Why Mad Men’s ending was both satisfying and frustrating…

Last night Mad Men ended its seventh and final season and for the most part I was satisfied with Matt Weiner’s vision for the show and each of the characters. As the seasons came and went, it became clear that viewers were supposed to be dropping into these characters lives across a decade’s (1960’s) worth of life and all that happened to them and around them. It was almost dreamlike in the way it was presented to the viewers since the real world only seeped into the characters lives at certain moments, not all the time. Knowing that I was happy, even though it would’ve been cool to have a flash forward to everyone in let’s say 1980, that Weiner showed each character carrying on with their lives at the close of 1970 which happens to be a few months before I was born.

For years viewers and critics have been ruminating about the opening credits and whether or not that was Don dying by suicide but ultimately that’s not what Weiner wanted to convey. The credits start with a man (Don) walking into a tastefully decorated early 1960’s office and over time that falls away until the man is seen falling from a building (with ads flashing on the side of the building) and then the man is sitting on a couch looking away from the audience. The credits perfectly encapsulates Don’s journey from the beginning of the show where, no matter the location of his office, everything is neat and tidy and then over the past year all of that is stripped away as the company that Don helped build is swallowed by McCann. Working at McCann was everything that Don wanted but also feared and in the end he  felt the need to flee NYC and discard other material possessions as he traveled further away from NYC. It’s as if Don had to let go of everything to become the man he should be. We got hints of how he will be in the future with the Coke ad that played at the end of the show. The question remains…did he reconnect with his kids in any meaningful way or did he just figure out how to be a better ad man?

As for the women on the show including Sally. What a journey for all of them! It’s interesting to note that the three characters who got the most growth were Sally, Peggy and Joan. The way Sally stepped up after finding out about her mom’s lung cancer and eventual early death was a thing of beauty and one can’t heap enough praise on Kiernan Shipka for her nuanced portrayal of a young woman in an era where women had so much less agency. Remember Sally was born in 1954 so she would be 61 this year. Although I said upthread that I was OK with no flash forwards, the one I would’ve loved to see was Sally in 1980 as a 26 year old. Would she have become the typical 1980’s money hungry person or go against the grain? One can only ponder this since I doubt Weiner will ever let us know what he saw for Sally down the road.

Peggy’s arc was really satisfying. From a meek secretary to hopefully the creative director at McCann or another ad agency. She called her own shots and refused to play the games that Joan, who was born eight years before her, had to in order to get ahead. As syrupy sweet as her and Stan’s declaration’s of love were I loved it that she finally found a measure of professional and personal happiness at the ripe old (for the time) age of 31.

I love that Joan finally got to run her own company and call the shots in all aspects of her life in the finale. After spending years having to please the men in her life, both personally and professionally, she got the last laugh. When we leave her she is chugging along with Holloway-Harris productions proving that a woman can reinvent themselves no matter how old they are, even in 1970. Joan is 39 when we last see her handing Kevin off to her mom and starting her work day.

The same cannot be said for Betty’s arc but I think everyone watching knew that she wouldn’t grow as a human being so her early death was inevitable. She showed flashes of growth but it was limited by her vanity and sense of propriety which was the polar opposite of how Sally, Peggy and even Joan walked through life.

The only frustrating things about the ending of the show was the feeling that we didn’t get enough time with certain characters only to spend time with new characters that the audience, including myself, didn’t care about. One character that was missing entirely in the finale was Henry and it I would’ve loved to have seen Sally and Henry cooking dinner together.

Oh and Gene speaks LOL…so glad we got some words out of that kid finally.

I’m sure I will have more to say about this show. Stay tuned for a new post sometime down the line.

Revisiting The L Word- Ten Years Later and I’m Still Irritated (But I Love it Anyway)

For whatever reason that I can’t conceptualize, I started watching The L Word again and the same things still irritate me years later especially Tina’s lack of a back story. I hate that Ilene fucking Chaiken made her a cypher to Bette for six years. While most everyone else (that was in the opening credits in the first three seasons) got a back story the only thing we know about Tina is Bette was her first relationship with a woman, she had two abortions and she grew up in the suburbs. I don’t count what was revealed about Tina in the interrogation tapes that were released online following the sixth season because we never met anyone from her past like we did with Alice, Dana, Shane, Jenny, Carmen, Helena, Kit, Marina, Tasha and Max.

Other stories that got on my nerves…

Dana’s cancer although Erin Daniels knocked it out of the park. Really Ilene she was the heart of the show!!!

Jenny’s hideous tights, numerous mental breaks, constant self-absorption and that damn manatee sub-plot. I hated going through her writing process and I’m a writer so WTF?

Bette and Tina’s toxic relationship. Why did they have to cheat on each other??? It’s a wonder that they ultimately ended up with each other.

Mark videotaping everyone in Jenny and Shane’s house (so creepy).

The Lez Girls movie plot.

Dawn Denbo and her lover Cindy and that awful She Bar because no one messes with The Planet.

Kit Porter being relegated to one-liners and her cluelessness about technology.

The entire sixth season (ENOUGH SAID)

Betty and that damn song (once you hear it the song stays in your head for weeks and not in a good way)

Having said all that, The L Word (along with the Otalia story line on Guiding Light) helped me realize that I am a lesbian (I still can’t believe I didn’t see the signs before my 30’s) so I will forever be grateful to Ilene fucking Chaiken and Crystal Chappell/Jessica Leccia aka Otalia for awaking my sexuality. Also, Ilene should be applauded for giving queer women a platform for our stories, however messed up they are.

What I did love was her subtle and overt railings against the Bush administration’s anti-LGBT stand and censorship in the media with Bette’s art gallery story arc. The show tackled a lot of issues that many LGBT people still face today like lack of family acceptance with Dana and Carmen’s stories, subtle discrimination in the workplace, marriage equality since the couples on the show couldn’t legally marry, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell with the Tasha story (which thankfully got repealed though without trans protections), transphobia with the Max story and lack of acceptance for bisexuals among the gay and lesbian community.

Stuff I really liked:

Lara’s sexuality caper with the ladies trying to find out whether Lara is a lesbian so Dana could ask her out on a date

The Dinah trip

The Olivia Cruise trip

Alice’s chart and her ridiculous radio show because it is true that lesbians are incestuous with each other. I’ve seen it among the lesbians in Chicago and we see it all the time among celesbians.

The love they all had for each other no matter how many times they disappointed each other.

Helena’s transformation from an imperious woman who used money to manipulate people into a caring, warm person. Her time in jail and being cut off financially by her mom Peggy only made me love her more.

Alice and Shane’s unwavering friendship.

The fact that every actress actually kept their fingernails short because no lesbian or bisexual woman has long nails. I really appreciated that touch of authenticity even though the show was criticized for casting so many femme actresses.

The overall message that our stories are important.

Watching the show now, with all of the positive changes that we’ve seen since the show ended, was a reminder of how far we’ve come as well as how far we have to go to achieve full equality. Shows like Orange is the New Black, Orphan Black, The Fosters, Pretty Little Liars, Faking It or Modern Family or any number of other queer inclusive shows wouldn’t be on the air without The L Word and for that matter Queer as Folk but there is still a resistance to our community among many Americans. By showcasing our stories Ilene and the other amazing showrunners of queer inclusive shows should be applauded. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for creating these amazing flawed characters that we can cheer on and yell at when they make stupid mistakes.

Long live LGBT representation in the media!!!

Oh and if you haven’t read these recaps done by the talented scribegrrrl already go to this archive link and have fun. http://www.afterellen.com/tag/the_l_word_recaps/.