Aug 9 2010

Sex, Lies, and Don Draper in Mad Men

maureen

He presents a slick, appealing image but Don Draper is a man on the run. He’s escaping his past by taking on a new identity. His carefully constructed persona earns him admiration in the first seasons. At work he is known for his creativity, good looks, and integrity.

Advertising presents an idealized image of a life that can only be attained by purchasing the product being sold. Advertising creates discontent with real life. It plays on envy and pride to create a desire to mold a life that matches the image presented in the ad, and to purchase whatever products necessary to prop up that image. Mad Men’s creator Matthew Weiner chose advertising as a subject, he said, because “it’s a great way to talk about the image we have of ourselves, versus who we really are.”

Don Draper is the personification of a man who is reaching for the image. He doesn’t think he can attain it as himself, Richard Whitman, so he becomes someone else. For awhile he succeeds in selling himself as the person he wants people to believe that he is. Even after his charade is discovered by a few people he manages to dodge consequences. He’s tried to compartmentalize his life, presenting himself as a successful, creative advertising executive and charming family man while feeding his alienation with lies, sex, and alcohol. But he can’t maintain the persona 24/7. While the excessive drinking is accepted cultural behavior in 1960’s New York for Don it’s more than social. Don’s lost and hurting so he self-medicates with gluttony (alcohol) and lust.

Just as he does at the office, Don is carrying on a charade at home. He is the image of affluent, upper-middle class America in the sixties. But his relationship with his wife Betty is based on lies. He’s married her and given her a name that is not even his own. He cheats on her. He carries on the social pretenses of the lifestyle but he’s not really engaged. Don’s personal emotional space isn’t just wide, it’s a chasm. Even with Betty. Continue reading


Jul 26 2010

Totems, Symbols, and Reconciliation in Inception

maureen

 

Spoiler Alert – Inception was an intellectually stimulating and engaging combination of sci-fi action movie, ensemble piece about corporate espionage, and an introspective drama about guilt, loss, and reconciliation. The premise of extracting and planting ideas in the subconscious through dreams and the idea of group dreaming was a fresh approach.

Inception seemed to invite the audience into it’s multi-layered dream and keep us there until the very end. Though the dreamers in the movie were the architects and very intentional in their dreams, watching Inception felt more like having a real dream.  It felt off kilter and sometimes confused and very in the moment.

Real dreams, the ones that come to us as we sleep, the ones we don’t control, allow us to unravel our mental, emotional, and spiritual knots. We need to dream in order to remain sane. Even though we don’t remember all of our dreams or understand the ones we do remember, our dreams allow us our sub-conscious minds to reorder and reinterpret our lives.  We don’t have to know what happens in our dreams in order for them to heal us.

Perhaps the movie, like a dream, is meant to be personal and individual. There are lots of ways to look at the ending. It felt a bit like waking up in the middle of a dream. We each will draw individual conclusions and interpretations in order to try to make sense of it. Like the dreamers in the movie, each member of the audience brings a collection of beliefs and ideas to interpreting Inception. Continue reading

Jan 19 2010

Characters, Symbolism, and Sin in The Book of Eli

maureen

Spoiler alert – Eli is ready to kill and ready to die to protect the book he believes he’s been charged by God to carry west. In this apocalyptic world Eli’s Bible might the last one known to exist. Apparently the Bible played some part in a war that resulted in nuclear holocaust thirty years earlier, which led to an attempt to destroy all known copies.

Eli doesn’t know what he expects to find when he gets there, he just knows that his part is to carry to book. He brings it out and reads it every night, but otherwise keeps it hidden from sight. The care and reverence with which he treats the Bible as he carries it reminds me of the Biblical accounts of the Israelites transporting the Ark of the Covenant.

The Book of Eli made me think about the power of the Bible and how it is used. It also left me with some questions about Eli, his mission, and the characters he encountered along the way. Perhaps I’m completely off, but the names of the characters seemed to carry some significance for me.

A glimpse into Eli’s pack reveals a K-mart employee name-tag with the name “Eli.” Like Noah, David, or one of the Apostles, Eli is an ordinary guy who God seems to have called to do something extraordinary. On one hand Eli believes he is divinely appointed, divinely led, and divinely protected. On the other he’s a sort of Samurai / western hero with mad self-defense skills. I sort of wondered whether Eli’s skills are divinely inspired or whether he’s developed his unique abilities to sense danger due to years on the road. Whatever the case it seemed to me that Eli is heavy on violence and may have failed to explore other communication options. Continue reading