Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Trouble With 'Mad Men' - For A Certain Age Group

So I watched the first three-quarters of the season premiere of the renowned Mad Men on AMC.
Not that I've been a devotee.
But after you've heard so much about the show (and you've been innundated with promos, tie-ins and hypes) it's near impossible to avoid it.
No, I don't know the back story and I haven't watched it from the beginning. Hard to believe but I'm a relative newcomer to the world of Don Draper and the men (and women) of Mad Men.
Nonetheless, here's what I've come to realize: Beyond the fact that this is a classic genre show, it's really almost clinical and it's very demographic -- every bit as obsessed with demographics as the ad world it portrays.
The show has enormous appeal for people in their 20s and 30s. And that's important because this is a group that television really needs if it is to survive.
Why this appeal? I suppose it's because young adults are now fascinated with the 1960s.
The sixties are mysterious enough to be history to them but the era isn't ancient history. It's just before their time -- old enough to be of interest but also recent enough to feel accessible. In other words, it's a time that was not so long ago that you can still feel that you can capture some sense of it -- some spark, some style, some morsel of what it was like.
And that's fine, I suppose.
But if you've actually lived through the sixties, the show is a yawn.
You lived it. You did it. You were there.
Do you really want to go back?
I don't think so.
Let's face it: November 22, 1963 really was The Day The Music Died.
From then on, everything sort of fell apart. The sixties took a crazy, sometimes ugly often violent turn. And then the lost decade followed -- the seventies; a era of dreadful architecture, bad fashion, mostly forgettable music and no real art to speak of. From 1964 onward it was like a reckless, off-the-rails binge followed by a terrible, decade-long hangover.
So, if you're 40 or under Mad Men may have a great deal of appeal for you.
Maybe even if you're 45 or 50. Maybe.
But if you're older than that, why would you want to venture back into that era? Why?
Look at it this way: When I was in my twenties the 1920s and 30s had great appeal for me. They manitained a hold on me. The Roaring Twenties. The Lost Generation. The music, the art, the literature, the avantgarde. The time between the two wars and the struggle that was The Great Depression. It was all rich with creativity and energy and meaning. It was a period inhabited by Big Personalities. And for me (when I was a young adult)it was also recent enough to be of interest while still not being something that I actually lived through.
Which means it wasn't personal.
So, because I didn't live through it, I could romanticize it.
My parents couldn't do that. They lived it. They went a bit wild like everyone else and then struggled through the Great Depression. It was manic.
They couldn't wish they'd lived through the 20s and 30s because they already did. And they still had the dings and scars to prove it.
For them the era wasn't old enough to have acquired any patina.
Likewsie, I can't romanticize the 60s now, or the 70s for that matter. That would be folly.
And by the same token, I have no desire to see that era as it was. I know what it was like. I did it. I was there. I experienced it already. Once was enough.
So, Mad Men doesn't really resonate with me.
Instead it just sits there.
And that's not enough.
Not at this point in my life, anyway.


Cliff Barnes said...

You had me until you started blasting '70s music. Blasphemy. I could listen to the '70s station on Sirius/XM all day.

Dan Cirucci said...

Your criticism is accurate, Cliff.
I suppose I shouldn't have painted with such a bad brush. But the 70s are widely considered to be an era of notoriously bad taste. Still, we'll except the music. Thanks!