I’ve never even watched Mad Men before and I enjoyed reading this, for what it’s worth.
**PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT**
Samurai Jack is streaming on Netflix. And if you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so immediately.
That background painting is by the amazing Scott Wills. It’s from the show. One of the many, MANY stunning paintings he produced for the series. I just drew the sword.
Kotsko focuses on this a la carte sociopathy because he admits no one envies actual real life sociopaths. We only envy TV sociopaths— so he infers that it must be a special selection of sociopathic characteristics we actually admire.
But this the wrong inference to make. The reason TV sociopaths are admired is that they are on TV. They have a story.
Do you really admire Tony Soprano? Which part? His loveless marriage to a crazy person? A mistress who is even crazier? His gigantic belly and panic attacks? The fact that no one actually likes him? That his daughter was dating a black guy? (“I wouldn’t have a problem with that.” Yes you would if you were Tony.) What part do you admire?
The answer you tell yourself is you admire his power, that he can do whatever he wants. No he can’t. The whole show was nothing but repeated examples of how limited his options were. The things you think you admire— having hot sex with the other crazy woman at his psychiatrist’s office, eating microwaved Sysco at Italian restaurants, avoiding his wife— can be done by anyone, you don’t need to be Tony to do it. But when you do it…. it just doesn’t feel the same. I know.
What people admire about Tony isn’t his freedom; that thing you think is freedom is actually the lack of freedom. His story. His identity— that he has one, an obvious one, a clear one. Tony Soprano is not free, his behavior is completely tethered to what makes sense for his character. He acts exactly like Tony Soprano would act. That’s what people want: the limitations of that identity: if I know who I am, I know what I am capable of, I know my strengths and my limits, I know how I’d react to unknown dangers. And I want other people to know this. If other people know who I am, I wouldn’t have to keep proving myself. Strike that: I wouldn’t have to prove myself in the first place.
Telling a modern American that what they really want is less freedom seems like some dangerous talk, but it is true nonetheless. Cynicism, irony has failed you, but you know no other way to be. Don Draper is an ad man, so going to a “partners’ meeting” run formally, by a secretary, doesn’t seem bad at all. Neither does wearing a suit and tie, every day, and a hat. But your job doesn’t define you, so going to a meeting seems stupid, a farce, play acting, so you affect an cynical detachment form it. And you’re not wearing a tie for anybody. You know it’s stupid, you’re not buying this corporate bullshit. This cynical posture is a front, a wall, it protects you from being defined by your actions; but what you don’t see is that the very job you think you’re undermining still receives the full power of your productivity. That you’re unhappy, or cynical, is irrelevant to it. It doesn’t care about you. Why should it? You don’t even care about yourself.
That’s what we envy in Don Draper. That he can exist as himself without ironic detachment, they can be defined as something. And what they do and what they are matches perfectly, even if it’s “bad.” The truth you must face, now, immediately, is that if you were put in Draper’s clothes, in his relationships, in his job, you yourself would immediately affect that cynical detachment: “A partners’ meeting? What for? Come on, I see you guys in the hallways all the time” and you’d be as miserable as you are now. But until you accept this truth about yourself, you’ll think changing other things could save you. Tell the truth: did you consider a career in advertising after you watched Mad Men? Then you are lost.
Footage of a proposed television series based on Moebius and Dan O’Bannon’s The Long Tomorrow, narrated by James Coburn.
I’ve found virtually no information about this, except for this resume page for producer Hillard Elkins(at the very bottom):
“Elkins is also in development with Phillipe Rivier and Tri-Star Television on a one-hour series, written by Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Total Recall) and designed by the acclaimed artist Mobius, presently called THE LONG TOMORROW”.”
Thanks so much to one of my twitter followers for sending this to me.