We're Nearing the End of an Era
"Mad Men" was arguably one of the first and best remembered shows of the current Renaissance. It premiered in 2007 on a network nobody associated with good television at the time (AMC? What's that?) and hit the country by STORM. People ate this show up, the ratings steadily climbing each season, only starting to flag during its final round of episodes. The end is in sight for this giant of entertainment and it's tough to imagine what could replace its stunning production values, its critical eye on the past and the present and its uber-talented cast.
Mega-hits come and go, though. In the end, will Mad Men have a lasting legacy beyond being a pretty-looking show with consistently on-point advertising team (both onscreen and off)? Only time will tell. For now, we raise a glass of scotch to Donald Draper and company and drink to their last hurrah.
"Drunk Men": The Rules
1. Title Drops: Drink every time they say the full title, "Mad Men".
2. Drink when they drink. Bottoms up.
3. Drink for daddy issues. Aaaaand you're already sloshed. Time to go home.
4. Drink when someone smokes...well, anything.
5. Drink when you see people watching television.
6. Drink when someone makes a telephone call.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Drink for misogyny. By today's standards.
2. Drink for racism. Again, by today's standards.
3. Drink for homophobia. AGAIN by today's standards.
4. Drink when someone talks about things "men do" or "women do". Or things they DON'T do.
5. Drink when a scene takes place in an elevator.
All the above rules apply. Also...
1. Title drops: Drink whenever someone says the word "men".
2. Drink when someone references death or suicide.
3. Drink when someone kisses a person they aren't married to.
4. Drink when someone says the name of a brand or an account their company holds.
5. Drink when someone drops the name of an ad agency.
Krissy Pappau: Has no idea how to become a copy writer (Medium)
Dame Poppy Middleton: Drinks everything from a martini glass (Easy)
Bride of Buggerlas: Jealous of everything everyone is wearing (Easy)
Big Moose: Agrees with Pete - Kennedy is the name of a product (Hard)
Dijan de Nero: Thinks Don is a crappy account manager (Hard)
Shirley Whiskas: Dressed up for the test game (Hard)
Especially in its earlier seasons, "Mad Men" likes to poke at how "ignorant" people in the 60's were, and that kind of on-the-nose commentary is what turned me off to it for a long time. They ease off that kind of thing midway through, but everyone remembers that scene where the Drapers go on a picnic and leave all their crap on this beautiful mountainside after they're done. That kind of thing is cool in small doses, but where "Mad Men" shines is when its characters are casual about their behavior because that's just the way things are, and the show just lets them SAY so. For example, in an early episode Betty's brother calls one of his maids "colored". That was a totally acceptable way to refer to black people for a long time, but white people don't use that word anymore, except for Benedict Cumberbatch that one time, except it was taken out of context and even David Oyelowo was like "chill, people", except REALLY, Benedict Cumberbatch?
A cartoon is resurfacing on my corner of the internet, originally published on Everyday Feminism, about the difference between a woman being objectified and sexually empowered; it argues that a woman is only empowered when she herself has power in the given situation, and if things are otherwise that results in objectification. Furthermore, the author argues that because fictional characters are created by an artist at the other end of a pen, camera, paintbrush or what have you, that they lack the ability to give consent regarding how they are portrayed. Therefore, portraying agency and "sexual empowerment" is inherently more difficult, if not impossible; if a character cannot consent to the situations they find themselves in or their modes of behavior within the world they inhabit, they have far less power and it is up to the writer to make up for that deficiency.
Applying this mode of thought to "Mad Men", things can get a little sketchy. The show has a great cast that includes a number of active, interesting and powerful female characters. But then you get scenes like Roger Sterling riding a woman round his office like a horse. And while most of the time these scenes are centered around showing that what the men are doing is wrong, they're still using women as tools to do it. So it falls in kind of a grey area.
Not gonna lie, probably the attractive main cast.
"Can Joan come too?" Dijan de Nero replied.
Don Draper is one of those characters you can't take your eyes off of, and because of the range of influence he has over everyone he knows, his supporting cast is entertaining by extension. Most main characters are motivated by Don's mere existance. Peggy became, as Bride of Buggerlas puts it, the "secret protagonist" of the show precisely because she was molded by Don. Pete is galvanized by his inferiority complex, knowing that no matter how good a salesman he is and how rich he gets, Don will always be more respected. Betty blames the loss of her youth on Don, Sally the loss of her innocence, it's the Don Show all the time. Everyone on "Mad Men" knows it. They try their best not to care. Sometimes they care too much.
This hero-worship and hero-denial is complicated by the fact that at any given moment, Don is fucking up his life forever. He is a classic embodiment of male insecurity. Part of this ties into the fact that because "Don Draper" is an identity he took off a dead man in the war he never feels secure in anything he's gained in his life, but part of it seems to lie in his inherent discomfort living the life expected of a white American man. He has no identity besides his job, his house and his family, and that thought terrifies him.
The audience learns the most from Don when the show focuses on his romances. Both Moose and Bride of Buggerlas are reletive newbies to the show, and they both picked up without much help that Don a) is attracted to strong, take-charge women and b) only feels comfortable opening up to people who are transients in his life. When Don meets a woman he is comfortable marrying, he subconsciously drives her under his heel, attempts to turn an independent person into the image of an ideal wife while seeking emotional support from strangers who want nothing from him. It's fucked up, on a deeply relatable level.
As a self-sabatour myself, I cringe whenever I watch Don Draper run towards something terrible for him that he believes will make him better. I am invested in Don rising above whatever is tormenting him, because if he goes down, so does everyone else on the show...or perhaps I only believe that because he does. The more terrifying result of Don failing, as evidenced by the later seasons, is probably that nobody will be affected by it at all.
The Big Picture on the Small Screen
This is the "Roger rides a woman like a horse" episode I've been referencing so much. Roger and Don pick up a pair of twins at a casting call and invite them to drinks in Roger's office, where some incredibly awkward sexual harrasment takes place. In the middle of fucking one of the twins, Roger has a stroke and they have to take him to the hospital. Don has a cool moment where he slaps Roger in the face after he calls out the twin's name on the stretcher, reminding him "your wife's name is Mona".
I can't stress this enough, "Mad Men" proves that television can be a popular commodity and also art. It sells the audience an idea, and then five seconds later it takes that idea away and shows us truth. And every single character on that show is made in service of that truth, that no matter how much humans achieve, no matter how great they feel in the moment, they are all scared and alone in the deepest parts of their souls because the scariest thing a human can understand is that they mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.
And at the same time the show pays attention to human tragedies, and celebrates human triumphs. We sent people to the moon. We mourned great men as they were gunned down in their prime. We cowered in the face of fire and riots, or we rioted ourselves. "Mad Men" reminds us of the minutae and the whole, and manages to make it entertaining. A truly incredible feat that future shows will have a hard time replicating.
Drink when someone says "Do I know you?"
Or a variation thereof. It's usually a pick-up line, and it happened at least once in each episode I watched as practice.
Drink when someone gets fed up with Don.
Or anybody really, but Don's the usual suspect.
Drink for ridiculous clothing or facial hair.
When Roger walked on with that ridiculous moustache at the start of the recent string of episodes, I nearly died. Some fashion statements are meant to stay buried.
For Your Inebriation is written by Krissy Pappau (Hollis Beck). All "Mad Men" images are owned by AMC, Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Universal Pictures.