Sunday, November 2, 2008

Missing "Mad Men"

It was “Mad Men” that got me into vintage perfume.

Sure, I had the day scent and the night one. I had my good jeans and my everyday ones. I’d had enough of standing on a stool fidgeting while my meticulous mother, who would have been somewhere in her thirties in the time of “Mad Men,” hemmed my dresses so they’d fall perfectly. I, on the other hand, was all about authenticity.

But there was something about those women – Peggy and Betty, Joan, Rachel, Francine, Bobbi, all of them, with their careful coifs and pearls and gloves that made me remember: there was a different time, one in which secrets were kept and reputations guarded.

The genius of “Mad Men” is its subtlety. In most movies and nearly all television now, the actors explain the plot to each other. The writing in “Mad Men” seems to come from a much less ham-fisted time, when the spoken words and the filmed images didn’t even have to be on the same plane. Each episode, with its attention to the period, the clothing, Betty’s kitchen, Joan’s hair, the edgy Danish Modern furniture in Roger’s office, even the lamps on Don’s desk, is as perfect as a diamond.

As my fascination with the show increased, I began to look over the few things I had kept from my mother’s clothing from that time. Shirts with perfect stitching, silk or cotton dresses with seams large enough to let out or take in, meant to last. And perfumes, like Arpege and Moment Supreme, that were unabashedly grown-up; made for women, not young girls.

That came later, with the British invasion. Suddenly, women were supposed to look like boys, flat as ironing boards, and the girls went for guys with long hair like the bands had. Arpege and other heavy perfumes became passé. Yardley’s English Lavender replaced them. Women took to diet pills to get that sticklike look, and then took Valium to come down from the diet pills. And so on. None of this is news.

What I’m wondering, though, is how the creators of “Mad Men” are going to handle the changes.

Since the show jumps two years each season, the next one will be set in 1964. By then we may know what has happened to Don. Will he have become a Sixties icon, shedding the Brooks Brothers and the Brylcreem along with his secret identity, now that nobody gives a damn about background – or claims not to? I wonder about Joan, who has left herself few choices at this season’s end. I’m eager to see what they’ll do with Don and Betty’s daughter, who portends every baby-boomer rebellion, and her little brother, already acting out his parents’ conflicts (when his nose isn’t smashed against a TV screen). I can’t wait – and yet, part of me is saddened, too, because these people won’t be able to keep up their facades in the oncoming cultural upheaval.

Yeah, I know, they’ll probably be happier, more in tune with themselves, whatever. But I’ll miss them.

I miss them already.

The drawing for samples of vintage 60's classic "Heaven Scent" -- the real thing -- ends midnight, US Eastern time, November 5th. There will be two winners. Leave a comment to enter!

There is a special section on AMC’s “Mad Men” blog for discussing perfumes. The topic is “Perfumes from the 60’s”. Here’s the link:

Photos of “Mad Men” characters courtesy of AMC.


5spice6 said...

Oh I know, I know. Sunday night was NOT THE SAME! Would love to be in the draw. Remember Heaven Scent the name but not the smell.


bookishredhead said...

Okay, I give in. I haven't watched the show because I didn't have tv. But, since I had leg surgery I've had cable installed. I got it JUST in time to miss the last episode. But, after reading your blog, and hearing you talk about how fantastic the show is, I've decided to take the plunge and get it on DVD. No doubt, you'll have another believer on your hands pretty soon.

Lucy said...

I've been watching it on Mondays, when it comes on the free on-demand channel. It's been remarkable.
Next season will be a real turning point. The beginning of the "real" sixties.
Like now, we are heading for a new era.