so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Every time I read another Mad Men analysis and wonder if I watched the same program, I’m reminded of this William Carlos Williams poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and English teachers who commanded me to “Dig deeper. What and how much depends on that red wheel barrow?”
For me, it was the chickens’ birdbath, and one of the lamest poems ever written. Williams himself said he saw the wheel barrow in some old fisherman’s backyard. Period.
Just as reams of drivel have been written about that stupid wheel barrow, so has speculation about Mad Men. But Shakespeare nailed it, hundreds of years ago…
“…it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Macbeth (Act V, Scene V).
Creator Matthew Weiner conceived an intriguing story about advertising in the 1960s, with compelling characters fortuitously played by perfectly cast actors.
And now everybody’s killing themselves looking for the meaning beyond the meaning.
Season 5 just wrapped, and the talking heads are drawing a parallel between the finale and Season 1, where Don Draper sat alone in a bar, about to pick up a woman. In Season 5, he even ordered an Old Fashioned (hint, hint!).
Weiner’s getting credit for brilliantly placing these moments five seasons apart in some grand design (ignoring the post-Season 4 contract dispute that threatened to kill the show altogether — why would he waste time plotting future seasons for an iffy paycheck?).
I think Weiner sees Draper as a womanizer who haunts bars. And now Weiner’s being swept along on this wave of analysis, humoring fans who think they have “insight” by pretending it’s all by pre-ordained plan.
Yes, it’s fun to guess what might happen next, but this endless dissection of each character’s every utterance, movement, and expression has completely jumped the shark.
People, it’s a good story, well told. Get a life.
Even Anthony Bourdain succumbed the other day, tweeting “Pete Campbell arc veering deeply into Cheever territory.”
OK, so maybe Weiner’s evoking some Catcher in the Rye, The Merchant of Venice, The Sound of Music, whatever. That’s what writers do. They soak in, reinvent, and regurgitate.
Watching Mad Men for obscure references so I can wax profoundly about it sucks all the fun out of it for me.
“But what did Lane Pryce’s suicide really mean?” you ask. “Did Weiner name him Pryce because he knew Lane would pay the ultimate ‘price’ with his life?”
Here’s another one for you: Does Don Draper’s name mean his last scene will be in a coffin, “draped” with a flag because he’s a veteran? Will it signify that all “Mad’ men” are soldiers in suits, serving a mission to win the American war of the wallet by selling people stuff they don’t need?
The silliness could go on and on. But let’s not.
I’m waiting for some character to actually recite the Williams poem, sending all the gazers into Don Draper’s navel into a tailspin of speculation.
Meanwhile, Matt Weiner is laughing all the way to the bank — but what is he really laughing at? The fans, or their weird need to morph Mad Men into something much bigger than he probably ever intended it to be?