Happily ever after; why the dogs were humping in Mad Men

Humping dogs from Mad Men

Humping dogs from Mad Men

A while back, a friend of mine asked me what I thought was the purpose of life. “To ensure the survival of our species, nothing greater,” was my reply. To him, that sounded incredibly sad but for me, it is incredible pragmatic with a sense of ultimate clarity of purpose.

I still believe that and believe also that it can be expanded out to cover the whole condition of the human animal with this simple formula:

Step one; create.
Step two; develop and nurture.
Step three; release, let go.
Step four; repeat.

Whether we’re talking about raising kids, writing a book, building a bridge, mentoring a protégé, composing a song or any of the thousands of things human beings do, the formula remains the same. Create-nurture-release-repeat.

Where people get hung up (yeah, pun intended) is when they become scared of step four or hang too long onto step two and never pull the trigger on step three or never even start step one. Throughout season five of Mad Men, this has been the theme; the journey each character takes through each of these steps on the way to letting go and starting over, to sharing their creation with the rest of the species to ensure its survival. Some made it through the formula while others got caught up in the tentacles of one or more of the steps.

When Matt Weiner puts a two-second scene of two dogs humping out on the sidewalk, you bet we’re gonna notice. You bet we’re gonna write about it. While some have called the scene “completely unnecessary” and put in as a “cheap attempt at soliciting a reaction,” I disagree. Two seconds of airtime is just way too expensive to just “throw in a couple of dogs shagging each other” for the heck of it. I say the scene sums up the meaning of the season perfectly.

Hear me out.

It would be easy to say the humping dogs symbolizes that the old Don is back, but that is missing the mark. I think the dogs humping in the parking lot symbolizes nature’s way of forcing a species to start something that they will need to nurture (nurse), let go and repeat. Dogs do this in a care-free, almost matter-of-fact way. To a pair of dogs in a parking lot, the act of copulation is neutral; it has no moral value. Its only purpose is to ensure the survival of their species.

The activity will eventually result in a litter, which will be nursed along until the pups are ready to be nudged out on their own. The mother’s job will be over and they will go forth and be “successful” on their own without her. She will then repeat the process with another litter.

This is Don’s role. When he was younger, creating, nurturing, releasing and starting over was easy, especially when it was only him. But these days, the formula includes other people. As he is aging, he is also forming attachments that are harder and harder for him to let go. But in true Don Draper stoic style, he finds a way and when he does, he closes the door and moves on even as he cares deeply and honestly about everyone with whom he gets involved.

When Don watches Megan’s screen test, he is not going through the act of falling in love with her all over again or realizing she really is perfect for the part. What he is doing is realizing he has fallen in love with the two-dimension, celluloid version of Megan. The “real Megan” is far more complicated, far more damaged than stylized, acting Megan. In that moment of clarity, Don realized he had hung on to her too long. He realizes that for her to grow, he needed to let her go on without him. That light-headedness was not the smoke in the room, or the sadness in his heart, but relief. He does the right thing even if nobody will ever know he did, even if the right thing looked to the outside world like two dogs humping in a parking lot.

Real life has no happily ever after. It just has a never-ending cycle. But it is it’s purpose.

Don Draper was a poser and so can you. The myth of graphic design

Mad Men

My editor wrote this little thing this morning. Since I’m also a Mad Men fan, I asked him if I could repost it here for you. He reluctantly agreed, but only if I give him full credit. He is such a stickler for the rules. Here is his post as it appears on his blog.

There is a current narrative going on within the creative community lamenting the demise of professional graphic artists. One such narrative appears on my favorite design blog, Before&After Magazine.

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Puppies of Mad Men

Midge drawing puppies for Gramdmother's Day in Mad Men

Midge drawing puppies for Gramdmother's Day in Mad Men

I was transferring some rather large iTunes libraries and one of those little buggers is bound to start playing in the background. Season one, Episode One Smoke Gets in your Eyes was the one that started playing.

By the time I figured out it was playing, it made it all the way to the scene where Don knocks on Midge’s door and she shows him the greeting card she is drawing for Grandmother’s Day. It was a puppy! I missed that scene.

Anyway, it got me thinking that if Mad Men started off with a puppy, there has got to be a ton of other puppy references throughout. So I am going to find them and add them here.

If anyone wants to join in on the project, just holler below in the comments and let me know which episodes you will be watching. Post the time dogs or puppies are referenced and we should have a list in short order.

Hey, it’s research!

Season 1, Episode 1, 3:42

Privacy and autonomy

Betty and Don Draper sitting in a car
Before I delve into my post, I need to share the series of events that lead me to my thinking about privacy and its relationship to autonomy. Bear with me; it is a badly-paved and less travelled road*.

Watch that pothole….

A couple weeks ago, I read an article that appeared in the New York Times that said “privacy and autonomy… are central to male gender identity.” Later that evening as I was watching an episode of Mad Men (Season two, episode three, The Benefactor,) with the article still bouncing around inside my head, I saw this one itty-bitty little look in Don Draper’s face that I had missed the first time around. This one little scene gave me all the clarity I needed about the real issue of privacy. (You’ll have to watch episodes much later for the plot line. The look was also foreshadow.)

Betty and Don had just finished dinner with Bobby and Jimmy Barrett where Jimmy had to apologize to the Schillings for some bad behavior earlier. During the ride home, Betty gets all teary-eyed at the thought of her and Don “working” together as part of a team.

In the Betty and Don Draper relationship, this is when things started falling apart. When Betty decided that she was part of his team, she threatened his autonomy. She threatened a carefully-crafted and guarded identity that he alone owned and controlled. Don lived by the Hobo Code. The first rule of the code is to “decide your own life…” Betty being a part of the “Ad-Man Don Draper” meant he could no longer manage that life — that identity — with autonomy.

I’m a big fan of Mad Men, not so much the story but the cultural layers the series examines, uncovers and winks back at the viewer with that “I know you saw that, but it never happened” look. Privacy is a huge theme woven throughout the story.

When we talk abut privacy, I think we are really talking about autonomy. Ultimately it does not matter a whole lot what others know about us but it would be naïve to believe that what others know about us would not be used against us. We see this popping up with abandon all over in socially acceptable behavior.

It’s now ok to take embarrassing photos of your friends sleeping in an airport and share with everyone on Facebook.

It’s now ok to blab to the media about intimate details of a celebrity relationship gone bad.

It’s now ok for a publisher to offer a talented writer less than her work is worth because she writes on her blog about being impoverished.

It’s now ok to rescind a job offer because a candidate’s online friends are not conformists.

Privacy is not the thing we should be guarding; autonomy is. Privacy is the hard shell that guards the real plumb center of autonomy. Marketers and those who seek power at all levels know it. To get people to willingly share the details of their lives and how these details interconnect with those around them was pure genius. Evil, but still genius.

A loss of privacy ultimately leads to a loss of autonomy. The consequences of the loss of autonomy is what the Mark Zuckerbergs and his generation do not understand. While our leaders wring their hands over issues of privacy, marketers and power-seekers are already deftly filleting our autonomy.

Privacy is dead. It was necessary to kill it off so we could get at your autonomy.

How will you guard your autonomy now that the Sentry Privacy has been knocked off his post?

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

— Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

*I wonder if my blog would qualify for a road and bridge repair grant from the US Government under the Jobs Act. Hmmmmm…

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Privacy To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest – A #letsblogoff contribution

Seriously, though most of the guilty pleasures I am about to disclose below I ended up liking because I couldn’t find the remote after waking up at 3:00am with the television still on. Ok, a couple I consciously decided to watch for good reasons.

Laguna Beach

As a parent of a then teenager, I made it a point to always be knowledgeable on the leading cultural shows of the time, no matter how stupid they were. LB was quite painful to watch at first, but after a few candid, off the cuff conversations with my daughter, I discovered teens really do talk this this. And really do give each other bad advice like they did on the show. It was hard not getting hooked on the story.

Clarissa Explains it All

Again, kids, but this show was actually really well-written. I like when characters are given a brain.

Gilmore Girls

What red-blooded American dog can resist a smart woman who can do repartee like Lauren Graham? Seriously. Need I really say more.

Glee

Shut up. Don’t judge.

Mad Men

Not really sure this qualifies as a “guilty pleasure” but I’m throwing it in anyway. Again, who can resist a smart woman (Peggy)?

Slap Chop Informercial; Rap Version

Almost forgot to add Vince. Got to watch it all the way through; the old woman at the end is hilarious. Well, kinda funny. Ok, goofy. They only ran this a few times on tv, but we’ve got Internet so it is the version I like better.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, Guilty pleasures: what’s your favorite show on television? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Who are you and what do you want

While everyone seems to be writing a “Best of 2010” and “What to look forward to in 2011” post of some sort, I’m just going to ignore all that entirely and keep rolling forward on other stuff. The year-end, year-beginning is an artificial tear in time anyway and by the second week in January, New Year’s resolutions and predictions will be a distant memory of auld lang syne. I like more sustainable posts.

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