Thursday, August 6, 2009

MAD MEN Titles: If some is good, more is better!

In a recent post, I discussed the female significance in MAD MEN using the pilot episode ("Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"). I'd like to take another look at the opening title sequence, examining it for additional grist for my MAD MEN mill. It is entrancing, perhaps too much so in that I find myself staring at the falling 2D man instead what he falls from, around, and into.

In the beginning, he has arrived at his office, set down his briefcase, and then his office crumbles around him, until he finally begins his descent. Descent into what? Into advertising of course (wait, isn't that what his office is anyway? talk about spinning your wheels.). But what are these advertisements?

They look like advertisements, but mostly they look like smiling women and butterscotch pudding legs. Certainly, there is the occasional image of a lowball glass containing the contents of (hopefully) an Old Fashioned (a cocktail which this blog vehemently endorses). The unknown man falls around and ultimately straight into advertisements until the final image of the man sitting comfortably in a chair or on a couch.

Let's begin in the office a place that for the moment appears stable - and why not? The office is man's escape from his wife where he fantasizes about his secretary and drinks with the boys. But as history showed us, this is not to last for women are hiding in the weeds, or at least lurking around their secretary desks. Let's not take for granted the timing of the credit sequence. Jon Hamm's name appears when everything is stable. Elizabeth Moss is next and if you pay close attention, you might notice that the office begins to crumble with the display of her name. This is not so surprising given her character's progression through the series at this point.

Then the man begins to fall into a seemingly bottomless pit of female advertisements with a few speckles of male-centric delights. I can only see this section as a comment on advertising in general and who and where it is best aimed (perhaps only in the MAD MEN period, but perhaps not). As MAD MEN tells it, men run the advertising world. As the MAD MEN title tells it, men run the advertising world, selling things to women. Graphically speaking, the man falls all the way down one woman's leg, into the lowball glass, and it appears that the a woman crossing her legs might kick the falling man.

A quick moment just before the shot of the man on the couch reveals what he has fallen into: female advertising. Seemingly, these are the people who read the advertising and for whom advertising is targeted and most successful. Does advertising play on women's emotional tendencies or is it something else? Do these mad men think that women only exist within these advertisement photos and thus subject to their linguistic and artistic manipulation?

Let's look at a simple narrative example. "Babylon" (from the first season) chronicles an account dealing with lipstick marketing. The men on the account have trouble and they enlist the female sector of the office to help. And this is their (the men) first mistake. Don't allow women a sliver of hope into thinking they can intrude on men's arena and this is exactly what they did. Sooner or later a woman was going to come along and figure out that she CAN do this job. What a thought, a woman knows how to better market a product to women? These are the consequences. The women were already lurking at their secretarial desks and now they have been let in to their world. Or is it even their world...anymore.

But at the end of this title sequence narrative - and it is indeed a narrative - where does this man end up? I think we have to assume it is the same man. We see him sitting comfortably with cigarette. So, in the end, if he has landed comfortably, what are the consequences, if any?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Defining Great Movie of the Decade?

None of this post is original. This all comes from a podcast from ESPN's The Sports Guy (Bill Simmons). He generally writes about sports, but incorporates select pop culture into his articles.

During a podcast with Chris Connelly (yea, the MTV guy!), Simmons brought up that this year - 2009 - is the last year of the decade. Think about it! Where is the 2000s retrospective! Is this the lost decade?

Anyway, Simmons asked Connelly what he thought might be the best movie of the decade with 3 helpers - excellence, watchability, and originality. I think there might be a fourth signifier: pop influence. At first, Simmons went with ALMOST FAMOUS, then began to think about THE DARK KNIGHT as a possibility. Basically, they couldn't come to an answer.

But Connelly brought up an interesting point. What if the conversations' defining media is actually television? An interesting point. THE SOPRANOS (I don't like it), THE WEST WING (I love it!), THE WIRE (never seen it), and maybe MAD MEN (I love it, but are we too close?).

Anybody have any thoughts of either? Movies or television, or if you care to weigh in on the TV versus MOVIE debate.

Review: (500) Days of Summer