Mad Men: End Of An Era

WELCOME BACK TO THE WORLD DON DRAPER TAUGHT TO SING …  || By WILL FOLKS || There’s a line in Rush’s 1981 hit “Red Barchetta” about a “better managed time.” Or maybe a “better vanished time.” Who knows.  If you can decipher Geddy Lee‘s lyric, more power to you. But either…


|| By WILL FOLKS || There’s a line in Rush’s 1981 hit “Red Barchetta” about a “better managed time.” Or maybe a “better vanished time.” Who knows.  If you can decipher Geddy Lee‘s lyric, more power to you.

But either way, it fits.

Barchettas are 1940s-era Italian roadsters – exactly the sort of car you’d imagine Mad Men‘s leading man Don Draper tooling around in during a business trip to California. Dark shades on.  Cigarette dangling.  With a jaw-dropping blonde in high-hemmed pastel and a matching scarf in tow.  Going fast.  A little drunk.  With no particular destination in mind.

It’s existential nihilism.  The exact same state of being which bred the basic need Draper so consistently tapped into … and effortlessly exploited on behalf of himself and his clients.

The fictitious 1960s-era advertising executive – portrayed with riveting detachment by actor John Hamm – was brilliant for the same reason he was tormented.  He understood need on an elemental level.

More on why that matters in a moment …

If you’ve never watched Mad Men, you’re forgiven.  The first episode I ever watched (S. 1 E. 1 “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”) left me unsatisfied.  Confused.  But as I determined to wrap my brain around the series – which bowed out gracefully this week after seven commercially successful, critically acclaimed seasons – the more I appreciated the development of its protagonists, the depth of their interactions and the insights they provided into the human condition.

Created by Matthew Weiner, Mad Men debuted in 2007 … with its clock rewound to March 1960.  Enter nostalgia.  The “better managed” time.  A world devoid of the instant, digitized gratification we’ve been conditioned to accept as part of our ongoing bargain with “The Matrix.”  Mad Men embodied the sort of crispness you can’t measure in megapixels.  The sort of passion you can’t convey in a bawdy iPhone exchange.

Seriously … can you imagine Don Draper sexting? 

The America this man inhabited was marching boldly through tumult and tribulation toward a future unrivaled in the history of civilization.  This country made things of value.  Played baseball.  Smoked cigarettes.  Drove big cars.  Dreamed big dreams.  Had manners.  Work ethic.  A vision.

And everything it had to offer … Don Draper could sell.  Nothing was going to stop that country … or so we thought.

But we were wrong.

As a turbulent new economic order unfolded in the United States these last seven years (a.k.a. the “New Normal”), Weiner’s period drama pushed forward a little more than a decade to November 1970 – culminating in a season finale which drew an audience of 3.3 million (and that’s before counting “delayed viewers”).

Third highest Mad Men audience ever … (eclipsed only by the Season 5 and Season 6 premieres).

We shouldn’t be surprised.  The less fulfilling things got in Recession-era America … the more this show drew people into its smoke-filled self-exploration.  And I’m not just talking about the baby boom generation that coughed up the ball in this country, either.  The generation that followed – which never lived a single day in the 1960s – allowed themselves to be pulled back in Mad Men‘s time.

Hell they probably understood it better …

The focal point was always Draper.  His arrogance, haunted past, reckless infidelity, professional brilliance – and cringe-worthy binges of introspection.  Money, style and limitless sex appeal eternally masking his search for something couldn’t quite lay hold of.  Not until the very end, anyway.

Which leads us to the “spoiler alert …”

There we have Don Draper:  The definitively dapper, starched-shirt, anti-beatnik himself – sitting lotus pose on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a bunch of rich hippies.  He’s had an emotional breakdown.  Maybe the show is going to end with him jumping off a building like the silhouetted cutout in the show’s opening credits.  But a new day has dawned.  And he’s chanting.  “Aaaaaahhhoooom-ing.” And then ever so subtly, we see him smiling – seemingly at peace for the first time in his life.

At that precise moment, just when you think a fade to black is in order, Weiner makes his move.  He cuts to Coca-Cola’s famous July 1971 “Hilltop” ad – in which the world (or at least dozens of fresh-faced young people from every corner of it) are learning to sing in perfect harmony as they enjoy an iconic nectar of high fructose corn syrup, carbonated water and caramel food coloring.

“Don’t you want to work on Coke?” one of Draper’s colleagues asked him during a gut-wrenching phone conversation earlier in the episode.

Apparently, he did … just ask the guy who played him.

“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,” Hamm said of the character he portrayed for seven years.  “And who he is, is an advertising man. And so, this thing comes to him. There’s a way to see it in a completely cynical way, and say, ‘Wow, that’s awful.’ But I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led.”

Indeed …

“The world doesn’t blow up right after the Coke commercial ends,” Hamm added.

No, it didn’t.

But it’s impossible to argue it hasn’t recoiled.  We can’t say the country sold by Don Draper’s genius hasn’t retreated from the promise it once held.  Things are bigger and faster, sure … but to what end?  Speed has replaced inventiveness.  Precision, passion.  Utility, creativity.  And yet in a world in which everyone has handheld devices that work far faster than we need them to (and machines which do everything we once did by hand), no one has a second to spare.  Or a hand to lend …

We’re tractor-beamed …

Fading fast.

This is not a struggle for self-actualization, though – like the one successfully seen to its happy conclusion by Don Draper.  It’s an increasingly pitiable attempt to secure overvalued abundance for ourselves – a resignation to material plasticity seen in the welfare recipients government has deemed “too lazy to work,” the bailout recipients it has deemed “too big to fail” and the shrinking, squeezed out middle class forced to pay the freight for the thieves at the bookends.

We don’t need anymore, we want.  And more often than not, we get what we want … whether we can afford it or not.

The popularity of Mad Men is its own commentary on our pervasive contemporary malaise.  A statement of our collective desire to not only get back to that “better managed time,” but to restore the authentic need that’s been lost amid all these gigabytes of incessant stimuli and vacant interaction.

That time is gone, though … and that country?  It’s vanishing.

All that’s left?  A song.


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9" May 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Never saw that show.Too many choices,I guess.LOVED this one.Dialogue mostly improv.Great cast-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6S32egw390

FastEddy23 May 19, 2015 at 6:46 pm

That’s really sick.

Is this kind of thing on TV now?

mamatiger92 May 19, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Miss Mad Men already. I thought the last few episodes were largely brilliant. At first I was a bit bothered by how obvious the Stan/Peggy relationship was, but I think it was just another great plot twist. Peggy & Joan basically swap roles. Peggy chooses a relationship & the safety of the big agency while Joan chooses the complete opposite path. Who would’ve ever seen that coming a few seasons back? The final phone call between Don & Betty was gutwrenchingly wonderful.

r May 19, 2015 at 4:54 pm

1960 – 1970. A period of superficiality. A period of change for the sake of change without reflection, thought or justice. A period of erosion. Necessary? Like the tides.

9" May 19, 2015 at 5:23 pm

1960-1970? One of the greatest periods of the Arts in America and the world,especially pop music.Look at what The Beatles and their peers accomplished in such a short span of time.Labeling generations by specific titles is dumb,but insulting them for what they gave you is thankless ingratitude,but that’s the new zeitgeist among the brain-dead generation;self-righteous,condescending,and judgmental.We’re incapable of creation,innovation,and getting results,so we’ll try and simply dismiss you.

J May 19, 2015 at 5:47 pm

“insulting them for what they gave you is thankless ingratitude,but that’s the new zeitgeist among the brain-dead generation”

Hah..they also paved the way for helicopter parenting, a drug for every occasion, pointless never ending war, throw away marriages, and every body gets a prize competitive sports.

Thanks for the 15 really cool bands, baby boomers!

9" May 19, 2015 at 6:36 pm

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – The Beatles
2. Pet Sounds (1966) – The Beach Boys
3. Revolver (1966) – The Beatles
4. Highway 61 Revisited (1965) – Bob Dylan
5. Rubber Soul (1965) – The Beatles
6. Are You Experienced (1967) – Jimi Hendrix Experience
7. Blonde On Blonde (1966) – Bob Dylan
8. Abbey Road (1969) – The Beatles
9. Live At The Apollo (1963) – James Brown
10. Tommy (1969) – The Who
11. The Beatles (“The White Album”) (1968) – The Beatles
12. Led Zeppelin II (1969) – Led Zeppelin
13. The Doors (1967) – The Doors
14. Bringing It All Back Home (1965) – Bob Dylan
15. Let It Bleed (1969) – The Rolling Stones
16. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967) – Aretha Franklin
17. Velvet Underground And Nico (1967) – Velvet Underground
18. Electric Ladyland (1968) – Jimi Hendrix Experience
19. Led Zeppelin I (1969) – Led Zeppelin
20. Please Please Me (1963) – The Beatles
21. The Band (1969) – The Band
22. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – The Beatles
23. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963) – Bob Dylan
24. Otis Blue (1965) – Otis Redding
25. Axis: Bold As Love (1967) – Jimi Hendrix Experience
26. Disraeli Gears (1967) – Cream
27. Astral Weeks (1968) – Van Morrison
28. Beggars Banquet (1968) – The Rolling Stones
29. Stand (1969) – Sly And The Family Stone
30. In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) – King Crimson
31. Surrealistic Pillow (1967) – Jefferson Airplane
32. Music From Big Pink (1968) – The Band
33. At Last (1960) – Etta James
34. Lady Soul (1968) – Aretha Franklin
35. Green River (1969) – Creedence Clearwater Revival
36. Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (1968) – The Byrds
37. Days Of Future Passed (1967) – Moody Blues
38. Something Else (1967) – The Kinks
39. Magical Mystery Tour (1967) – The Beatles
40. Crosby Stills and Nash (1969) – Crosby, Stills, Nash
41. Kick Out The Jams (1969) – The MC5
42. Face to Face (1966) – Kinks
43. The Who Sell Out (1967) – The Who
44. Truth (1968) – Jeff Beck
45. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965) – The Byrds
46. With The Beatles (1963) – The Beatles
47. Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967) – Pink Floyd
48. Wheels Of Fire (1968) – Cream
49. Cheap Thrills (1968) – Big Brother And The Holding Company
50. Trout Mask Replica (1969) – Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band
51. Dusty In Memphis (1969) – Dusty Springfield
52. Forever Changes (1967) – Love
53. We’re Only In It For The Money (1968) – Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention
54. In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968) – Iron Butterfly
55. Help! (1965) – The Beatles
56. The Who Sings My Generation (1965) – The Who
57. Fresh Cream (1966) – Cream
58. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) – Neil Young and Crazy Horse
59. Blind Faith (1969) – Blind Faith
60. Santana (1969) – Santana
61. Odessey And Oracle (1968) – The Zombies
62. Freak Out! (1966) – Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention
63. Aftermath (1966) – The Rolling Stones
64. Bookends (1968) – Simon and Garfunkel
65. Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) – Buffalo Springfield
66. S.F. Sorrow (1968) – Pretty Things
67. The Dock Of The Bay (1968) – Otis Redding
68. The Stooges (1969) – The Stooges
69. Green Onions (1962) – Booker T and the MG’s
70. Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966) – Simon and Garfunkel
71. From Elvis In Memphis (1969) – Elvis Presley
72. The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969) – Flying Buritto Brothers
73. Chicago Transit Authority (1969) – Chicago
74. Strange Days (1967) – The Doors
75. Stand Up (1969) – Jethro Tull
76. If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (1966) – The Mama’s and Papa’s
77. Younger Than Yesterday (1967) – The Byrds
78. The Beach Boys Today! (1965) – The Beach Boys
79. Temptations Sing Smokey (1965) – The Temptations
80. Going To A Go-Go (1965) – Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
81. Love Child (1968) – The Supremes
82. Live/Dead (1969) – The Grateful Dead
83. Out Of Our Heads (1965) – The Rolling Stones
84. The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968) – The Kinks
85. John Mayall & Bluesbreakers-w/E. Clapton (1966) – John Mayall/Bluesbreakers
86. Happy Trails (1969) – Quicksilver Messenger Service
87. Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds (1965) – The Yardbirds
88. Moby Grape (1967) – Moby Grape
89. Volunteers (1969) – Jefferson Airplane
90. Willy And The Poor Boys (1969) – Creedence Clearwater Revival
91. The Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul (1966) – Otis Redding
92. A Quick One (Happy Jack) (1966) – The Who
93. Blood, Sweat & Tears (1969) – Blood, Sweat & Tears
94. On The Threshold Of A Dream (1969) – The Moody Blues
95. Vanilla Fudge (1967) – Vanilla Fudge
96. Anthem Of The Sun (1968) – The Grateful Dead
97. Mr. Fantasy (1967) – Traffic
98. Steppenwolf (1968) – Steppenwolf
99. Hot Rats (1969) – Frank Zappa
100. Five Leaves Left (1969) – Nick Drake

101. Modern Sounds In Country And Western (1962) – Ray Charles
102. At Folsom Prison (1968) – Johnny Cash
103. Bob Dylan (1962) – Bob Dylan
104. The Wicked Pickett (1967) – Wilson Pickett
105. The Velvet Underground (1969) – Velvet Underground
106. Bayou Country (1969) – Creedence Clearwater Revival
107. With A Little Help From My Friends (1969) – Joe Cocker
108. Shades Of Deep Purple (1968) – Deep Purple
109. Elvis Is Back (1960) – Elvis Presley
110. John Wesley Harding (1967) – Bob Dylan
111. Wild Honey (1967) – The Beach Boys
112. Vincebus Eruptum (1968) – Blue Cheer
113. Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968) – Creedence Clearwater Revival
114. Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger (1960) – Bo Diddley
115. Spirit (1968) – Spirit
116. Beck-Ola (1969) – Jeff Beck Group
117. The Yardbirds (1966) – The Yardbirds
118. Wednesday Morning 3 a.m. (1964) – Simon and Garfunkel
119. It’s A Beautiful Day (1969) – It’s A Beautiful Day
120. Love (1966) – Love
121. The Allman Brothers Band (1969) – Allman Brothers Band
122. The Mamas & the Papas (1966) – The Mamas & the Papas
123. Arthur – Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (1969) – The Kinks
124. Goodbye (1969) – Cream
125. This Was (1968) – Jethro Tull
126. Meet The Temptations (1964) – The Temptations
127. Fifth Dimension (1966) – The Byrds
128. White Light/White Heat (1968) – Velvet Underground
129. Heavy (1968) – Iron Butterfly
130. The 12 Year Old Genius (1963) – Stevie Wonder
131. Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967) – Country Joe & The Fish
132. St Louis To Liverpool (1964) – Chuck Berry
133. Ssssh (1969) – Ten Years After
134. Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965) – The Byrds
135. Do You Believe in Magic (1965) – The Lovin’ Spoonful
136. Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake (1968) – The Small Faces
137. The Soft Parade (1969) – The Doors
138. In Dreams (1963) – Roy Orbison
139. Surfin’ USA (1963) – The Beach Boys
140. Grand Funk (1969) – Grand Funk Railroad
141. Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966) – Jefferson Airplane
142. Traffic (1968) – Traffic
143. The Soft Machine (1968) – The Soft Machine
144. Groovin’ (1967) – The Rascals
145. The Pretty Things (1965) – The Pretty Things
146. Wipe Out (1963) – The Surfaris
147. The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968) – The Byrds
148. Yes (1969) – Yes
149. River Deep Mountain High (1966) – Ike and Tina Turner
150. Bee Gees 1st (1967) – Bee Gees
151. It’s Everly Time (1960) – The Everly Brothers
152. Up-Tight (Everything’s Alright) (1966) – Stevie Wonder
153. Buffalo Springfield (1966) – Buffalo Springfield
154. In Search of The Lost Chord (1968) – The Moody Blues
155. People Get Ready (1965) – The Impressions
156. The Young Rascals (1966) – The Rascals
157. Between The Buttons (1967) – Rolling Stones
158. Sailor (1968) – Steve Miller Band
159. Book Of Taliesyn (1969) – Deep Purple
160. Psychotic Reaction (1966) – Count Five
161. Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968) – Quicksilver Messenger Service
162. The Buddy Holly Story, Volume 2 (1960) – Buddy Holly
163. Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967) – Procol Harum
164. Flowers (1967) – Rolling Stones
165. Crown Of Creation (1968) – Jefferson Airplane
166. I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die (1967) – Country Joe & The Fish
167. Family That Plays Together (1968) – Spirit
168. Sunshine Superman (1966) – Donovan
169. Lee Michaels (1969) – Lee Michaels
170. Tons of Sobs (1969) – Free
171. The Manfred Mann Album (1964) – Manfred Mann
172. Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) – Donovan
173. Kink Kontroversy (1965) – The Kinks
174. Them – Here Comes The Night (1965) – Them
175. Children Of The Future (1968) – Steve Miller Band
176. Liege & Lief (1969) – Fairport Convention
177. Little Deuce Coupe (1963) – The Beach Boys
178. After Bathing At Baxter’s (1967) – Jefferson Airplane
179. Time Has Come (1967) – Chambers Brothers
180. Electric Flag (1968) – Electric Flag
181. Saucerful Of Secrets (1968) – Pink Floyd
182. Sock It To Me! (1967) – Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels
183. Elephant Mountain (1969) – The Youngbloods
184. The Little Old Lady from Pasadena (1964) – Jan & Dean
185. Crimson And Clover (1968) – Tommy James & Shondells
186. Journey to the Center of the Mind (1968) – Amboy Dukes
187. Mendocino (1969) – Sir Douglas Quintet
188. Winds of Change (1967) – Eric Burdon & the Animals
189. It Ain’t Me Babe (1965) – Turtles
190. Crying (1962) – Roy Orbison
191. Then Play On (1969) – Fleetwood Mac
192. Shine On Brightly (1968) – Procol Harum
193. The Second (1968) – Steppenwolf
194. 96 Tears (1966) – ? & the Mysterians
195. Easter Everywhere (1967) – 13th Floor Elevators
196. Rockin’ At The Hops (1960) – Chuck Berry
197. Da Capo (1966) – Love
198. From Nowhere – The Troggs (1966) – The Troggs
199. Dirty Water (1966) – The Standells
200. Getting to The Point (1968) – Savoy Brown

FastEddy23 May 19, 2015 at 6:49 pm

Ya have to get into the 20’s before ya find one I don’t have on video. (Music videos have better sound tracks than CD’s.)

9" May 19, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Exactly.DVD-Audio/video is the best,and you can put tons of data in there

truthmonger May 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Actually, SACD is superior….. but alas, harder to come by. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon will give you chills on SACD.

FastEddy23 May 20, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Yes, SACD is quite good … that is Sony’s way of it. Blu-ray, too.

Its technically complicated, but one can “fit” 24bit96K on an SACD. (SACD treats audio conversion to digital one bit at a time and compresses the blank spots [!])

24bit/96k is a bit better than broadcast FM stereo or broadcast FM Dolby 5.1.

“regular” CD quality is 16bit/48K = not even as good as FM radio.

FastEddy23 May 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Yup. DVD-A can hold several gigabytes while CDs can barely hold one gig.

BUT that’s not the reason: a whole album of 24bit/96K, 24bit/192K and 24bit/384K audio will not fit on a CD.

Its the quality, not the quantity.

r May 19, 2015 at 9:37 pm

My aren’t you defensive? That decade served its purpose. I lived it, wasn’t fond of it, happy to be rid of it. Yeah, the Beatles were nouvelle but the attitudes of the mislead youth set up generations to come for failure.

FastEddy23 May 20, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Some so, some not. Come See, Come Sa. … We all had our favorites.

The “Mad Men” time frame barely got into the Beatles era … (Of course I have not watched any of the recent episodes. I’ll check out Netflix.)

M326 May 19, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Will, this writing was actually inspired–quite good. You should do more about how we have lost our way.

sparklecity May 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

Lost HIS way is more like it!!!!!
“Sparklecity” (a PROUD “Boomer”
Child of the 60’s
Warrior of the 70’s
Bystander of the 80’s
Participant of the 90’s
“Still Truckin” of the 2000’s

E Norma Scok May 19, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Will, you must be one depressed dude.

In the year or so I’ve been reading this blog, I don’t think i’ve read one thing positive that you’ve written, unless it was something negative about Clemson.

If you really do look upon the future and our country as you so often say you do, why did you have children? It would seem in your world they are doomed to a horrible, failing, faltering existence. Perhaps you really are selfish and needy as you describe everyone above, and really don’t even know why you had kids other than you stayed in a few seconds too long.

Try some prozac, or welbutrin or a good drunk watching the sunset. But try something. Seems like a really jaded, shitty outlook to have to tolerate for however long you have left here.

Scoothie Van Guard May 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm


Good post.2005.Sober and he apparently ain’t changed a bit?Mental health issues? If your children can’t make you a better person, nothing can.

FastEddy23 May 19, 2015 at 6:31 pm

LSD works, apparently.

euwe max May 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

It works.

SCBlues May 20, 2015 at 4:37 am

LOL I love you euwe max!

I Am Studying You May 19, 2015 at 7:57 pm

And in your pea brain mind, you think that you are perfect in everyway. Narcissistic much?

I Am Studying You May 19, 2015 at 8:03 pm

… and to add here — did I say those like you (E Norma Scok) that must always go around being so negative and critical towards others lack self-esteem? I bet you were a bully in school, and still are for that matter.

E Norma Scok May 19, 2015 at 9:04 pm

How would you know what I think? Read minds much?

Since we’re going down the road of personality assessment from 3 paragraphs, your feeble thought process seems like someone who thinks they know everything but has very little facts to base your opinion. And then you blame your weak assessment on whatever trendy reason that comes to mind first. Wait..thats not a just a personality assessment…thats just what you did.

I do find some humor in you stating that I’m being negative towards Will’s seemingly unending negative outlook on everything. If I’m negative towards Will being negative, does that follow some distributive property that equals a positive?

The Doctor Is In May 19, 2015 at 10:52 pm

You’re a total dick. Always bitching about Will. Why don’t you get a life.

E Norma Scok May 20, 2015 at 9:31 am

And you are…?

Look in the mirror May 20, 2015 at 8:29 am

“Seems like a really jaded, shitty outlook to have to tolerate for however long you have left here.”

Do you have even an ounce of self awareness?

E Norma Scok May 20, 2015 at 9:30 am

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that from your comment, you think i don’t.


MaryGAdkins May 21, 2015 at 9:34 am

??/???? Meet your Dreams:4 hours daily Work@mi31//



FastEddy23 May 19, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Media is the message … Lionized video stars top real snooze.

Limbaughsaphatkhunt May 19, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Never seen a single episode.

Tunes'n'News May 19, 2015 at 10:36 pm

Good post.


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