“…But that’s such a famous campaign written by such a distinctive person that I would never do that.” – Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men
ANYONE WHO writes about culture and some who don’t are chiming in on the finale of Mad Men. That really says it all, so whether Don Draper dropped his newfound ommmmmm to travel back to New York City to create the iconic Coke commercial that was actually produced by McCann-Erickson is immaterial. Except that nothing about Matthew Weiner’s historic television show is done off-handedly.
As Don said himself, “I’m retired,” but you can take the ad company out of the ad man. You just can’t take the ad mind out of the man who represented and created the “feminine mystique” and everything that was American before Gloria Steinem hit.
Jon Hamm has weighed in on the show’s ending, with an interview reminding everyone about reality. That life moves on and so do others in your absence.
Maybe I come at this differently because I was one of the many, many women who walked into and out of great companies like Y&R, Young and Rubicam, where I had innumerable call-backs, Grey Advertising, who hired me many times, and many others, auditioning to be pitch girls for these Madison Avenue boys. Playing the daughter in a Massengill Douche commercial was huge for me. Commercials, national and regional, are good things to have when you’re trying to make a buck and I was lucky to have a face of the girl next door. I related to this show in so many ways, partly because I auditioned for “Don Draper” for years.
Coming of age in the era is something else, especially when you take the same journey as Don Draper, played through Jon Hamm, even if I did so years later. I went to New York, then meandered across America to land in Los Angeles. It wasn’t the 70s for me, but the 80s, however, how California can change you is anything but lost on me.
So, when it came to the ending last night… Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Betty Draper‘s beginning demise, with January Jones finally breaking out, as she’s hit by cancer hit me like a ton of bricks. I watched the same thing happen in my house and so did many others. Details will only depress you, but there is nothing more wasteful than seeing a gorgeous woman with her life ahead of her destroyed by an addiction that was perpetrated by the very ad men that made her home life such a splendiferous dream.
That Betty would die her own way, at least for me, is something that could only be crafted from a later generation having seen what medical science did to cancer patients early on, as I did. Betty’s reaction comes from a place of knowledge; that quality of life remaining has to mean more than spending the last of your days fighting a losing battle ugly.
“I want to keep things as normal as possible. And you not being here is part of that.” – Betty to Don
The last conversation Betty has with Don is the entire arc of Don Draper’s character in this show.
It’s the impetus under which Don hugs the man who is describing products like he’s one of them that never gets chosen.
However, the real shift in the final episodes is the fading of men and the rise of women.
Of course Joan, who has been catnip for men all of her life, will walk away from all of them and start her own production company, Holloway- Harris. It’s sheer poetry that believing she needs two names to make her business sound important she uses her maiden and married names to get the job done. She doesn’t need anyone else at this point and revels in this fact, because like the women who came through the 1970s, we all were looking for something of our own.
Every scene with Peggy and Stan I kept wondering, what’s stopping them from giving it a try? Today office romance is where many find a mate, so it’s absolutely fitting that right under her workaholic face Peggy finds her man. The chemistry was always there, what it took was the man leaning in, just like my husband did when he wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’s not like a feminist career woman is going to see what’s in front of her face.
All along the last episodes, the men faded.
Yes, Roger found his match in the mother of Don’s ex-wife. After all the babes it took a bitch to tame the wanderer. Coming to terms with his own mortality, including his son with Joan, which was rarely spoken of before, Roger whisks off to Paris with a woman who’s stronger than he is weak.
Pete Campbell, well, he knows he can’t go back, but he can whisk his ex-wife off, especially when you can finally deliver to the woman who has everything something her father can’t. A Lear jet and the Midwest dreams of America, which are just beginning to dwindle.
So, that leaves us with Don Draper. Finding himself on the cliffs of Monterey, California, or parts nearby, a place I consider one of the most magical in America, maybe on planet Earth.
In ommmmmm, as I’ve explained before, there is an opening, if you choose to let everything go. It’s inside yourself, of course, where the very kernel of creativity is found. Letting it all hang out, as Don clearly has finally done, even going by Dick at this point, an epiphany rises.
It’s that last conversation with Peggy, where she asks him, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?”
In the way I see Mad Men, the answer to that question from Don is emphatically, “No.”
After all, the 1960s are gone and with it the power of men over women.
As Pete Campbell says, Peggy will be an art director by the 1980s.
There’s no reason, in my conclusion of this epic series, that Don Draper doesn’t drop a dime in the pay phone at the retreat and replay everything back to Peggy as he envisioned it in that moment before he cracked a smile. Peggy, with Stan behind her, helping McCann-Erickson produce the most iconic television commercial of the era, which they actually did.
As someone who’s made these journeys, not only physically from New York City to California, but spiritually and artistically, you just don’t go back.