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In the future you will find a love that lasts

The word on the street is that AMC has been purchased by Viacom—and with it, Mad Men.  In response, Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, Jared Harris, Elizabeth Moss, Robert Morse, Rich Sommer, and Christina Hendricks have decided to start their own show.  I can’t wait for next year!  But I hear that the actor who plays little Bobby is afraid he’ll be replaced.  These things are always hardest on the children.

In related news, David Lynch is reportedly furious that Mad Men featured Roy Orbison’s “Shahdaroba” during the closing credits of last night’s episode.  “The candy-colored clown,” Lynch growled.  “I don’t know what Weiner was thinking, but dammit, I’m the go-to guy for obscure Roy Orbison songs.”

As for last night: Don can be very ugly sometimes, no?  Calling your wife a whore makes the baby Gene cry, obviously, and it’s a nasty thing for a serial adulterer to say.  I suppose that involves a double standard of some kind.  But I was also struck by the scene in which Don tries to make amends to Peggy for basically ordering her to follow him into the nebulous Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce future.  Contrast that scene with the pitch he makes to Pete: when Roger says blandly that they’ll need Pete’s skills, Pete demands to hear—from Don—exactly what those skills are.  Pete has wanted that pellet for a long time, and he gets it: Don credits him with having the foresight to go after aerospace accounts, teenagers, and the “Negro market.” All true, and Pete gets his daily affirmation.  Whereupon Pete signs up for the nebulous future, which, as Roy Orbison reminds us, will be much better than the past.

Not so with Peggy: there is no point, during that strange and terribly vague conversation in her apartment, at which Don says, “you were right about Patio and Aqua-Net, you completely got it about Mohawk Airlines, and the way you thought on your feet during the meeting on Western Union was incredible.” All true, but it goes unsaid.  Peggy has wanted that pellet ever since Don told her she hadn’t done anything at Sterling Cooper that he couldn’t live without, but Don clearly doesn’t think that specific praise for Peggy’s talents needs to be part of the sales pitch.  Yes, he gets credit for recognizing those talents, and a little bit of extra credit for having enough self-knowledge to admit to her that he’s seen her as an extension of himself.  But that’s as far as it goes.  And, of course, nobody’s talking about putting Peggy’s name anywhere near Pete’s.

One last thing.  Two weeks ago Bill Benzon sent me a link to Benjamin Schwarz’s more-definitive-than-thou essay on Mad Men, and a few days later I read Amanda’s quite wonderful response.  Schwarz:

Mad Men’s most egregious stumble—though seemingly a small one—involves Betty Draper’s college career, and it is generally emblematic of this extraordinarily accomplished show’s greatest weaknesses, and specifically emblematic of its confused approach to this poorly defined character. Betty, the show establishes, was in a sorority. So far, okay. Pretty, with a little-girl voice and a childlike, almost lobotomized affect; humorless; bland but at times creepily calculating (as when she seeks solace by manipulating her vulnerable friend into an affair); obsessed with appearances and therefore lacking in inner resources; a consistently cold and frequently vindictive mother; a daddy’s girl—Betty is written, and clumsily performed by model-turned-actress January Jones, as a clichéd shallow sorority sister. (Just as Don’s self-invented identity is Gatsby-like, so Betty, his wife, is a jejune ornament like Daisy, though without the voice full of money.) But she’s also a character deeply wronged by her serial-philanderer husband, and she’s hazily presented as a stultified victim of soulless postwar suburban ennui (now there’s a cliché). So, perhaps to bestow gravitas on her, or at least some upper-classiness, the show establishes that she went to Bryn Mawr. But of course Bryn Mawr has never had sororities. By far the brainiest of the Seven Sisters—cussed, straight-backed, high-minded, and feminist (its students, so the wags said, preferred the Ph.D. to the Mrs.)—Bryn Mawr was probably the least likely college that Betty Draper, given to such non-U genteelisms as “passed away,” would have attended. So much for satiric exactitude.

There really should be a name for this kind of criticism.  Begging Amanda’s pardon, this is not merely about “feeling superior to the writers of ‘Mad Men,’” though it certainly is that.  It’s also about feeling superior to the rest of the show’s audience, who are clearly insufferably middlebrow, like that Charlie Rose fellow, “who can always be counted on to embrace the conventional wisdom”:  “not just Rose but also Mad Men’s affluent, with-it target audience are particularly susceptible to liking what The New York Times’ Arts and Style sections tell them to like (30-plus articles in two years!).” Unlike the Arts and Style sheeple, however, Benjamin Schwarz likes this extraordinarily accomplished show—but for the right reasons.

The important thing about this kind of criticism is that (despite its pretensions) it doesn’t really matter, finally, what those reasons are.  What matters is that Benjamin Schwarz has more cultural capital than you do.  The key sentence is this:

But of course Bryn Mawr has never had sororities.

Let me be more specific.  The key phrase in the key sentence is this:

of course

Look. I’ve been in the higher ed business for quite some time.  Why, I even went to an Ivy League school when I was a young thing, and I can name the Seven Sisters.  But this is news to me, because I’ve never kept track of whether Bryn Mawr had sororities.  Did you?  If not, you lose!  Go to the back of the class, because Benjamin Schwarz has more cultural capital than you do.

See, if you’re writing to catch Mad Men in an uncharacteristic mistake (one that Weiner admitted some time ago), it’s fine to say, “As it happens, however, Bryn Mawr has never had sororities.” Saying “of course Bryn Mawr has never had sororities” is quite another speech act, something akin to using the phrase “non-U genteelisms” a bit later in the paragraph.  U and non-U!  Ah, now, that one takes me back ... to a time before Schwarz and I were born.  It was just before teatime, I believe, the fall of 1954, Henry Pordes bookshop in Charing Cross Road, and Schwarz and I were chatting about Nancy Mitford’s essay.  “Die” was definitely U, we agreed, and “pass away” very non-U.  “An egregious stumble on the part of Mad Men, that Bryn Mawr business,” I said.  “Indeed,” Schwarz concurred, “though seemingly a small one.” “Of what,” I asked, “is it generally and specifically emblematic, do you think?  And have the cognoscenti largely ignored any of the show’s quiet virtues while extolling what are really the show’s considerable flaws?” “Ah,” replied Schwarz.  “I’m glad you asked.”

“More-definitive-than-thou” isn’t quite right, though, is it.  It’s more like “more-discerning-than-thou.” Because as it turns out, the cognoscenti have largely ignored the quiet virtue of Mad Men while extolling what are really the show’s considerable flaws. One has to be careful about the proper display of one’s discernment when one is writing about mere TV shows, particularly when one is writing about TV shows that have been written about in the New York Times Arts and Style sections 30-some times.  One does not want to be mistaken for the wrong kind of affluent, with-it people. 

But I am an awfully dim bulb in some ways, and I have to admit I had a hard time with Schwarz’s closing line:

The cognoscenti, though, have largely ignored this quiet virtue while extolling what are really the show’s considerable flaws. Ah, the media juggernaut.  If Mad Men were half as good as the hype would have it, the show would be one of the best ever produced for American television. It’s both.

I suppose that “it’s both” means that Mad Men is (a) half as good as the hype would have it and (b) one of the best shows ever produced for American television.  Uh, OK, but doesn’t an “if ... then” construction presume that if (a) is the case then (b) is also the case?  And what’s with the awkward slide from subjunctive to indicative?  Doesn’t this gambit demand something like “would that it were so”?  Otherwise, you wind up sounding like you’re saying, “if this were so, then this would be so, and so it is.” Ah, the media juggernaut.  If this essay were half as discerning as it affects to be, its final sentence would be better written.  It’s neither.

Posted by on 11/09 at 10:21 AM
  1. It’s neither.

    Of course.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  12:51 PM
  2. One would think that one so concerned with “U and non-U” would have taken a symbolic logic course somewhere along the line.  Then again, I took such a course at a small state university, which might mean that symbolic logic is itself too non-U for Mr. Schwarz.

    and I can name the Seven Sisters.

    Sterope, Electra, Maia, Merope, Alcyone, Celaeno, and Taygeta.* In order of selectivity of admissions.

    *Helpful mnemonic for this supplied on request.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  01:23 PM
  3. Of course, if P then non-U.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  01:43 PM
  4. Oh well done, Michael, that’s why you’re the professor of literature and modern language studies: that Schwarz essay really needed a takedown worthy of its condescension and you provide a delicious one. Comment (3) is the icing on the cake or olive in the martini or something.

    As for Mad Men, an excellent finale. I’ll stand aside and let others wax lyrical.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  01:48 PM
  5. Yeah well. I have to admit that my sympathy for the writers is limited in this instance. Using Bryn Mawr is, in itself, a signal that this show is for “smart people” who are made to feel good about themselves for sharing in this secret understanding, knowing that most tv watchers won’t get the point. (My guess is that for most people in Chicago, say, Bryn Mawr is a street, and a Red Line L stop. Correct me if I’m wrong - maybe Bryn Mawr is one of the American institutions everyone immediately recognizes?)

    Which is to say, if you try to be clever you better make damn sure you don’t make a mistake. This applies to the Mad Men writers as much as to Schwarz.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  02:12 PM
  6. I think you established your own cultural capital with that reference to Henry Pordes’ bookshop on Charing Cross.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  02:46 PM
  7. That was the idea, Eric.  Just don’t tell anyone that I’ve never been to London, OK?  Because I don’t believe one could have gone into Henry Pordes bookshop in Charing Cross Road in 1954.

    And Christian, Christian.  Everyone, but everyone knows Bryn Mawr.  Yes, the bit about its sororities was a slip on the writers’ part, and they have been duly chastised.  But I really don’t see why it’s so unlikely for a wealthy Main Line girl like Betty to be attending Bryn Mawr in the 1950s.  Least likely college?  Hello?

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  02:54 PM
  8. Of course, Bryn Mawr was also attended by several of the women in the Weathermen.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  03:24 PM
  9. So who won’t be back next season? contract dispute, movie opp, Mad Men spin-off, chance to star on Broadway etc. I am betting that <.......> won’t be back.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  04:14 PM
  10. I don’t watch Mad Men because I don’t have cable.  In fact, since we lost analog reception last winter we now get one channel, which we don’t watch.  How U of us is that?

    But as I understand it this show is all the rage in part because of its exact verisimilitude.  It’s not an egregious mistake to confuse Bryn Mawr with Sweet Briar, but it’s still a mistake.  The presence or absence of sororities isn’t the main thing - Bryn Mawr girls are famous for being bluestockings and always have been.  My guess, Michael, is that you knew enough to know this this Betty character wouldn’t have gone there. 

    An analogy - I could not watch Titanic, because the characters, in their perfect period clothes and settings, talked like 1990’s teenagers.  Obviously it didn’t both most people.  Is the fact that I have enough cultural capital to know what young people in 1912 might have sounded like something I should be careful not to mention, for fear of being accused of being a snob?

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  04:25 PM
  11. Bloix, when you get that extra channel you’ll find that there’s no reason to assume so strongly that Betty Draper couldn’t have gone to Bryn Mawr.  And she majored in anthropology, for Moloch’s sake.  Schwarz doesn’t care for the back story because his larger argument in that essay is that the show’s depiction of early-60s casual racism and sexism, bo-ring, Betty Draper’s stultified suburban ennui, cliché, but ah, those fine sentences the actors are given to speak, there’s the show’s quiet virtue.  See “displacing content onto form” in your copy of 1001 Handy Critical Maneuvers.

    As for Titanic:  no, there’s no good analogy there.  That movie ran afoul of the Mimesis Police in eighteen different ways—the Picassos going down with the ship, the FDR dime Rose hands to Jack, Rose hatless in church, etc.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  04:52 PM
  12. That movie ran afoul of the Mimesis Police in eighteen different ways

    The Mimesis Police showing up would have salvaged that film.  Especially if they had had capes and goggles.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  05:28 PM
  13. Well, once again I’ve engaged in my favorite vice, which is to opine on matters of which I know nothing.  For all I know it would be in Betty Draper’s character to have attended the Sorbonne and spent the fifties doing field work in the Amazon under the direction of Claude Levi-Strauss.  And as for the battle over Mad Men’s soul - it’s feminist! no, it’s traditionalist! - boy, I got no more to say about that than I do about whether Miller Light tastes good or is less filling.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  05:58 PM
  14. We did get the retro misfits puddling into a hotel. 

    Meanwhile, over at Breaking Bad...is it murder to let someone die (of a self-inflicted drug overdose), rather than try to save them???

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  06:58 PM
  15. For all I know it would be in Betty Draper’s character to have attended the Sorbonne and spent the fifties doing field work in the Amazon under the direction of Claude Levi-Strauss.

    Oh, yes, I forgot!  No Sorbonne in Betty’s past, no, but her Italian is pretty damn good.  And on Miller Lite, I feel very strongly both ways.

    But I do think it’s a good question in general:  at what point does one call the Mimesis Police?  Hmmm, I can see an ABF Friday coming.

    Spyder:  this Breaking Bad ... it is a TV show?

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  07:49 PM
  16. In defense of awkward sentences, I think he was attempting a contrary-to-fact conditional.  The “It’s both” is actually telling us that the show is not even half as good as the hype while still managing to be galactically renowned or whatever.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  08:27 PM
  17. I got no more to say about that than I do about whether Miller Light tastes good or is less filling.

    In this beer snob’s opinion Miller Lite both tastes filling and is less good.

    Posted by Jason B.  on  11/09  at  08:44 PM
  18. I’m only in the first season of Mad Men but Amanda Marcotte’s post sounds right on from my admittedly limited perspective. The signs of Betsy’s transformation into such a person are already well-planted early in the first season.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  09:47 PM
  19. I think all the mimesis cops are still working on the Dan Brown case. All we got for Mad Men is some mimesis P.I.’s, with predictable results.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  09:51 PM
  20. I got no more to say about that than I do about whether Miller Light tastes good or is less filling.

    It’s neither.*

    In defense of awkward sentences, I think he was attempting a contrary-to-fact conditional.

    With a triple-axle lemon twist.  Gad, if the parsing and diagramming of this passage gets any more convoluted, we’re going to have to call in a professor of religious symbology.  Speaking of which,

    I think all the mimesis cops are still working on the Dan Brown case.

    What do you mean, “still”?  No mimesis cop worth vis salt would let linear narrative get in the way.  If they were going to come down hard on Mad Men, they already would have done it.  And Betty Draper would already have been retconned into a Doctress at the The Sorbonne.

    *Sorry, Jason B., but it was the more obvious rejoinder.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  10:29 PM
  21. When someone says to me “I have more cultural capital than you,” I like to break into song, preferably St. Anselm’s Proof of God to the tune of Waltzing Matilda—that’s very U, I think. The pipesmoke really oozes out of the tweed jacket, there. Quoting Tom Lehrer jokes as if they are new does it too.

    Actually, I do none of those things, but I’ve seen all that done. I been there, man, and I admit to a raging contempt for someone who plays the U card.

    I haven’t seen the TV show, but it sounds like Shorter Schwartz = “The good thing about Mad Men is that it celebrates the wonderfulness of the WASP hegemony.” Amirite?

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  10:49 PM
  22. And that reminds me, rm:  the entire U and non-U discussion is completely irrelevant to the question of whether Betty could have gone to Bryn Mawr.  Saying “Bryn Mawr graduates were cussed, straight-backed, high-minded, and feminist, preferring the Ph.D. to the Mrs.” is not the same thing as saying “Bryn Mawr graduates were U-girls all of whom said ‘died’ instead of ‘passed away,’ so it’s vastly unlikely that she would have gone there.” It’s practically a category error we’re talking about.  So my sense is that Schwarz was working overtime to get that “non-U genteelisms” phrase (and his knowledge that “passed away” is indeed a non-U genteelism) in there somewhere.  As for whether Bryn Mawr was brainier by far than Barnard, Radcliffe, or Wellesley ... oh, I give up.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  11:17 PM
  23. Not that I want particularly to play this card, but I think Benjamin Schwarz would be deservedly wounded by someone pointing out to him his own manifestly middlebrow status, evident by his essay’s publication in the Atlantic, a magazine with an inferiority complex if there ever was one. Surely one way of reading Schwarz’s evident disdain for the NYT’s Arts and Style section is as the voice of a rejected middlebrow...unable to cut it as a writer for the Times, Schwarz is forced to peddle his wares in the pages of the no-less middlebrow but far more culturally marginal Atlantic magazine.

    Nothing galls the highbrow aspirant more than the reminder of his own membership in the group he disdains.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  11:30 PM
  24. @22 It’s practically a category error we’re talking about.

    Yes, that is one of the most annoying aspects of how our status-drenched higher education system is generally dealt with in so much of our culture, the lazy, ubiquitous synecdoche where “an x man” or “a y woman” implies so much.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  11:37 PM
  25. this Breaking Bad ... it is a TV show?

    If, by “TV show” you would imply that people sit at home and watch other programs on AMC, then no, it certainly is not a TV show.  If, by “TV show” you suggest certain actors, directors, and producers (winning numerous Emmy Awards) get together and create a filmed series of very challenging thought problems, then yes, most definitely it is a TV show!  It is a left coast sort of thang served with Hornitas Margaritas and JimBoy’s Tacos; we don’t know these Miller Lights.

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  11:46 PM
  26. So as not to leave the circle of cultural capital unbroken, I took a stroll through the New York Observer’s material on MM and found a short article “The Atlantic Figures Out Mad Men”. The last line of which is, Also, remember when Ken Cosgrove had a moment of glory upon publishing a story in The Atlantic? Nice symbiosis.

    Nice show-offy use of a 4-syllable word beginning with “sy” you snobs…

    Posted by  on  11/09  at  11:55 PM
  27. we don’t know these Miller Lights

    Obviously, spyder, since you use the non-U term for them.  At Bryn Mawr, by contrast, everyone calls them “Miller Lites.”

    And Eric, I don’t think there’s all that much difference in cultural capital between the Atlantic and the Times, so I don’t see much striving on Schwarz’s part on that score—he has plenty enough CC to go around.  Yes, the magazine fell a long. long way between the days of William Dean Howells and the days of Michael Kelly.  But it’s still very much the TNR of Boylston Street—with all that implies.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  12:02 AM
  28. This blog is the Help! magazine of Beaver Avenue but with nothing that that implies.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  12:13 AM
  29. Michael,

    Oh I agree. The difference between the Times and the Atlantic is not one of cultural sophistication but of influence. I see Schwarz’s grousing about the masses of urban sophisticates taking their cultural marching orders from the pages of Arts and Style section of the NYT as the voice of a guy who longs for that kind of influence but, because he doesn’t have it, has to dismiss the Times and its readers as middlebrows.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  12:44 AM
  30. I have a bit of an opinion on the Peggy scene, not to be non-U or anything. Although I concede that it would have been nice to hear Don enumerate her talents and contributions in exactly the way that he did for smarmy Pete (whose beaming smile, once he had finally gotten the validation of a promised partnership, was a beautiful thing to behold—and, by the way, I think they went to Pete instead of to Ken because they knew that Pete was greedy and hungry enough to jump ship with them, whereas Ken, for all his Atlantic prowess, is basically a complacent Ken doll)—although, as I was saying, I do concede the point, I think that what Don actually said he values in Peggy is quite remarkable and quite moving.

    The way I read it, Don as good as said that he values Peggy for precisely the thing that would get her shunned and abhorred by the rest of society, indeed and perhaps more importantly the rest of the *office,* if they knew it: the enormous trauma she went through during and after her pregnancy. Like Don himself, Peggy has crawled through the fire and risen from the ashes, and her scars are marks of both valor and altered vision.

    It might have felt satisfying to us as a modern liberal audience for Don to have have praised Peggy for her considerable brain, but I think it’s ultimately more profound and more perceptive that he praised Peggy for undergoing the worst emotional experience of her life. Not even surviving it, or becoming strong at the broken places, but simply for undergoing it, that deeply terrible and deeply feminine tragedy. Call Don a difference feminist instead of an equality feminist, I guess.

    Posted by Amanda French  on  11/10  at  02:37 AM
  31. At Bryn Mawr, by contrast, everyone calls them “Miller Lites. (copyright for Lite owned by Miller, when it was a subsidiary of Altria/Phillip Morris-gotta keep the cigarette connection)

    They had Miller Lite at Bryn Mawr in the early 60s?  What’s next Michelob MKUltra? I am pretty sure the original Miller was called the Champagne of Bottled Beers, appropriate for any of the seven sisters (for seven brothers), because it was all about the high life. 

    Squeaking of wealth, every $10 million in 1963 would equal around $78 million today.  Those client accounts, that were in essence poached, would have provided a very high-end advertising agency.  It will make for an interesting new season, when the “partners” must make critical decisions: employment, partnership hierarchies, client support, etc.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  05:25 AM
  32. ...obsessed with appearances and therefore lacking in inner resources

    Funny how that criticism so aptly applies to anyone who not only knows the difference between U and non-U genteelisms, but brags about it.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  07:26 AM
  33. I know it’s a bit old by now, but I’d love to read your thoughts on Mark Greif’s Mad Men article for the LRB. I find it as insufferable as Greif finds Mad Men. It’s the textual equivalent of a kind of hyper-minimalism, a single note sounded over and over again. The message is the by now all too familiar one: you should not like Mad Men because it is so smugly self-congratulatory about how far we’ve come from the dark old days of the sixties.

    This seems so stunningly tone-deaf, so bad a reading of the show that I don’t know where to begin. Admittedly, I’m only into the first season right now, but I find my experience of the show considerably at odds with Greif’s. To read Greif’s piece, you would think that viewers of the show simply live for those occasions when the show does (admittedly) highlight the difference between the present and the past (as, for example, when Sally runs in with a dry-cleaning bag over her head and Betty scolds her for throwing the clothing on the floor). There is a lot that one could say about this, but overall I think these moments occur with far less regularity than Greif imagines. More importantly, I find the assumption that this is what keeps audiences tuned in to the show season after season both highly questionable and lacking in evidentiary grounding. If this is what cultural criticism has come to we are, to borrow Greif’s term, doomed.

    I could say more, but I won’t. So far I like the show quite a lot and find it less smugly self-congratulatory about the superiority of the present to the past than somewhat melancholic about the tragedy of a past that is in many ways still present.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  10:47 AM
  34. I realize that Don calls Betty a “Main Line brat” in the last episode, but Betty isn’t really supposed to be uber Upper Class blueblood anyway. We know she rode a schoolbus to her public, co-ed high school. We’ve seen the house she grew up in. And that a daddy’s girl like Betts should attend the college closest to her home? Well, I am all astonishment.

    Posted by oudemia  on  11/10  at  10:49 AM
  35. Eric @ 29:  point taken.  And @ 33:  oh, heavenly Moloch, don’t make me read yet another tone-deaf person who thinks Mad Men is really Pleasantville at heart.

    Amanda @ 30:  hmmmmmmm.  You are probably right.  Again.  Actually, I was kinda hoping that someone would make more of that scene than I did.  Thanks!

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  11:42 AM
  36. @34

    Indeed. Schwarz’s claim that Betty’s attendance at Bryn Mawr is a distinctly false note--a dissonance aggravated, in Schwarz’s words, by her use of non-U genteelisms like “passed away"--is spectacularly ignorant, projecting an unvarying identity onto Bryn Mawr as “straight-backed, high-minded, and feminist” and overlooking the reality that human beings then (as now) are enmeshed in multiple and often conflicting discursive networks.

    Schwarz would have us believe that the caricature of Bryn Mawr as the most feminist of the seven sisters (with women preferring the Ph.D. to the Mrs.) was a dominant feature of the institution even in the early 50s, the time period when Betty would have attended the college. This alone ought to overthrow entirely Schwarz’s smug satisfaction in catching the writers in a slip (”of course Bryn Mawr has never had sororities").

    More importantly though, Schwarz’s nattering on about Betty’s non-U genteelisms entirely misses the fact that--even assuming (and it is quite an assumption in my opinion) that a college educated woman would have been surrounded by a franker discourse about death--Main Line society is noted (and frequently caricatured) for its trafficking in such genteelisms. Much of the dark comedy of Nicky Silver’s vicious send-up of Main Line life in Pteradactyls proceeds from this awareness. My point is this: Betty’s attendance at Bryn Mawr (even granting it the frankness Schwarz retroactively projects onto it) can hardly be supposed to have utterly swept away the accumulated habits of many years of life on the Main Line.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  11:49 AM
  37. It’s practically a category error we’re talking about.

    And even if it weren’t, wouldn’t one arrive at the opposite conclusion, if anything?  Selecting the Ph.D. over the Mrs. would seem to be a rather non-U thing to do, especially at the time in question.

    As for whether Bryn Mawr was brainier by far than Barnard, Radcliffe, or Wellesley ...

    Well, according to Welsh myth, she was.

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  12:10 PM
  38. I’m a little unsure how plausible it is that Peggy would go with Don to his new firm.  Yes, she is his creature--and, as such, he may feel he can control her, as he would never be able to control Paul Kinsey or the young dudes.  But he values personal loyalty (that’s why he blew up to Conrad Hilton), and she has been doing nothing but whine for quite some time.  From a career perspective, in my opinion she would be better off spending the next few years at McCann, even if it is as bad as Don says (he makes it sound like the Yankees of Madison Avenue).

    Posted by bianca steele  on  11/10  at  12:31 PM
  39. this breaking bad ... it is a tv show?

    thx spyder...i’ve been trying for weeks to extol the virtues of breaking bad here on michael’s weekly mad men lurvfest…

    see my essay on the virtues of that fine bit of television here.

    Posted by skippybkroo  on  11/10  at  12:58 PM
  40. Could the obviously high-brow teevee watcher M. Schwartz have been slumming—mimicking a certain vulgar goofball ‘historian’, who in his recent Commentary article stated,

    “It’s been said that the difference between the truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. After its third season, Battlestar Galactica steadily failed on both counts.”


    Posted by neill  on  11/10  at  09:24 PM
  41. Spyder:  this Breaking Bad ... it is a TV show?

    I’m sure Skippy the Bush Kangaroo would be able to extol its virtues… Wait, “skippybkroo”?  WHY?!?

    Anyway, one way to think of Breaking Bad is that it is to Weeds as Psych is to The Mentalist.  Or is it the other way around?

    Posted by  on  11/10  at  11:40 PM
  42. Shorter vulgar goofball “historian”:  Battlestar Galactica was good when I could believe that it supported the war on terror.  After that it was ruined by politics.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  12:01 AM
  43. mds, the direction of the analogy really matters, there.


    Y’know, this is just like how it always bothered me that Dr. Quinn on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman always exemplified just the right 1990s attitude toward whatever frontier version of a social issue came up. Is Mad Men anything like that show?

    Cable? What?

    No, I only get basic. Why?


    Okay. I’ll go away. But, y’know, access to the high-end channels these days is cultural capital, right?

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  01:07 AM
  44. one way to think of Breaking Bad is that it is to Weeds as Psych is to The Mentalist.

    really?? no!  Breaking Bad is to Mad Men as 2009 is to 1963; then again maybe it is Breaking Bad is to Mad Men as L Word is to Deadwood?; or perhaps Breaking Bad is to Mad Men as J. Walter Thompson is to Sterling Cooper.  Is the captcha really ‘recently?’

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  04:53 AM
  45. Brain fart, mind flash: Breaking Bad is to Mad Men as Mariska Hargitay is to Jayne Mansfield....  yeah, that is pretty much it.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  05:17 AM
  46. mds, the direction of the analogy really matters, there.

    really?? no!

    I liked the episode of Psych that I caught a while back, but I don’t actually have the grounds to judge between it and The Mentalist.  I do enjoy reading the assertion that just because they’re both about people who aid the police using uncanny powers of observation which make them appear pyschic, that doesn’t make The Mentalist a copycat show.  It does seem that one from each group is played more for absurdity, while the other two are much more serious.  But yes, the direction of the analogy was left deliberately ambiguous, because I don’t really know whereof I speak.  (really??  no!)

    Breaking Bad does sound interesting, though.  What the heck happened to AMC in the time since I last had cable, anyway?  They used to be Must Sleep TV.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  10:14 AM
  47. mds, my 13-year-old, and also the 10-year-old, will set you straight on this. Psych is cool and original, The Mentalist is derivative and lame. They have some reason for this opinion, because P came first and TM copied it a few years later. If you are in doubt, the characters in Psych will mention it during the show. Also, only Psych has inspired a cultural catch-phrase.

    This is what we watch when we do not have the good cable channels.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  02:46 PM
  48. Psych is cool and original, The Mentalist is derivative and lame.

    Well, I said I was hedging.  This was my completely-uninformed impression, as noted above.  But I didn’t want to overlook the possibility that a nominal “copycat” could do a better job with the material, since Breaking Bad has apparently done so.

    Also, only Psych has inspired a cultural catch-phrase.

    What catch-phrase is that?  I’m always eager to expand my armamentarium.*

    *Today, I would find it a bit too self-referential to “Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow” myself.**

    **See *.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  03:41 PM
  49. mds: if, for whatever reason, you choose to take a gander at Psych, do so on DVD.  You can then choose the subtitle feature which alerts the viewer as to the subtext intended by the writers to honor this or that media moment from the past.  It is quite enjoyable in an interactive way.  Part of why it is “cool and original” is that it is designed to be over-the-top and camp, aligned more with Monk than with say NIP/TUCK

    Speaking of derivative and lame (h/t rms); “V” is beyond the pale in that regard.  We get LOST actors, trying to merger Earth: Final Conflict into Battlestar Galactica, and doing it very poorly.  Yuck.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  08:10 PM
  50. "Really?” in the sense of “That’s all you got?” It’s everywhere.

    My son informed me the other night that “no one says ‘dude.’” The things you learn.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  08:41 PM
  51. My that was yare

    Posted by  on  11/13  at  03:16 PM
  52. Posted by  on  11/17  at  03:36 AM





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