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 heĀ  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.

Oscars 2014- when Hollywood finally found diversity (just a little)

It’s been 86 years since Hollywood first gave out awards to honor their own and until last night there hasn’t been near enough diversity among nominees and winners. Hollywood still has a lot of work to do not only in movies but also in television, however, last night was a good start. See this article for more information http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/03/oscars-diversity_n_4889293.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment. (Full disclosure I am a white lesbian so I to these issues from two marginalized groups while also being a part of a majority group)
I blame the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the lack of diversity since 94 percent of the members are white while 6 percent are members of other racial groups and 77 percent of members are male while only 23 percent are female. Also, they are overwhelmingly older which translates into a lack of understanding of the multicultural world that we live in today. As for television the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that votes for the Emmy’s has the same problem. If membership in these two organizations keeps skewing white and male and execs at movie studios and television networks keep putting media out that doesn’t represent the world around us they will lose out to the web. Look at how the Veronica Mars movie got made. Producers, writers and directors are increasingly bringing content directly to the web so their stories can get told without studio and network influence. The ability to get financing via Kickstarter and other means has also freed up creators in ways that society is only beginning to grasp.
Last night the Academy showcased a group of young filmmakers (3 women and 3 men) from colleges around the country and what struck me was their diversity. This is what the country looks like and what the Academy needs to work towards. See this article for more about them http://www.arabnews.com/news/532306. I hope the new Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president, stays strong and commits to diversity among the membership of the Academy.
Also, a study was recently done that showed among the Oscar nominated films male leads averaged 85 minutes of screen time, while female leads averaged only 57 minutes. One only has to look at television credits to see how many males are on shows VS females. One network that reverses these numbers is ABC Family with their female fronted shows Switched at Birth, The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars.
While I take issue with a Woody Allen movie being recognized by the Academy (due to Dylan Farrow’s molestation accusations- which I believe BTW), I did appreciate Cate Blanchett calling out Hollywood to make more female fronted films. They should take note of the fact that The Hunger Games-Catching Fire (with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role) was the highest grossing film of last year. The movie also passed the Bechdel test which should be an important part of how films are constructed.
They say that culture moves society faster than legislation and the courts and if that’s the case we still have a long ways to go regarding representation in movies and TV. I hope that the next ten years sees a sea change in representation similar to the advancements that the LGBT community has made since former President Bush waged a war on my community with his call for a ban on same-sex marriage across the country in 2004.