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V. Illych L.
Apr 11, 2008

ASK ME ABOUT LUMBER



it helps that ken's not supposed to be some transcendent genius, just good enough to get reliably published. it's a lot easier to write a paragraph or two of solid prose and some interesting plots than it is to portray a genuine bigshot author. ken cosgrove writes at a the level of a thousand people of his generation, and that's possible to credibly reproduce. contrast this with e.g. house of cards' overwrought nonsense or californication's frankly embarassing attempts at literarity

in general, mad men is really good at portraying people who are competent at creative pursuits. you really do buy don draper as being very good at his job because you get to see his enthralling presentations and some ideas which are obviously great. my favourite example of this is the hilton pitch, which is obviously excellent - but it's not what conrad wanted. conrad doesn't just want a brilliant ad campaign to get americans to go abroad, he wants the world to look to america as the great leading country - he wants the moon. if they hadn't managed to make a really good pitch for hilton, conrad's rejection wouldn't have been anywhere near as impactful.

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V. Illych L.
Apr 11, 2008

ASK ME ABOUT LUMBER



emile is a man of a different society who's in an increasingly doomed relationship with a woman who shares none of his interests any longer. there are plenty of these couples: they fall for each others' good qualities when they meet, establish a family quickly, then when the kids have grown up they realise that they don't actually really like each other and their foibles etc have been suppressed through the common project of the family and so allowed free reign.

they both seem to have grown up at least well-off, and while emile has the intellectual self-doubt that a lot of academics have he is also likely to be significantly poorer than almost everyone he meets outside of academia. couple this with a bit of a melancholic streak and sincerely held political beliefs and it hardens into a visceral contempt/envy for wealth and comfort, and since all our main characters are wealthy and comfortable people emile becomes a definite antagonist. his wife, meanwhile, has a completely different attitude: she doesn't understand why he's sensitive about this sort of thing and just wants to have fun; whatever youthful radicalism she once had has almost certainly faded instead of been reinforced by the times.

emile occupies the same breadwinner role as a lot of the other men in the series, but he's not as good at that role as the people with whom he compares himself. this leads to contempt from his wife, which he cannot accept on several levels, and which leads to further estrangement from her. the relationship has been dead on its feet for many years; probably the last time they could've meaningfully changed anything would likely have been while the kids were still young. for all this, he does love his daughter and he's much more honest than most of the characters in the show. he allows himself to laugh at getting played by pete, and he says what he does to megan not to be cruel (unlike almost everyone else in the show) but because he thinks it's a truth she needs to hear.

of course he has his tawdry and undignified sides, but this is mad men and they're fairly well justified for how little time he's on screen; he has this affair with his grad student because his marriage hasn't been supportive for years, the marriage is so toxic both because of his own failure to meet the expectations he has of himself but also because he and his wife have developed very different values over the years, he has these little petty lashings out at wealth and beauty (the ink on the carpet is a clear and somewhat pathetic sign of his valuing learning over wealth, which he sort of has to do), but in the end he's just a very different character who wandered into this weird, very WASP-y advertising world. i don't think he's an ineffective man, he's just not in his element here.

V. Illych L.
Apr 11, 2008

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i think you're being a little uncharitable regarding don's note that he doesn't want megan to end up like betty - i interpreted that very much as don recognising on some level that the degree of inequality in his relationship with betty was not good and a mistake, though of course he doesn't have the vocabulary to express that. don's trying very hard to be a better husband and hoping that he can do it, and don't trying and failing to be a less hosed up guy is one of the humanising points of the series imo: he has regressions and he makes huge mistakes, but he does try to improve and it seems sincere

this is also why i don't buy the "draper's a villain" line - he's not a particularly good person, but he's not sadistic in the way the more odious characters are and he really does try. he's just not especially good at being good, neither naturally (he's self-centered and insecure by temperament) nor by, well, anything at all in his background

V. Illych L.
Apr 11, 2008

ASK ME ABOUT LUMBER



i agree with the above: don's idea being good but still clearly inferior is some real skill on the part of the people writing the show, imo.

it's also interesting, in a sense: don needs the win, so he arranges things so that he can get it. michael doesn't see it that way; to him, don's cheated. don clearly gets this and would feel something similar in michael's shoes, but michael is too weird to just let it lie and escalates what is honestly a fairly minor snub into a completely devastating confrontation. season 1 don would probably try to get him sacked over this, but here he fires back with an extremely hurtful comment and goes back to feel miserable over having cheated. everyone loses, but not very much. yay, character growth!

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