"Mad Men" and/as Teleparody
by David Lavery — Middle Tennessee State University
April 24, 2009 – 00:10
Teleparody: Predicting/Preventing the TV Discourse of Tomorrow (2002), a book I co-edited a few years back with Jill Hague, explored the many ways in which television itself and the way we talk about the medium are often indistinguishable from parody, even when parody is not intended.
AMC’s Mad Men (2007- ), a series which its creator has characterized as a kind of "time machine," was back then the "TV Discourse of Tomorrow," although it takes us back to the 1960s, and yet it, too, raises similar questions about the function and meaning of parody. When Saturday Night Live aired this parody of the series when Mad Men’s pitchman poet Don Draper—aka Jon Hamm—guest hosted in October of 2008, Don’s brilliant, moving, and ridiculous ad ode to the Hula Hoop bore an uncanny resemblance to his oration on the behalf of the Kodak Carousel in "The Wheel," the Season One finale.
Don moved me to tears with his extended metaphor on the behalf of the Carousel the first few times I watched it. Now I read the SNL parody back into the parodied. The poetry is diminished; my crying is threatened by laughter; pathos meets bathos. The "felt change of consciousness" which Owen Barfield once identified as the guiding presence of our experience of art is now harder to feel.
Would this sea-change have been possible if the parodiable wasn’t there to begin with? Why is Mad Men so easily parodied?
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