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?


aka Victoria Lucas said...

This is such a more interesting concept than "oh, the agency's getting behind the times and can't keep up." The men in charge really are never in charge––though they treat women like shit, everything in their livelihood depends on them.

Charley McLean said...

Oh, I felt like I made that point in my original post. The women really do control this world, indirectly or not. The men may be the head, but it is the women that swivel the head. Indeed, they are the neck.