The Wisdom of Mad Men

I’m behind the curve. I just started watching Mad Men a couple of weeks ago, and I’m into Season 5 of the seven seasons. Mad Men premiered in 2007. I was busy with a toddler in 2007 and didn’t spend a lot of time watching TV. The series ended in 2015. After watching the first two seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel recently, I was in the mood for a show set in the early 60s, and someone recommended Mad Men.

If you have never seen it but think you would like to, purchase it on Amazon Prime Video. It’s about men and women working at an advertising agency in New York in the 1960s…their professional and private lives, but it is centered around the life of Don Draper, the creative genius behind the agency’s most successful ad campaigns.

The late 1950s/early 1960s are the era when television was becoming influential, and the general public was just starting to enjoy air travel. We were beginning space exploration, and everyone was looking to the future. The cold war was in full swing…and Vietnam was real. Lots of it reminds me of my own childhood in the late 60s and early 70s.

And it is good…really good. The characters are well-written. The sets are glorious. The storylines are intriguing. And even though it is the 1960s, there are so many things happening in these people’s lives…they could be our friends, our neighbors, or even ourselves.

I love it for any number of reasons…the dashing, charismatic Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm; the storylines; the wardrobes; the incredible 1960s sets; New York City; and the wisdom…yes, the wisdom.

Since I wasn’t born until 1967, I wasn’t alive in the early 60s, but it still seems familiar. The console televisions…and when they turn them off, the screen shrinks down to a dot of light. The smoking. The beautiful ashtrays that were sometimes a freestanding piece of furniture and sometimes colorful decor. The green and orange sofa pillows. The rotary dial telephones. The wood paneling. The green kitchen appliances.  The old automobiles. The office politics. The constant day drinking. The social climbing.

But what has surprised me most is the wisdom of some of the characters. It seems Mr. Cooper, the head of the agency, is a wise, well-read and well traveled man. Many of the quotes I love can be attributed to him. Yes, I know he’s not a real person. I know the show’s writers actually write the lines I love so much, but nevertheless, I find some of them to be enriching.

And here, some of the wisdom of Mad Men:

  • “You haven’t thought this through. When you threaten someone in this manner, you should be aware of the fact that if your information is powerful enough to make them do what you want, what else can it make them do?” –Don Draper to Pete Campbell, an account executive with the agency, after Pete tried to blackmail him. I really love this one. It might just be my favorite quote from the series so far. I think this is a quote everyone should ponder…especially before they try to manipulate someone else. You want to get a reaction from me? It might not be the reaction you want. Trying to blackmail someone? They might just kill you instead of complying. I will definitely use this quote at some point in my life! I can think of some instances I should have used it in the past!
  • “Don’t waste your youth on age.” This was immediately a favorite. It is the wisdom of Mr. Cooper. One night, another partner, Mr. Sterling, has a heart attack at the office after hours, and Mr. Cooper calls in the office manager to help send telegrams to clients. She arrives at the office with an older gentleman in tow but quickly tells her companion to leave. She and Mr. Cooper send the telegrams, and as they are leaving, he imparts this bit of wisdom on her in reference to her date. I like to think he’s telling her to spend her time doing youthful things while she’s young.
  • “I know people say ‘life goes on,’ and it does, but no one tells you that’s not a good thing.”–Betty Draper, Don’s wife. This quote is from an episode in Season 1. Betty lost her mother a few months before, and her father has just introduced her to his new lady friend. Anyone who has lost someone understands this. Yes, life goes on, but there are lots of times life’s progression without our loved ones is difficult…we wish we could turn back time.
  • “One never knows how loyalty is born.” –Mr. Cooper. This is another one from the old man, and I like it. I don’t even remember to whom he was speaking or what it was about, but I liked it enough to write it down. It’s true, though. I’ve found loyal friends in the least likely places, and sometimes I’ve learned about their loyalty in the strangest ways. Sometimes we find out about a lack of loyalty in the least expected places too.
  • “The faintest ink is more powerful than the best memory.” –Paul Kinsey, quoting a Chinese Proverb to Don and Peggy in a meeting about ads for telegraphs. While memories are fantastic, proof of those memories is even better, because it solidifies them for us. It makes them permanent. I have childhood memories of being at my grandfather’s house, but when I look at pictures from the era, it backs up my memories. I have cards and letters from my mother. I can’t converse with her, but I know she wrote the messages in those cards and letters. They are permanent.
  • “People tell you who they are, but we ignore it, because we want them to be who we want them to be.”–Don Draper, in his memoirs. Oh my, this is so true. Throughout my life, as I’ve met people, they have told me their flaws early on, but often, I’ve chosen not to believe them. I’ve chosen to think those flaws don’t exist, when in reality, they do. Therefore, when I tell you I often say the wrong thing, and I’m often way too direct, believe me. And if you’re single and dating someone who tells you their flaws up front, believe them! Do not think they will be different with you.

There are also so many scenes without great quotes that communicate “wisdom.” For example, the horror on Pete Campbell’s face is obvious when a coworker says, “Harry told me you said I married for money.” Pete didn’t say it, but Harry did…and he put his words in Pete’s mouth. Any viewer could see through it, and hopefully, we all thought of ways to prevent it from happening to us in the future. The disappointment displayed by Betty Draper in Season 5 when she realized her attempt at revenge on Don and Megan…telling her daughter about Don’s previous marriage to Anna…had failed. Don and Megan taught us all a lesson about how to handle that type of thing…don’t give them the satisfaction of getting you upset. Megan was right when she reminded Don that if he called Betty, he would be playing right into her hands…she would get the satisfaction of knowing she had upset him…because sometimes, the best revenge is living well.

Oh…so much wisdom…

And these are just from the first few seasons. I’m sure I’ll garner more wisdom as I continue to watch. I am absolutely enthralled. If you can’t find me over the next week or so, it’s because I’m still watching Mad Men.

 

***Photo from the Huffington Post***

 

 

 

 

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Once Upon A Time…

Television made quite an impression on me when I was growing up. I like to think I wasn’t staring at the TV screen all the time, but back then, families watched TV together. These days, my husband mostly watches the news or business channels. Our daughter and I don’t watch much TV, but sometimes, she and I watch something together…a rerun of Zoey 101 or Drake and Josh…or maybe a new episode of Henry Danger.

But when I was growing up, the big three networks were the bomb. I remember going to school on Wednesday mornings in third grade, and everyone would be talking about Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, because those popular shows came on ABC on Tuesday nights. I remember pretending to be Laverne and Shirley with a friend, and  I remember how we all imitated Pinky Tuscadero, Fonzie’s brief love on Happy Days. She had this catchy snap and point thing she did with her hands. Her sister, Leather Tuscadero, who appeared later, didn’t impress us so much.

Those shows were great, but I didn’t really want to be Laverne and Shirley or Pinky and Leather. They weren’t living my dream. I didn’t dream of living in a basement apartment with a roommate and having Lenny and Squiggy around all the time. And I didn’t dream of riding in a demolition derby like Pinky did.

My very favorite shows were shows that had women as the lead characters, and they were living good lives. I wanted to be those ladies. The shows that had characters I wanted to be were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bewitched, and Charlie’s Angels.

I still love those shows, in fact. I rarely see any of them, but occasionally, I watch on Amazon Prime.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show is one I remember from early childhood. Mary Richards, played by Mary Tyler Moore, worked at a TV station…glamorous. She was single and living by herself…exciting stuff! Sometimes, she wore leotards and did 1970s-style exercises in her living room. And often, her cool friend, Rhoda, would stop by. Mary was spunky, but sometimes got herself in trouble at work. I can still hear her saying, “Oh, Mr. Grant!” In the show’s opening sequence, Mary stands in the street and throws her hat up into the wind…I’ve always wanted to do that in a city. And Mary had great hair.09-mary-tyler-moore-show.w1200.h630

 Bewitched. Who didn’t want to be Bewitched?!?!? Heck, I still find myself thinking sometimes, “I wish I could just twitch my nose like Samantha Stephens.” In a traffic jam?   Twitch my nose and arrive at my destination! Someone gets hurt? Twitch my nose and rewind time. My team is losing? Twitch my nose and change the outcome! I loved Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens.  Samantha got herself into jams lots of times when her husband, Darrin, would bring his boss, Larry Tate, for dinner. And when she did, she would say, “Oh, my stars!” She also had a great wardrobe. She wasn’t fancy, but she had some groovy outfits. Plus, if she were sick, all she had to do was say, “Calling Dr. Bombay! Calling Dr. Bombay!” He would pop right in! And she could clean up messes just by snapping her fingers! Did I mention she had great hair? I’m starting to see a theme here. It’s likely I remember this mostly from reruns, because it ran from 1964 to 1972, meaning I was five when the series ended. I’m sure I was watching it in first run, but I probably remember more from reruns.https---s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com-nine-tvmg-images-prod-63-16-83-631683_p183952_b_h3_aq

And then Charlie’s Angels came along in 1976. I remember it vividly…sitting in my big yellow beanbag chair in the family den to watch it…right in front of the TV. The three original leading characters were Sabrina, Kelly, and Jill.  Lots of women who were little girls during the show’s run from 1976 to 1981 can spontaneously recite the show’s opening monologue by John Forsythe: “Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.” They were the three most gorgeous private detectives ever, and I wanted to be them. Lots of women my age have at least one photo of themselves with their friends posing like the silhouette from the show’s logo. They were young, single, smart, brave, tough, and beautiful…and they had great hair. Last July, when I was in New York, Jaclyn Smith, who played Kelly Garrett, walked right past me on the sidewalk in front of the Sherry Netherland Hotel. I was speechless. She was talking on her cell phone, so I didn’t say anything, but she is still beautiful. I saw a real live Charlie’s Angel!

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You know what else all those shows had in common? Great openings. If you’re close to my age, you can likely hum the Bewitched theme song while remembering the animated witch on a broom in the opening credits. See it here. Surely, you can sing the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Hear/see it here. And everybody remembers Charlie’s speech in the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels…see/hear it here.

Television made quite an impression on me. Now, if I could just twitch my nose like Bewitched and be dressed for the day with great hair before starting my private investigator work like Charlie’s Angels, I could end the day with some exercises while wearing a leotard in my living room like The Mary Tyler Moore Show!

 

 

 

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Rudolph Made Me Cry

Last week, I had planned to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with my teenage daughter. It didn’t work out. I don’t remember what we did instead…maybe I took her to a high school basketball game? Instead, I recorded it on the DVR, and I had not had the opportunity to watch it till this morning.

I was home alone. My husband had dropped off our daughter at club lacrosse tryouts before going to the gym, so I sat in my warm bed on a rainy morning and watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I even turned off all the lights in my room to create some darkness (it was cloudy outside too!), so I could watch it the way we watched it when we were kids. Back then, in the 1970s, we would lie on the floor in front of the big, console Zenith television…not too close, because well, we had been told we might start to glow in the dark if we sat too close to the TV. Mother and Daddy turned off all the lights in the family den, and we watched Rudolph in our pajamas.

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And for about an hour this morning, I was five years old again. Every character brought back memories…Rudolph, Clarice, Hermey, Burl Ives, the Abominable Snowman…ahhh…the good old days. Remember the days before VCRs and DVRs? We had to watch the Christmas specials when they came on once a year, or we had to wait till the next year. Remember looking forward to all your favorite Christmas specials?

Oh, I had favorites, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer being at or near the top of the list. I also loved Frosty the Snowman, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. As a teen, I fell in love with classic movies: Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Holiday Inn, and I would stay up late at night, watching them with my mother, because for some reason, TBS always ran those movies late at night.

As for watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as an adult…I don’t care what they say…for one hour, I was a little girl again…right up till the end, when Santa and the reindeer land on the Island of Misfit Toys.

As soon as Santa and the reindeer, led by Rudolph, landed on the Island of Misfit Toys on Christmas Eve to pick up the misfits, I cried. I will admit it. I cried. I cried, because I remembered exactly how magical it was to watch it when I was five. I remembered how exciting it was to see Rudolph, having been banished from the reindeer games, leading Santa’s sleigh through the fog….landing safely to pick up the Misfit Toys. And then the beautiful take-off! Wow! Rudolph had overcome adversity, and back in the day, every kid in the Eastern and Central time zones cheered him on simultaneously. We were all excited that Rudolph had saved Christmas!

And we were believing that Santa really did visit every household in the whole world in one night. After all, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, an “official government agency,” tracked the sleigh’s whereabouts, reporting to local television and radio stations, who then passed on the information to all the children who were having trouble falling asleep. That was proof that Santa existed!

As kids, we all wondered what Santa’s take-offs and landings looked like, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer showed us how spectacular they were! As I watched this morning, I remembered, and so yes, I cried. As we get older, life loses some of the “magic,” but don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible to feel it again for a little while. Don’t believe me? Sit down in a quiet, dark room, and watch it. You’ll see…

You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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