Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mad Men Mid season finale -2014

Mad Men’s mid-season finale was set in the summer of 1969. But the mini skirts, lamb chop sideburns, and overly generous use of the color orange didn’t fool me one bit. Matthew Weiner placed the theme of the episode squarely in 2014. Waterloo, the title of the episode, depicted our current downfall:  fractured families stuck in front of screens yearning for real connection.

Peggy’s pitch for Burger Chef: “a clean restaurant where there are no television screens, or telephones, where family’s can sit together have a meal without interuption.” The promise of the story told about this restaurant is “Family Supper at Burger Chef.”

The backdrop for the ad is the landing of the first man on the moon.  While  Neil Armstrong takes his first steps, explained to us step by step by Walter Cronkite, “families” are sitting  together watching the event on TV. 

The television, not the dinner table has become the family gathering place. Connection to an image is easier and more interesting than conversation with family. The nostalgia for the day gone by when families spoke and ate together is the emotional heart tug that wins Peggy the account for SC&P.

Waterloo also shows an alterntative definition of family where mom, dad and two kids are the minority coupling.  Smoking-like-a-chimney-bite-the-heads off-your-children Betty is the only person watching the moonshot with a traditional nuclear family. Peggy, Pete, Harry and Don, the work family, watch together. Later Don gives us the portent of the things to come when he watched alone yet with his children via technology-a telephone call. Roger, after sleeping with every love-bead wearing human in a 12 block radius, watches where the real love lies, with his ex- wife; grandson and son-in-law.  

Shoe fetish Bert Cooper about to do a shoeless tap dance  out of life comes to the ends of his days watching with his nurse/housekeeper. It would have been nice to see Benson on a coach watching with the partner we hope he finds.  

“We all watched together,” 

Peggy evokes a tear of nostalgia, “we are starved for that connection.”

Hello 2014. We get it Matthew Weiner. Forty-five years later we are still sitting in front of screens, connected to great and beyond belief stupid moments. We remain starved for connection. Watching life is not living life.

And in the hours we have spent in front of screens we haven’t learned how to make families or our lives any better than Don and Megan; divorce rates are up; or better than Betty and Sally; parenting has gone from freezers to helicopters. Families, whatever form they take, are eating vegan burgers on gluten free rolls while scrolling individual screens. The workplace is the same jungle where three martini lunches have been replaced with regular doses of xanax and the stand-by valium, where the computer and money still reign supreme. 
Today's Sterling Watching with his "family"

Can a generation that spends its time in front of screens eating take out-warmed in the microwave, watching screens in solitary confinement, learn that “the best things in life are free?”