crypto: Amy Pond (Default)
2010-08-16 05:47 pm

Mad Men and Aca-Fen

My new Symposium Blog post is up -- no Mad Men spoilers, I promise! Especially since I'm already two episodes behind!

Thanks for everyone's responses to my question about posting vids on YouTube last week -- I'd still like to writing something up about that, but I'm waiting to track down notes from this year's Vidding & Visibility Town Hall at VividCon.

crypto: (sarah looks ahead)
2010-07-29 02:16 pm

Audience empathy and dislike in Mad Men

Jason Mittell, "On Disliking Mad Men":

The missing ingredient from Draper and nearly all of Mad Men‘s characters is empathy, as virtually nobody’s behavior or situation invites me to place myself in their shoes. Instead, I watch the characters from an emotional remove that makes them appear as pieces in a mannered dance rather than fully realized people to care about. This might be the ultimate answer to the core appeal of serial drama, as without empathy toward the characters, viewers lack the emotional connection to sustain the commitment of weeks, months, and years that a successful series demands. Even though their actions are reprehensible, I feel empathy toward [Tony] Soprano, [Walter] White, [Dexter] Morgan, [Vic] Mackey, and [Al] Swearingen, understanding their acts in the context of their lives and situations. Draper’s blank slate doesn’t leave me with more than just the sense of him being a “cold bastard” as his core. And I translate this lack of empathy to how the show’s creators seem to regard their characters – while Al Swearingen might be a bastard, I always feel that creator David Milch loves the guy. While I know it’s my own projection rather than any authentic access to authorial intent, I can’t help but feel that Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner ultimately feels contempt toward Draper and the rest, fueling the emotional gap that keeps me from warming to the show.

In the end, watching Mad Men leaves me feeling unclean and unpleasant, having spent time in an unenjoyable place with people I don’t care about, and coming out smelling of stale cigarettes. The gloss and sheen is meant to charm me, but instead it masks something hollow, dark and cancerous. For people who like the show, this resonance is affecting and provocative, but for me, it feels like one of Don Draper’s callow ad pitches. None of the emotional arcs of the characters feel real or earned – instead I’m being sold the illusion of drama rather than honest drama itself, much like the packaging of nostalgia and memory in a Kodak slide projector. Enough people whom I respect feel quite differently, so I know it’s not because the show is a failure per se, but clearly there is a short circuit for me and presumably others, disengaging me from the show on its own terms and failing to create sufficient empathy to go along for the narrative ride that I want to enjoy....

It's funny; I was thinking this week, as I've been frantically marathoning season 3 of Mad Men to catch up and watch the current season as it airs, how odd it was to belatedly find myself empathizing with Don Draper. And yet I did, just as I've sporadically empathized with various other characters on the show at different times. But that empathic response isn't really the primary thing I seek out in television; especially with a self-consciously "quality" TV show like Mad Men, I'm looking for interestingness. I'm quite happy to get engaging characters with dilemmas and predicaments that I haven't experienced and can't relate to, leading lives that don't resemble mine (nor would I want them to). Those fleeting moments of recognition, identification, empathy -- if the characters are drawn and acted well enough, they'll inevitably come, but they're not necessarily the main event or precondition for my enjoyment.

Though I think I've been watching Mad Men as a modern tragedy crossed with more than a dash of A Doll's House, which might not ultimately turn out to be the best reading.

ETA: Ian Bogost, Against Aca-Fandom: On Jason Mittell on Mad Men

crypto: actor glynn turman (glynn turman)
2010-07-25 08:23 pm

Suuuundaay!

Hallyu in aisle 3: I went to Whole Foods today, and my cashier and the two next to him started singing Nobody by the Wonder Girls and then debating how many members were in the group. I was so stunned that I couldn't say anything! I know they recently did a U.S. tour, but are they being played on the radio now or something? Is k-pop the latest hipster fad? Or is it just something about my branch of Whole Foods (I swear another cashier there looks like she could be Janelle Monáe's little sister who ran off to start her own punk/ska band...)?

I was very satisfied with the finale of MasterChef Australia, except for the part where the season is over. Everyone involved with the show, from the contestants to the hosts/judges to the celebrity chefs, was basically adorable. But I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be watching MasterChef Australia Junior with 8-12 year olds cooking off. Still, it was such an enjoyable reality TV show, especially in contrast to the current disastrous U.S. season of SYTYCD.

Oops, I forgot to catch up on season 3 of Mad Men -- I'd really had the best of intentions to watch this season as it aired. How bad would it be viz. spoilers  if I watched the season premiere tonight before going back to watch last season?

I really think Joss Whedon's Avengers movie is going to be terrible, but that's probably because I loathed the second Iron Man movie. Bendis schmendis, I think the whole Avengers mythos has gotten pretty bankrupt creatively.
crypto: actor glynn turman (glynn turman)
2009-08-12 10:49 am
Entry tags:

Another reason to watch Mad Men

Behind the smooth-talking, chain-smoking, misogynist advertising executives on Mad Men is a group of women writers, a rarity in Hollywood television. Seven of the nine members of the writing team are women. Women directed five of the 13 episodes in the third season. The writers, led by the show’s creator Matthew Weiner, are drawing on their experiences and perspectives to create the show’s heady mix: a world where the men are in control and the women are more complex than they seem, or than the male characters realize....

According to the Directors Guild of America, the labor union that represents film and television directors, about 13% of its 8,000 directors are female. Women comprised 23% of television writers during the 2007 to 2008 prime-time season, a 12 percentage point decrease from the same period a year earlier. Nearly 80% of TV programs in the 2007 to 2008 prime-time season had no women writers, according to a study by Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
 
 

From The Women Behind 'Mad Men', WSJ (via kottke)