Mad Men ends its groundbreaking seven season run tonight and I think it’s safe to say that no other television show on the air today has been written about more than Matt Weiner’s opus. The immeasurable amount of spilled digital ink includes insightful weekly reviews from my favorite television critics: HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall, Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff, Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz, Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan, among others.
Mad Men is so richly devised in its characters, so deeply rooted in history, and so immaculately crafted in its attention to period detail, that it allows endless points of critical entry, from an earnest celebration of Betty Draper to a deep dive into its iconic soundtrack. In celebration of its series finale, I’d like to highlight the two Mad Men companion pieces that have brought me such joy and have enriched my viewing experience throughout the years.
This perfectly-titled Tumblr is an ideal example of ‘what you see is what you get,’ and, in this case, what you get is pretty fan-f*cking-tastic. On the turn of a dime, Mad Men can go from existential despair to gust-busting comedy, and these lovingly crafted screenshots with added pointed commentary illustrate that successful juxtaposition. Hilarity ensues with every screenshot.
From updating soon-to-be iconic imagery to the present day…
to illuminating the show’s social commentary…
to poking fun at beloved characters…
to creating flat-out funny memes, Mad Men Screenshots with Things Drawn On Them hit a sweet spot we didn’t know existed.
Mad Men‘s Emmy-nominated costume designer, Janie Bryant, is an impeccable storyteller, not only in the way she chooses period-appropriate clothing in the ever-changing 1960s, but in the way she tailors each outfit to the specific moods and storylines of each character. Tom & Lorenzo, two brilliant fashion and pop culture bloggers, have broken down each episode of Mad Men, analyzing each chapter through the fine lens of its costumes and production design. Every detail is illuminated, from how specific colors suit a theme or motif, to the historical context of a particular look, to tracing the arc of a character through clothing; and while it cannot be certain whether each moment is intentional, their analyses are no less fascinating.
I’ll let their deeply insightful writing speak for themselves. In the season seven episode, “Lost Horizon,” Joan Holloway finds herself in the midst of rampant sexual harassment at McCann. Here’s how Tom & Lorenzo break down one of her scenes:
And this may get us in trouble, but we have to point out how she shifted gears when it became obvious that she had a problem and needed to turn to the men above her for help:
We haven’t seen her wear a dress that eye-popping or focus-pulling (not to mention tight) since that first humiliating meeting at McCann. Joan does not do these things accidentally (nor does Janie Bryant). As politically incorrect as it may be to point this out, when Joan came up against male chauvinism and needed to combat it, her first impulse was to put on a tight dress and ask some men for help. This is one of several reasons why we think Peggy will do better at McCann than Joan did. She has a better developed set of tools for dealing with things. Joan’s ways have always been the old ways and even now, with all the changes in her life, she reverts to them when she’s in trouble. After all, the most consistent repeating costume motif for Joan has always been roses on a black background. There was a time when it clearly evoked romantic and sexual disappointment in her life, but by now, it merely signals the shit she constantly has to put up with from men. She wore a very similar dress last season when it became clear just how much she hated Don at the time.And it makes us a little sad that this is probably the last one we’ll see. The last Joan Holloway Rose Dress of Disappointment.
Understand, we’re not accusing her of anything nefarious or even of consciously trying to play these men to get what she wants. She’s not trying to be sexy and she sure as hell isn’t inviting (or deserved) sexual harassment. It’s just innate with her. You present yourself a certain way when you want something from a man. “My mother raised me to be admired.” She needed help, so a pussy bow and an A-line skirt wasn’t going to cut it.
Tom & Lorenzo’s Mad Style is a richly unique and wholly fascinating look at Mad Men, illuminating how a character’s outer life reflects their inner life. I cannot recommend these amazing articles enough.
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One last thing I’d share: As I combed through my past Mad Men-related Facebook posts, I uncovered these limerick gems I’d written in 2010 because why not. Please enjoy!
There once was a woman named Joan,
Who’d worked her way up on her own.
Her husband’s abusive.
Her joy is elusive.
And lying she does not condone.
There once was the new guy named Stan,
Who thought he was nothing but man.
He’d tease and he’d flirt,
And he’d take off his shirt.
But Peggy did not like his plan.
There once was an ad man named Pete.
With others, he’d often compete.
He worked night and day,
To make accounts stay,
And never would admit defeat.