Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mad Men: Season 1, Episode 4: New Amsterdam

The series credits are in a previous entry. Original Air Date—9 August 2007. IMDb synopsis: "Pete Campbell oversteps the mark when he pitches an idea for ad campaign to the head of Bethlehem Steel without telling Don Draper. Draper wants him fired but learns a lesson in corporate politics. Pete's wife wants to buy a Manhattan apartment but he has to approach his cold and distant parents for a loan. Pete's in-laws, however, are more forthcoming."

General remarks based on the first four episodes: the sex roles are so highly pronounced that from a viewpoint of a contemporary Nordic viewer they feel grotesque. They remind me of Hegel's master and slave dialectics: where there is oppression nobody is free, and the male "masters of the world" here behave like morons. Everybody is successful. Nobody is happy.

The satire of the shallow Madison Avenue lifestyle is familiar from movies by Frank Tashlin (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?), Alfred Hitchcock (North by Northwest: the Mad Men title design is a Saul Bass homage), and the Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies (Lover Come Back, its "inspiration point" for boy scouts being the place at the top of the skyscraper with the ideal view to Madison Avenue). Another relevant reference is Billy Wilder's The Apartment, although the company of the movie is in insurance, not advertising. The utter cynicism of Don Draper is familiar from The Sweet Smell of Successs.

Yet Mad Men is not a pastiche but an original work in the serious tradition of the social novel, with sociological and psychological substance.

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