Matthew Weiner Discusses Mad Men Ending

Major spoilers for Mad Men are involved in this post.

Matthew Weiner Discusses Mad Men Ending

Mattew Weiner has done a discussion about the last season of Mad Men and the final images displayed.  The whole article is worth reading if you are a fan of the show.  He claims that the last image of the show was not meant in any kind of cynical way:

“My take is that, the next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is,” Mr. Hamm said. “And who he is, is an advertising man.”

Mr. Weiner didn’t touch on how the Coke ad did or did not fit within the show’s narrative. But he defended the ad, with its notably multicultural cast, against those who would now dismiss it as “corny.”

Now, I definitely interpreted it that way.  However, Weiner is defending the ad in it’s place and time and not ours.  He talks about how five years before the ad you couldn’t even have black and white people in the same ad.

In one way, if the creator of something says something is so and so, you could say I was wrong.  However, I think it is a credit to Weiner that the end was interpretive enough, so well put together, that its interpretations are more varied than just what he was thinking when he put it together.

I remember one time I wrote a song and someone misheard the lyrics.  What they heard was even more compelling than what I wrote.  Often when writing or doing anything, one goes on intuition more than reason.  David Lynch is a director that is really interesting to watch work, as he operates almost wholly on intuition.  Some of the things I have written that I’m most proud of, I don’t even know what they are till later on.  Also, there is the argument that once created, something is the audience’s as much as it is the creator’s.

A friend of mine said that the ending also hinted at the artistic process.  That so much goes into one song, or scene, etc.  Nothing is created in a vacuum.  It took Draper his whole life to arrive at a place where he could create that commercial.  I think this is another brilliant way to interpret the ending.

I remember reading another interview with Weiner where he talked about how there was positive and negative advertising.  There was advertising that tried to make what was being sold look appealing.  Then there was negative ads that tried to make people feel like they would be losers if they didn’t by the product.  Think of all of the male deodorant commercials that basically say if you don’t buy this you will never get laid.  Draper was someone that believed in creating positive ads.

Now I still stick with my original interpretation of the ending.  Even though the show takes place in the past, the viewing takes place in the now.  Advertising has consumed and co-opted so many things by this point that it is hard not to be cynical about ads.  In my mind tying peace and love to a Coke diminishes peace and love.  If you take my friend’s interpretation about art, art is at least trying to communicate something of value.  It is trying to represent the real experience as best it can so that other people can understand it.  It is trying to build communication.  Meanwhile, commercials end goal are to get you to buy a product.  In the case of the Coke ad, peace and love are being used to try to get you to buy something that causes tooth decay and childhood obesity.  It is turning peace and love into nothing more than a marketable commodity.

There is so much more I could say about the brilliant, beautiful, and somewhat disturbing, to me at least, ending of this great show.  But the whole thing about such a great ending is that you don’t have to decide.  You don’t have to tell yourself that this ending represents one interpretation and that nothing else is correct.  The ending raises more questions, connects with more ideas, than Weiner, my friend, or myself have about it.  The ending is art and that is a beautiful thing.  It is not a final destination, but a river than can lead you to so many different places.  Cast off from shore and explore this world and others on your own.

The Brilliance of Mad Men’s Ending

Spoiler alert for the finale of Mad Men

The more I think about the ending of Mad Men, the more I think it was brilliant.  I want to try to ignore doing any kind of traditional recap, as there are plenty of those online.  I want to talk more about how things ended with the shows main character, Don Draper.  His story line wrapped up in a way that was perfect in that in some way it gave people what they wanted, but was also disturbing and critical as well.  It somehow managed to be happy and depressing at the same time.

Don Draper finally seems to find a glimmer of inner peace while meditating.  He says, “ohm”, and you hear the sound of a bell.  The next and final cut is to a famous Coke ad where people sing about harmony and how Coke is the “real thing”.  (This is a real ad.)  I don’t see any other way to read this than Don created the ad from his life experiences as he had all series.

In one sense those fans that want Don Draper to find a happy ending got one.  He will essentially be alright.  Stan said earlier that Don was a “survivor” and Peggy replied that he was always right.  You get a sense that whatever happens to Don Draper after the credits role, he will survive and be essentially alright.

However, as a character, even if he does or doesn’t find lasting inner peace, he is basically ending up at the same place he began, turning his life experiences into advertisements.  He is commodifying the experiences of life.

What is disturbing is that this is essentially what advertising does.  It takes real experiences, strips them of their meaning, and uses them to sell people things that they don’t need, some of which are even harmful.  Don’s inner peace was used to sell Coke, a product we know to cause tooth decay and child obesity.  As my brother said, “Draper took all of the pain, all of the things he learned, all of the idealism of the 60’s, and turned it into something banal.”

So much of our society commodifies and cheapens things that should be sacred.  In free market capitalism the market takes everything in life and reduces it into something that can be sold on the market.  Peace, love, and happiness become just mere commodities, stripped of any higher purpose.

The brilliance of the ending is that Mather Weiner, Mad Men’s creator, was able to give Draper an ending that was both happy and disturbing, and that also commented on his character, his TV show, and the real world all at once.  That’s quite a feat to go out on.

Chuck D and the Personal Truth Made Universal

chuckdblackfist

This morning I was listening to the song Give We the Pride featuring Mavis Staples off of Chuck D’s The Black in Man album.  The song is largely about black pride and an overall frustration with modern materialism, music, and media.  It is an incredibly powerful piece of music.  Now I am white enough, being partially of Irish heritage, that I often resemble a ghost after a long winter.  Some of you might wonder how Chuck D’s message could resonate with me.  Here is one verse:

It it me, grown folks acting like kids on TV
While they’re trying to be what they see
Sitting around sipping on BE uh
No difference than MT uh
Reality trying to murder me
(There is a line right here I can’t grasp after multiple listens)
Tired of social media asking me
Chuck D what you think about this policy?
Wanna do something for the people and make us equal
Instead of being creatures with human features
You fail to plan, you plan to fail
2014 three million folks in jail
11 year olds can’t relate to champaign
Silent N-words in marketing campaigns
Believing everything celebrities saying
Now 40 year olds be pounded by the fame

By speaking his truth, as any great artist does, Chuck D touches upon universal truths that should resonate with any thinking person.  You not only can understand that he is evoking a reality that is too real for many, but it relates to the bigger overall problems in our culture.  The line about, “Silent N-words in marketing campaigns”, especially struck me.  There is truth to this statement as so many commercials deal in one dimensional stereotypes.  You not only see the cartoonish black male, but the inept father, the controlling mother, etc.

Also, how many marketing campaigns are based upon any tactic that will make people feel inferior so that they buy their product?  Every time I am around a TV I notice that commercials are telling guys, for instance, that they will never get laid if they don’t buy so-and-so.  Girls will never be thought of as beautiful if they don’t buy so-and-so.  This stuff is designed to play upon peoples insecurities so they will develop needs and wants for things that they don’t need or even want.

Chuck D is laying it down.  By reflecting on what he sees he is providing a sliver of truth that opens the door and allows us to view the larger problem.

The Balls of Advertisers

The balls that advertisers have:  Nothing says Australian Cricket like Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In Brisbane reading with the TV on in the background.  A KFC commercial has come on twice that shows a family from the 70’s to the present eating fried chicken while watching cricket.   One is supposed to take away the idea that KFC is as much a part of Australian tradition as cricket.  Think about it, shitty fried chicken from an American company that originated in Kentucky is boldly claiming to be part of cultural tradition in a foreign country.  It is delivered with total sincerity.  The commercial is meant to pull on the heart strings.  When this kind of distortion,  or bold faced lie, can be delivered without blinking an eye during casual viewing, is it any wonder that companies and their politicians can get away with murder? 

It’s Only Tuesday I’m Afraid

The poets have been castrated
And now they just play for scraps
Meanwhile the golden child
Gets blown while going in the black

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

The painters have all been hired
By the advertising agencies
To paint Vincent van Goghs
For the drug companies

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

Some clown just ate a spider
Now they’re throwing him a parade
Some slut is crying for the camera
While swimming naked in champagne

It’s grotesque and it’s insulting
It’s decadent and inhumane
But it’s only Tuesday
I’m afraid

Having fun in Boise, Idaho 8/19/2014

Tour Poetry Day 5: Imperfect Cities

In La Rochelle, France
I once walked the crooked streets
In awe of its civilized beauty
Before long I noticed
There were no advertisements
Except the painted store signs
Crafted with careful elegance
By local artisans
Today, as I drove through the mountains
Of western Colorado
Where every bend in the road
Left you awestruck with wonder
It felt good to be free
Of the oppressive billboards
And the garish lighted signs
That fill so many of our cities
If only we had more self respect
We would tear down these aesthetic horrors
This blight upon our culture
And then maybe, even our imperfect cities
Built by the fallen hands of man
Might also stand a chance
Of wonder

Steamboat,  Colorado 8/3/14

Advertising and Children

www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/03/why-we-cant-stop-liking-the-brands-we-loved-as-kids/284393/

The above is an interesting article on how advertising influences kids.  It was written by Derek Thompson for The Atlantic.  I think with Netflix, DVD’s, and video games, that now is a better time than ever to keep TV advertising out of the home.  Plus as George Carlin has pointed out, they can always just go out in the yard and dig a hole with a stick!