Monster post on Overthinking It today, overthinking Mad Men Season 3, which just wrapped this past Sunday. Preview:
Mad Men is a story about men and women searching for meaning. Mad Men can tell this story because it’s set in an ad agency. Consumer capitalism, which really came into its own following World War II, sells products that add meaning to people’s lives. If Americans don’t believe that their choice of cigarette will make them happy, or that a slide projector can restore the innocence of youth, then Don Draper and his crew are out of a job.
The language of advertising transforms products from the utilitarian to the spiritual. You don’t stay in a Hilton Hotel because of price or convenience. You stay in a Hilton Hotel because it brings the comforts of home to a foreign setting. Pepsi can reinvigorate our tired routine; AquaNet can capture the man who’ll provide for us; London Fog can take us on stimulating romantic adventures.
Most of the characters in Mad Men started 1963 with a brand in lieu of a soul. Roger Sterling was the silver fox with a trophy wife; Hilton was the golden treasure that every ad agency sought to claim; Don Draper, the genius with his finger on the pulse of culture. But we discovered that the brand and the product behind it don’t always relate. Roger is more of a lost boy than a dignified man; consider his Kentucky Derby party, or his growing feuds with his new wife. Conrad Hilton turns out to be a cranky, implacable eccentric. And Don? Behind the mask, what is Don Draper?
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