Sunday, May 18, 2014

GH's Throwback Thursday Mad Men Edition: "The Runaways"

"Runaway" by Del Shannon (1961)

As I walk along, I wonder
Oh, what went wrong with our love
A love that was so strong.

And as I still walk on
I think of the things we've done together
Oh, while our hearts were young.

I'm a-walking in the rain, tears are falling and I feel a pain
A-wishing you were here by me to end this misery
And I wonder, I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder

Why, why why why why why she ran away
And I wonder, oh where she will stay-ay,
My little runaway, a-run-run-run-run-runaway.

I'm a-walking in the rain, tears are falling and I feel a pain
A-wishing you were here by me to end this misery
I wonder, I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder

Why, why why why why why she ran away
And I wonder, oh where she will stay-ay
My little runaway, a-run-run-run-run-runaway
A-run-run-run-run-runaway, a-run-run-run-run-runaway.

Thursday, May 8th, would have been the 94th birthday of Saul Bass, had he lived to see that age, a man famous for designing virtually everything worth buying in the 1960s. By May 1969, the time period we're likely seeing on Mad Men's Episode 7.5, "The Runaways," he'd already generated posters for the decade's most famous films—films like Vertigo, Spartacus and The Man With the Golden Arm (talked about in greater detail on Steven Seighman's blog, The Jump Cut). Some have even said that the opening credits of Mad Men resemble Bass's work—the silhouette of a suited man falling, falling, falling...

But it wasn't until 1969 that Bass would create a logo for something that would make his work truly ubiquitous: the Dixie cup.

According to the Smithsonian, Dixie cups offered "something at once refreshing and profoundly sobering. [They were] a pioneering product that ushered in the wave of single-use items—razors, aerosolized cans, pens, bottles of water and the paper cups you can find at doctor’s offices, backyard barbecues and, of course, the office water cooler."

It's the kind of item that promotes a great deal of freedom, an item you can easily throw away.

With the exception of maybe this smarmy fellow, we haven't seen many characters drinking out of disposable paper cups on Mad Men. And Bob Benson only ever really drinks coffee from a paper cup, and it's always one specific kind of cup, the Anthora—though something tells me he often has to drink from two. (You might have spotted a box of Dixie cups in the background in an episode in the show's early years, seen below, but I don't recall anyone ever drinking from one.)

In 1962, Peggy and Joan probably would have been horrified by the idea of consuming a cocktail at a party from a paper cup. And in May 1969, they might still be.

You know who wouldn't be? These guys:

In one of AMC's "Behind the Scenes" videos this week, Mad Men Property Master Ellen Freund said, "It was a lot of fun doing two parties in one episode because they're totally different parties. For Betty's party, the silver came out, all the good stuff came out. Perfect appetizers. But everything for Megan's party was very casual—plastic glasses, paper cups—things that were appropriate for 1969 youth Los Angeles."

The effort Betty puts into preparing for Henry's party is becoming a hallmark of the older generation at this point (much like her feelings about the Vietnam War, the state of which she apparently blames on the younger generation's lack of patriotism).

And in spring 1969, Good Houskeeping published party-planning ads that would have appealed to her:

And some that would have appealed to Megan:

(Paper cups with handles and a photo with amazing graphics? I'm sold.)

And here's Betty's latest spring 1969 GH doppelganger, from a Breck ad on the back of the May issue:

I can't decide which one looks happier.

Here's Megan's:

I mean, c'mon.

As Don struggles to find authenticity this season, he is surrounded by younger folks like the ones drinking beer out of paper Dixie cups at Megan's party (the red Solo cup was soon to follow in the 1970s) who are doing the same thing—but their struggle is mainly with "the phonies," as Holden Caufield might say, the older, World War II generation and its stodgy ways.

Matthew Weiner titled this episode "The Runaways," and Don Draper is the epitome of such. As a younger man coming of age, he escapes a life that looks like this:

Dick Whitman steals his new identity and throws away his old one. It's disposable.

As Don Draper, he makes an exciting new world for himself. He's the hero of his own story—and though much of his reality is essentially false, he's happier than what he considers the alternative.

Or is he?

In the past few seasons, we've learned that it's actually impossible for Don to run away from his true self, and no matter how much he might achieve as Don Draper, it will never be enough to heal Dick.

Dick Whitman's story is a 20th-century adventure. Though he has to do it as Don, when he runs away, he experiences the American dream, rags to riches. He makes a life out of nothing.

By 1969, though, young runaways, like Roger's daughter Margaret and Don's niece Stephanie (both in ponchos, coincidentally), were embarking on a very different kind of odyssey:

Karen M. Staller explains this well in Runaways: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped Today's Practices and Policies:

"As evident in the New York Times, there was a dramatic shift in the construction of runaway stories and thus in runaway discourse between 1960 and the late 1970s. In the early part of the 1960s, runaway adventures were characterized as safe, harmless, and predictable. Intervention by police (or other adults) was quick, in part, because runaways were so easy to identify by their dress or demeanor. If children weren't quickly caught by adults, they were forced back home by lack of resources (such as food or shelter). Children came from relatively happy homes or, at the very least, ones to which they could return. They did not go very far away or, if they did, they went to predictable places at predictable times of year (making intervention easier).

In the mid-to-late 1960s (with a crisis year in 1967), runaway discourse commingled with that on hippies. During this period, the story frame of the safe adventurer imploded as it mixed with discussions about wandering long-haired youth of the counterculture and its underground. Adventures were no longer safe. Children were drawn to counterculture areas (rather than to fairs and carnivals). Children could be gone for long periods of time, and they were not easy to identify because they blended into the counterculture scene. Adult hippies were uncooperative, and police no longer were effective agents of social control. In short, runaway children could vanish in the underground counterculture abyss and disappear forever. The earlier 1960s story frame of safe runaway adventures could not survive these new rhetorical and social conditions.

As public discussion on hippies receded, a newly constituted 'typical' runaway emerged. This one represented an entire population of similarly situated children. This typical runaway was street-based, left home for long periods of time, and was in danger of exploitation and victimization. These runaways came from unhappy homes to which they were unwilling to return. So rather than being forced home by lack of resources (as in the early 1960s), these runaways were driven to 'survival sex.' Police were no longer able to thwart runaway episodes nor could they protect children. In fact runaway youth were mostly on their own."

This does not bode well for Miss Sally Draper, who's already run off to school after witnessing her father's adultery, attempted to alter her identity via a fake license and said on a couple of occasions that she's willing to hitchhike if necessary, the most recent of which happened Sunday night:

"They'll never let you out. You're too little."

The poncho: the standard runaway uniform of 1969.

And I meant to post this last week, but here's a throwback to Good Housekeeping's idea of hippies at the time:

Yeah, that's pretty far off.

That sweet scene shared by Sally and Bobby showed the most authentic connection and intimacy of any this entire season (rivaled only by Roger and Margaret's looking up at the stars in "The Monolith"—during which they didn't likely "think of a number"). And really, that's what the New Wave runaway was mostly looking for, as represented accurately this episode: an authentic connection. It's something that doesn't often seem possible in a world that is all pretense and facade, constructed by people like Don Draper, who can hide within it, and Betty Francis, who was literally a model when she met him.

(That "perfect nose" of hers seems to have gotten her involved with another phony, hasn't it? Somehow in her self-righteousness Betty failed to notice the very slim difference between a politician and an ad man.)

"Are there others like you?" Peggy asks Michael Ginsberg in season five's "Faraway Places," after he tells her that while he believes he's a Martian, his adoptive father has told him he was born in a concentration camp.

"I don't know," he responds. "I haven't been able to find any."

Is there any runaway in history braver or more alienated than a survivor of the Holocaust?

In Michael Ginsberg, you have the perfect storm this episode: a Holocaust survivor who has post-traumatic stress that's being triggered by extenuating circumstances, a.k.a. "the computer."

He's working for an unbearable boss who is stunting his creativity. He stays late in the office to finish tag lines for HandiWrap, which was also quite a disposable product of convenience—here are the ads Good Housekeeping ran for it in spring of 1969 (and it got the Seal, so you know it was a hot commodity):

He's trying to come up with creative verbiage to sell this modern-convenience dreck, not to mention the Burger Chef ads, which would only contribute to this new on-the-road, no-need-to-go-home American lifestyle—except those would be even more insidious because they'd appeal to children, if guys like Lou had anything to do with it (the inspiration for his "Scout's Honor" comic was "Underdog," which, like many other cartoons of the time, was used invariably to sell junk food to kids—below is one of many that sprouted up in GH that year).

So besides the stress of the computer, Ginsberg has the stress of coming up with tag lines that have to be right but can't be too creative or his boss will veto them—the same boss who is currently holding a secret weekend meeting next to the computer, during which he likely says the phrase "final solution" while Ginsberg reads his lips (a term Lou and Cutler have used to describe what they plan to do to Don; it's conveniently also a term Nazis used to refer to their plan to annihilate Jews). And Ginsberg's also the kind of guy who immerses himself in government conspiracy theories and anti-establishment literature—and he probably does so more than most at that time.

It's no coincidence that Weiner has altered Ginsberg's appearance through the years to resemble the most famous social sci-fi writer of that time period, whose 1969 novel described horrible incidents he experienced during World War II, and whose 1968 short story "Welcome to the Monkey House" somewhat resembles Ginsberg's ideas about the computer "turning everyone into homos."

Besides seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ginsberg is surely watching films like Night of the Living Dead and TV shows like Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. And he is most likely reading books like this one:

His world view is informed by many different things, none of which match the pop culture world of Betty Francis, who glorifies the government's decision to stay in Vietnam and then goes to her bedroom to watch Gomer Pyle.

Ginsberg is merely trying to do what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. described once in a PBS Think Tank interview about Woodstock. It's what every other runaway of this time was doing—looking for a tribe.

Unfortunately, after going so far as to cut off his nipple to deal with the pressure (just look at his word choice the past few episodes, by the way, to catch the PTSD-related references: "They're trying to erase us"; "It's going to get us, one by one..."; "It's like a hydrogen bomb in my head"), Ginsberg is headed somewhere to join a tribe he never wanted to join. I hope for his sake, he's able to get out of it and express himself authentically without being labeled as a lunatic.

Because by the early 1970s, the fallout of the hippie movement would have many people feeling as such. Or at least feeling let down, or confused by what had happened. As Martha Bayles says in the PBS Think Tank interview about the concert we'll probably see by the end of this season, the largest gathering of runaways at that time, "I think [Woodstock] was a failed project because a lot of young people believed in peace and love, but they didn't have a very good guide as to what peaceful or loving actions really were. And it was very much about personal liberation and not very much about how to treat other people. How to treat other people became a very confused and chaotic issue for a lot of young people. Even if they weren't at Woodstock or they weren't at the extremes, there was a lot of moral confusion. And by moral confusion, I mean how to treat other people. And if you add in the toxic emotions that are brought about by drug abuse, you have a recipe for real disaster. And people who felt mistreated by their friends and their lovers and so forth in the '60s were always accused of having middle-class hangups, you know. 'Hey, you know, what's your problem? Why do you object to what I just did to you? You know, you're just hung up on middle-class morality.' And that affected a lot of people. I don't know how the polls would measure that, but that affected a lot of people."

Reminds me a bit of the scene where Don says he doesn't want anything, he just wants to go to bed. And Megan and her friend Amy from Delaware say, "What you need is more drugs."

It's a very different "tucking in" than Lou Avery offers him.

This week I'll be posting even more fashion and interior decor matchups (there were tons this time).

Until then, "I'm smart. I speak Italian."

American Tune by Paul Simon (1973)

Many's the time I've been mistaken,
And many times confused
And I've often felt forsaken,
And certainly misused.
But it's all right, it's all right,
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home,
So far away from home.

I don't know a soul who's not been battered
Don't have a friend who feels at ease
Don't know a dream that's not been shattered
Or driven to its knees.
But it's all right, it's all right,
We've lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on,
I wonder what went wrong,
I can't help it,
I wonder what went wrong.

And I dreamed I was flying.
I dreamed my soul rose unexpectedly,
And looking back down on me,
Smiled reassuringly,
And I dreamed I was dying.
And far above, my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty,
Drifting away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on a ship we call the Mayflower,
We come on a ship that sailed the moon
We come at the age's most uncertain hour
And sing the American tune.
But it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's gonna be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest,
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest.

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