It’s also worth taking a look at an interview with title designers Mark Gardner and Steve Fuller of Imaginary Forces at http://blogs.amctv.com/mad-men/2008/03/qa-title-design.php
Here they discuss the influence of Anatomy of a Murder on silhouette design, as well as the titles to Casino, which also features an extended falling man sequence designed by Saul Bass, shaped through a series of neon overlays of Las Vegas and an eventual screen fill of flames. The shared themes here, between hyper-commercialism and post-war male identity also provide a neat counterpoint to some of Mad Men’s elements.
Also check out the Imaginary Force website for some great reel work, including another great institutional cut-up montage for Dollhouse, and some interesting cityscape work for Gossip Girl and montages for Southland.
great post janet! those are interesting scene selections as well.
i agree with your foucauldian reading of the show especially since it is interesting to see how the show complicates any easy binary reading of the world of advertising at this historical moment.
it is very interesting how that great slogan of the feminist era that is just round the corner, the "personal is political" is rewritten here as the "personal is capital". here are some examples …
peggy’s rise to power (which i read somewhere corresponds to actual women’s rise in advertising during these years - though i am no expert) is enabled through this mining of the personal/intimate/domestic for the making of ads. her interventions including the first, "mark your man" lipstick campaign - always brings sentiment (that terrain of womanliness supposedly) to the forefront. thus also the airline ad with the little boy etc.
don learns the lesson well from peggy — recall how season 1 ends with him getting an idea for the carousel ad by looking through photos of his own family. it is very interesting how here again he turns the private memories into a product quite seamlessly and this enables allows him to return home and reconcile with his family.
the entry of the feminine and the intimate into public life which we might see as the great intervention of the 60s is given a very complex reading by this show as the personal enters the political domain through the channels of capital - the personal sells commodities, incites desires.
as such, it resembles for me what marx calls real (as opposed to formal) subsumption where the logic of commodities entirely penetrates all aspects of life OR perhaps what foucault calls biopolitics?
i have also been struck by how don d, as an outsider to the WASP elite culture of Madison avenue, performs a form of "intersectional" politics - allied and sympathetic towards other outsiders - women especially. it is also interesting to align his masquerade to the "double consciousness" and the "feminine mystique" under which women, people of color survived. not only does the show repeatedly, not only through don but all the other male figures show how masculinity is a difficult burden to bear (the show seems to feature multiple male hysterics), but it also aligns its hero to the coming communities –- women, people of color etc.
thanks for a provocative post,
Janet and Kim, these clips are wonderful. The parallels between Peggy and Joan are so crucial. As established in the first season, Peggy and Joan stand out in the world of Sterling Cooper. While the other women in the office cry in bathroom and indulge the men’s abusive behavior with a smile, Peggy and Joan have more agency — Joan because she knows how much she is desired, Peggy because she refuses to be defined by her desirability.
In the second season, I think something of a reversal happens. Joan, who had been dismissive of Peggy’s aspirations in the first season, realizes she has some of her own. As the first part of this clip shows so well, Joan’s desirability can work well with her intellect; the client likes both what she says and how she says it, and the hurt that washes over her face when Harry introduces her to Dan affirms just how important to Joan it was to be not only seen but listened to. In contrast, Peggy actually does advance professionally at Sterling Cooper and is rewarded for her ambition and even assertiveness. It is her personal life that is a mess, from the sister who judges and resents her to this priest who treats her like a little girl, in some ways undermining the success and respect that she has begun to earn from her colleagues. Importantly, as the exchange she has with Pete in the final episode makes so clear, it is a success predicated on rejecting the image of womanhood that she peddles as a copy writer at Sterling Cooper.
Thanks to Gary for his excellent post and to the respondents; I’d simply follow up Jeremy’s observation and point out that, when the sequence concludes, all the trappings of professional power and status have disappeared, and our figure stares at a blank slate (except for the title). So, although the spatial trajectory is downward, the 30 seconds also manage to convey a narrative arc in which the signifiers of identity will be stripped away, an archetypal fall that seems borne out by Don’s travails in the second season. The screen is ready for new projection.
This is a particularly interesting post as we have been discussing the effect of 9/11 on the opening credits quite recently. As Allison says, this is quite a chilling piece of film. Especially as, since the original live footage of the tragedy, the falling people have been edited out of most media reporting.
The credit sequence (for us) also has a strong sense of a man dizzily falling past advertising images of women’s products and monstrously sized women. It maybe that the falling (mad) man has created a monster and as the women get stronger the men seem weaker and more confused than ever.
Gary’s post has certainly given us much to think about.
Thank you for this wonderful post, Gary! This seems so fitting to start out a week on Mad Men by examining the opening credits. I find the juxtaposition of the "Falling Man" photo and the sequence to be chilling. I am reminded of another controversial 9/11 text, Neil LaBute’s "The Mercy Seat," which tells the story of a man who worked in the WTC but had skipped on 9/11 to be with his mistress. He considers whether to let the world think he died in order to create a new life for himself, much like Dick Whitman actually takes advantage of the death of Donald Draper to reinvent himself in Mad Men.
I am intrigued at the characterization of Mad Men as a retort to celebratory depictions of the post-WWII "greatest generation"; I had thought of Don and much of Mad Men’s cast as caught as caught in between the "greatest generation" of and the youth and social movements of the 1960s — too young to be part of the former, potentially too old to participate in the latter. They note that Kennedy doesn’t wear a hat and that DDB’s Volkswagen ads are innovative, yet they don’t know how to respond. They recognize that they’re unsatisfied with the model of American life bequeathed by postwar prosperity, but most likely will not be on the vanguard to change it.
Mad Men’s opening credits, as Gary points out, are a perfect evocation of the late 1950s/early 1960s, right down to the furniture and the fluorescent lights (see my post on Wednesday regarding those oppressive rectangles). And the connections to Bass/Hitchcock are undeniable. Indeed, Cary Grant’s character in North By Northwest would’ve traveled in the same circles as Don Draper.
I have a slightly different take on the deconstruction of the iconography of the 1960 executive office. I would suggest that it does not "implode" or "melt" so much as it falls, too.
The blinds, the lights, the desk… Everything tumbles down. The silhouetted man (the "man in the gray flannel suit"?) then follows them.
Redbooking. Just gotta share this vaguely relevant bit from Tim Farrington’s A Hell of Mercy:
"Unprepared to abide in stillness and sacred silence, and still whacked-out by social and sensory deprivation and the asceticism of macaroni and cheese, I …went through a phase of hearing voices, including one that identified itself as Jesus as an old man. I’d been reading Ferlinghetti’s marvelous poem "Christ Climbed Down" and was primed for the notion of a renunciation of the crucifixion—wishful thinking, I see now, but certainly worth a try. A cross is a bad career move, spiritually speaking. It’s agony, not edification—involuntary, humiliating, and ultimately ruinous—and anyone with any sense of choice in the matter will dodge it if they can."
Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4
There is also, of course, the practice of play itself, the developing and sharpening of skill through repetition and articulation. It’s a practice every bit as bound by the comforting geometry of enclosure as Peter of Celle’s asceticism, with screen, couch, ergonomic controller, and unyielding game rules replacing the four walls of the monastic cell. These too produce a “modest silence,” albeit after play is done (i.e., the post-game period of surreality during which the player slowly returns to the sights, sounds, and rhythms of everyday life). Here most certainly is where a great deal of “rational inquiry and making new knowledge” takes place—in-game performance is analyzed, strategies are concocted, and ludic and narratological connections forged and broken. Gaming as prayer, work, meditation, and “the pursuit of truth”—seems about right.