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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Apr. 19, 2013/ 9 Iyar, 5773

Deep in the Shallows

By Suzanne Fields




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "Mad Men" is back with a loyal audience after a 10-month hiatus. It returned with 3.4 million viewers, its second-highest rating, and is again getting so much intellectual attention you might think it was "War and Peace."

Such literary pretentiousness veers close to satire, but it's in dead earnest, and that's the rub. It's a testament to the triumph and pomposity of pop culture that we grant soap opera such serious status.

Serious political journalists reach for a soap opera analogy to illuminate, if not explain, candidates and issues. Professors weigh in on "what it means." Walter Dellinger, a lawyer who hosts an online show with scholars and historians about the series, thinks he can make a case for the proposition that "multi-episode, multi-season serial television is the great art form of our time." (Are we that far gone?)

He's not alone. Historian Alan Brinkley says the show echoes the culture of the 1960s and "some of the greatest artists of the era," including Saul Bellow, John Updike and Edward Albee.

Serial television may be called the "novelistic medium" for the 21st century, and critics can deconstruct the meaning of this show with the lavishness they analyze great literature. But that doesn't put it up there with Dostoyevsky just yet. With such pontification in flower, we can expect Don Draper, the leading character, soon to discover, like Moliere's "Bourgeois Gentilhomme," that he's "speaking prose."

Reading lists on the Internet actually footnote the show's book references, and Matthew Weiner, the creator of "Mad Men," cleverly teases (or flatters) the viewer in this season's opener, by having Don read Dante's "Inferno" on the beach in Hawaii. Are we being asked to contemplate what punishment will be meted out to him in hell? (Since the book was recommended by his latest mistress in bed, the adulterous couple could join Francesca and Paolo in Dante's second circle.)

Even the Brits are agog over the series, perhaps patronizing their American cousins for finally having found a medium that suits our taste. James Walton, writing in the London Telegraph, discovers that the suburban town of Ossining, N.Y., where Don Draper in early episodes tucked away his family, was the home of John Cheever, and riffs how Cheever was "the Chekov of the suburbs." By such insinuation, this makes the creator of "Mad Men" our Chekov — or at least our Cheever. He also finds themes similar to those in Henry James and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But that's the trouble with all this oh-so-cool criticism. It shows off the critic rather than what's being criticized. It becomes a Rorschach test for literary pretentiousness, telling us more about ourselves and the fads we follow than the people it depicts.

While "Mad Men" is a costume drama of the 1960s, a time a lot closer to us than "Downton Abbey," it offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane for many viewers. But "The Great Gatsby" it's not. It may be fun, but fun is different than "fine." What's sad is that it's an accurate measure of what has happened to the culture — entertainment and celebrity is all.

Most of the audience for "Mad Men" is made up of the children of parents of the '60s, eager to check out their perspectives against blurred childhood recollections. They can enjoy a condescending hipness when Don Draper fails to appreciate the Beatles, or experience the superiority of hindsight that smoking, though portrayed as glamorous, wasn't healthy.

The sexual hypocrisies are palpable, and issues of race and feminism seem positively fossilized. Viewers can have fun playing "Gotcha," looking for anachronisms such as Don watching a nighttime NFL game in 1964, though prime-time weeknight pro football didn't come on the tube until 1970.

"Mad Men" lacks the emotional depth or moral insights of a good novel (or even a mediocre one). It wallows deep in the shallows, jumping around haphazardly, offering just enough information to fill in the numbers. The dialogue is unintentionally ironic when it sounds like advertising copy, and the characters are as flat as a television screen. Reviewing an episode is a little like reviewing an unfinished book.

It also uses the cheap tricks of soap opera, what Daniel Mendelsohn in The New York Review of Books says is "simultaneously contemptuous and pandering," allowing the audience to feel superior at a less enlightened time, at the same time it eroticizes and titillates through the dramatic action. The leading man is both the face of the clean-cut man in the old Arrow shirt ad and the actor whose trousers are so tight that he was cautioned to be sure to wear underwear to make it "family friendly." The show is not soft porn, but it's not profound, either.

Children who grew up in the 1960s think the historical details of "Mad Men" let them imagine what their parents were like. Uh-oh. Surely we weren't really like that.

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