April 16th, 2014
Adam and I have decided to reroute our Mad Men musings back to our spiritual home at Mindless Ones. This is the first of what will likely be many posts.
Hope you enjoy them.
It’s no coincidence that an episode entitled Time Zones begins with a pitch for a watch, but the ways in which pitch and title contradict each other are revealing. ‘Accutron Time’, we are told, is ‘accurate’, as precise as the Swiss watchmakers who created it and upon whose mobile time keeping devices the 21st century would, long before the 1960s, come to depend. It is a continuous, unfragmented time, a smooth procession of elegant moments in a perfectly synchronised world, one in which Steve McQueen would feel at home. In short a Hollywood and Madison Avenue generated fantasy, that Don, a man who can always be relied upon to translate personal crises into amazing copy, is desperate to see made into a reality. Or the next best thing – an advert.
While the world conjured by the pitch is 99% bullshit and macho power fantasy, what makes it dangerous is the remaining 1% which speaks to some kind of truth. Everyone has experienced a time when things just clicked – when we were perfectly attuned to our loved ones and the conversation flowed, when our partners responded to every advance, when our lives were experienced as an unbroken series of YES!es and everything fell into place exactly as it should – and Don, for much of his adult life a successful man by any measure, is no exception. What he struggles to live with, what we all struggle with in the end, is that we can’t simply will this ideal state of affairs into being. All the precision engineering in the world can’t calibrate our disjointed lives, personal and transpersonal, with their separate and often divergent needs and histories. Like Don and so much of the supporting cast this episode, we will frequently find ourselves out of sync, our flight late, our pitches unheard and meetings misfiring, and we just have to deal with that. Grace cannot be forced, there are no shortcuts. With or without an Accutron.
Ultimately this is why Don’s repeated mantra of ‘I’ve got to work’ rings so hollow. Not because he’s currently unemployed, but because the kind of work he’s talking about, conjuring pretty illusions as a stand in for actually dealing with shit, doesn’t solve anything. It’s life lived by proxy and the solutions it provides work only for imaginary people on the TV screen and are toxic to actual flesh. The observation Lee Cabot (the beautiful stranger Don shares a flight with midway through Time Zones) makes about us all being hoodwinked by Madison avenue might seem obvious to the long term fan, but maybe this is the perfect moment to restate the point: Don has become addicted to a drug he engineered and it is only by going cold turkey and employing all that wonderful imagination to find a way out of his hole that he stands a chance of creating a real life which in an any way measures up.
Now, at the beginning of the season, I want to talk about his chances.
Join us tomozz for more….