth Moss is a practicing Scientologist witch who you may know as Zoe Bartlet, the president’s daughter. She has plenty of experience in the advertising world, having starred in commercials for Excedrin and Secret Deodorant.

Finding out your husband is cheating by reading his phone bill is the fifties equivalent of breaking into your partner’s email account. Not that anybody we know has ever done anything like that. Mad Men writes its own fan fiction. The sex scenes are eight million times better than the ones in Tell Me You Love Me because it’s all about what you don’t show, ya know?

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


We cupcaked with Jim and Pam as they started to get serial.

I still have no idea what this Will Hubbard post is about.

Alex smoked James Blunt and went Into The Wild with Sean Penn and The Boy Who Loved Ronald Reagan.

8 thoughts on “In Which The Sea Was Mad That Day My Friends

  1. The Fifties was a tough time for women, you had to sew your own brassieres, big hair maintenance took up a lot of your spare time, and because men took back all the jobs after the war you had to stay at home. No wonder we were revolting in The Sixties.

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