Sunday, April 26, 2015

GH's Throwback Thursday, Mad Men Edition: "The Forecast"














"Ooh Child"
by the Five Stairsteps (July 1970)

Ooh-oo child,
Things are gonna get easier,
Ooh-oo child,
Things'll get brighter.
Ooh-oo child,
Things are gonna get easier,
Ooh-oo child,
Things'll get brighter.

Some day, yeah,
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done.
Some day,
When your head is much lighter.
Some day, yeah,
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.
Some day,
When the world is much brighter.

Ooh-oo child,
Things are gonna get easier.
Ooh-oo child,
Things'll be brighter.
Ooh-oo child,
Things are gonna get easier.
Ooh-oo child,
Things'll be brighter.

Some day, yeah,
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done.
Some day,
When your head is much lighter.
Some day, yeah,
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.
Some day,
When the world is much brighter.
Some day, yeah,
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done.
Some day,
When your head is much lighter.
Some day, yeah,
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun.
Some day,
When the world is much brighter.

Ooh-oo child,
Things are gonna get easier.
Ooh-oo child,
Things'll be brighter.
Ooh-oo child,
Things are gonna get easier.
Ooh-oo child,
Things'll be brighter.
Right now, right now.



Twice in Mad Men's Episode 7.10, "The Forecast," Don Draper tells someone to essentially grow up, to take responsibility for his or her failure to do something correctly.

And each time, the thing they've failed to do is sell something imaginary. Melanie the realtor and Mathis the copywriter each come to Don for guidance—for the former, it's on how to sell his empty, soulless apartment; for the latter, it's how to get back into a client's good graces.

These are relatively easy tasks for Don, because he's gifted at creating something out of nothing. He can "paint a picture," as Ted Chaough tells him (which is also what he tells Roger to get out of having to write Roger's "prognostication"—but more on that later).

Good Housekeeping, June 1970

And Don has a point, when you think about it—he is paying both of these people to do their jobs. He shouldn't have to hold their hands through it. His frustration with the constant interruptions at work and the amount of instruction his young copywriters (and sometimes Pete) need this episode is palpable.

But Mathis and Melanie have something Don seemingly doesn't, despite his accusing them otherwise: character.

Melanie's job is to sell a home, and though nobody ever fully trusts a realtor, doing what she does requires a certain level of transparency. When Don returns to his apartment and asks how her day of meeting potential buyers went, she says, "About how I expected. They loved the lobby, but the emptiness is a problem." Don tells her, "There are other ways to sell things." To which she responds, "I'm not a magician. I'm using everything I have, but this requires too much imagination."

Good Housekeeping, July 1970
Don's suggestion to make up a story falls on deaf ears. He tells her to give people "a little glamour, a little hope." Something that requires imagination is the best opportunity there is, he says.

She explains, "I have to sell it to people with their eyes open. And do you know what it looks like? It looks like a sad person lives here." She tells him the place reeks of failure.

Of course, all of these are words you could use to describe Don the man right now.

I've mentioned before how the women of this series would begin to switch places with the men, at least as far as adopting a certain persona in the world, as we entered the 1970s. In this episode, we see Don oversleeping and letting a relatively strange woman catch him in his boxers. He walks around the office carrying a bottle of beer (somehow leagues less classy than carrying a low-ball) and is told he needs to get his hair cut. He shaves while standing at his desk, right in front of his secretary. He eats doughnuts and Clark bars (his Hershey's 2.0). He only thinly veils the manipulativeness of his every interaction—each an effort to gather ideas for Roger's assignment. And he manages to disgust his daughter when her young friend flirts with him.

Don has always been a bit of a cad, but as many recappers have noted this half-season, he's never been a sloppy one. Until now.

Just look at the sheer number of women he appears to be sleeping with. The Don Draper we've known for most of this series has been a rather repressed, stoic man—he only seemed to conduct extramarital affairs if they were in his immediate proximity. He probably worked with Midge at some point, for example, and then there's Rachel Menken, a client, and Bobbie Barrett, another client. Then there's the stewardesses he met on planes. And Dr. Faye Miller, a researcher working in his office. The laundry list of secretaries. Sally's teacher. And Sylvia lived in his own building.

Each of these affairs took very little legwork. He's not the most social guy in the world. But by 1970, not only is he making an effort to juggle all of these women, but he is also presumably having multiple conversations with them. And most of the time, we're supposed to believe, he's doing this just to indulge his carnal desires, not to satisfy his never-ending "need to be known."

It's strange. It's very un-Don. It's as though even the act of maintaining his persona has become his addiction, and he's gotten increasingly bad at it. The image of Don Draper in the mirror is what turns Dick Whitman on now, it's what keeps him going.

No wonder he's drinking himself to death.

The ladies, on the other hand, have only just begun.

Good Housekeeping, June 1970
Did you notice how many female characters this episode seem to be sporting way too much makeup? Each one, from Melanie to Meredith to Peggy, has plastered on the wrong color of blush and bright lipstick and some pastel, very '70s eye shadow. The only one who seems to know what she's doing here is Joan, and I have to guess that's because her best friend works at Avon.


Good Houskeeeping, June 1970
Joan exemplifies the whole what's-real-and-what-is-just-an-image dilemma this episode. When she introduces herself to Richard, she says, "I'm Joan Harris, an account executive and partner," like it's very important that he knows that. Because God forbid he might think she is still a secretary. She is fancy now, but on her own terms. She stays in the Beverly Wilshire on business trips, clad in an elegant emerald nightgown, and when she goes to work, she dresses to the nines, maintaining her femininity in head-to-toe pink and a rose print, no less. This is a big f-you to the oafs at McCann and Peggy, who essentially told Joan to stop dressing so much like an attractive woman. Even her jewels have experienced a major upgrade.


But this is a difficult road for Joan, who though very pragmatic and an excellent problem-solver at work has always really wanted love. It's why she still hasn't moved out of the apartment she shares with her mother and son and gotten a larger one for the whole family—she suffers from what Iyanla Vanzant calls "living in the meantime." She spends her riches on the clothing she needs to attract a man (notice how she's also always dieting) instead of on a new, bigger, more updated home—which she can certainly afford at this point. Though Bob Benson has warned her otherwise, she still believes in romance.

Good Housekeeping, July 1970
So she puts on her nude heels and her matching nude purses and heads in to work every day, living this new, modern role, yearning for the day when someone comes along and makes her feel whole.

Just like what Don's been doing all these years.





Notice how when Richard comes back to the office to apologize to Joan, he brings her a bouquet of roses (a gift she's received many times over from multiple admirers). When the camera pans away from them, they are in a bride and groom stance. Except they're in the wrong spots. Joan is standing, holding her bouquet, where the groom normally stands, on the right. Richard is in the bride's position.


Good Housekeeping, July 1970
Richard is apologizing to Joan in this scene and essentially telling her that even though he's a man, his needs don't supersede hers. And though she delivers her message sarcastically, Joan very much stands up for herself here and is strong and forthright with Richard. This is new. This is revolutionary.

It's too bad Don's not in earshot, because THIS is the future.


He does have an educational Chinese dinner with Sally's friends, though, who each seem to want something out of life that is also quite unprecedented.


As I've mentioned before, in our modern culture, people tend to be highly influenced by media. Betty, for example, tells Glen he'll be just fine in Vietnam, where they "have all the comforts of home," because she read it in a magazine. (Notice, by the way, how she touches his hand in this episode when she tells him he's going to be OK. It's the same way he held hers back in season one, when she told him she was so sad and had nobody to talk to [which was likely what inspired him to become her knight in shining armor once he was older].)

Good Housekeeping, June 1970

Joan has a magazine holder in her living room with Ladies' Home Journal peeking out. Kevin watches "Sesame Street" (only on the air for a year by then) and Bobby and Gene "The Brady Bunch." Maureen the baby-sitter has on Carson, and Betty watches a tiny TV in her kitchen now, while she reads the paper. This episode showed more types of TV shows being watched and more TV viewing than ever before. And it's not just a JFK vs. Nixon debate or a boxing match everyone's tuned into at the same time—it's specialized shows for specialized groups of people.

Which is why Don tells Mathis and Peggy, "Kids won't get it, and adults won't see it," when they pitch their "Dear John"-inspired cookie commercial. This is a commercial that will play during children's broadcasting, which is something adults now largely don't watch.

It's going to make Bobby and Gene's generation a different breed from Sally's. But more on that another time.

John Mack Carter with feminists during sit-in
(photo from Hearst Newspapers)

Like Joan and Betty, Sally and her friends will be influenced by women's media, but in very different ways. Only a few months prior to their Chinese dinner, a group of 100 feminists sat in the offices of John Mack Carter, the editor-in-chief of Ladies' Home Journal, for 11 hours, refusing to leave until he honored their demands. Among them: that he hire a female editor-in-chief (even the women's mags were largely run by men then) and an all-female editorial staff; that he have women write columns and articles to avoid inherent male bias; that he hire non-white women according to the percentage of minorities in the U.S.; that he raise women's salaries and provide free day care on the premises; that he open editorial meetings to all employees and stop running ads that degrade women or from companies that exploit women; that he stop running articles tied into advertising; and that he end the "Can this Marriage Be Saved?" column. Numbering among their suggestions for new article ideas were "How to Get a Divorce," "How to Have an Orgasm" and "What to Tell Your Draft-Age Son."

Good Housekeeping, July 1970
This event inspired Carter to be more mindful of the woman of the future. "There was more discrimination than I thought," he later said. "I didn't push our women readers far enough in their self-awareness." Carter died in September 2014, the only person in publishing history to have headed McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal and Good Housekeeping magazines. According to his obituary, "his magazines reflected his ever-evolving consciousness, and he became one of the first male members of the Association for Women in Communications. He remained an advocate for women for the rest of his career, speaking out on issues ranging from equal rights to sexual harassment."

And that's how you get a 16-year-old girl who wants to be a senator in the summer of 1970. Or one who wants to work at the UN.

In fact, if Don were more patient about listening to women's suggestions, he might have reached the answer to the question he ponders this entire episode more easily: What will the future look like?

Photo of the World's Fair from the April 2014
New York Times story, "Recalling a Vision of the Future."

The reason he struggles to write 2,500 words on the future of Sterling Cooper & Partners is because the future is a place where he just doesn't live. He plumbs anyone he can find for answers, even dutiful but dim Meredith. In a snippet of a scene, she tells Don that she believes the future will be just like the 1964/1965 World's Fair. She asks him if he went to it—he could have easily, because it took place in Flushing, New York. It was a huge event that attracted about 41,000 people each day.

Don asks Meredith to name her favorite part, but we never get to hear her answer because right then Mathis rushes into his office. But she likely would have mentioned what was a huge crowd favorite that year, Disney and GE's Carousel of Progress (watch the documentary linked here if you want a real nostalgia treat).

The ride was something orchestrated by Disney and GE to illustrate how far we'd come by the 1960s with electrical innovations. Participants would enter a dome-shaped building and sit in chairs on a spherical platform that gradually rotated around a nucleus of rooms. In each room was an animatronic family who represented a different era—the 1890s, the 1920s, the 1940s and the 1960s. The 1960s room predicted what was to come in modern electricity.

But by far, the best part of the ride was its catchy theme song.


As Richard Sherman, one of Walt Disney's famed composers, tells it, he and his brother were tasked with crafting a song that embodied hope for the future. Here are the lyrics they came up with:

"There's a great big beautiful tomorrow
Shining at the end of every day.
There's a great big beautiful tomorrow
And tomorrow's just a dream away.

Man has a dream, and that's the start.

He follows his dream with mind and heart.
And when it becomes a reality,
It's a dream come true for you and me.

So there's a great big beautiful tomorrow

Shining at the end of every day.
There's a great big beautiful tomorrow
Just a dream away."


In June 1967, the Carousel was brought to Disneyland, and in October 1971, it was installed in Walt Disney World, per Disney's instructions (this all happened posthumuously, as Walt died in late 1966).

But by the time the ride opened in Walt Disney World, GE had abandoned the campaign of "progress is our most important product." The company said they wanted the public to buy now, not in the future. And then they even abandoned the original theme song and forced the Sherman brothers to write a new one.



"A new president came in, and he said, 'I don't want to talk about tomorrow,' which is the song, 'A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow,'" Richard Sherman explains. "He wanted to talk about 'today.' He wanted to talk about 'now': 'I want GE now; I want people to realize that now is what it's all about.' And it was a whole shift of gears for a lot of the people, including Bob and myself. Because they requested, would we come back and write a brand-new song. Not a revised song, but a brand-new song for the Florida GE Carousel of Progress. And so it was not an easy job, actually, to come up with what we did. But we came up with a very positive statement about today. And it was quite different than the one we had done for the original. But I like it as well, it's kind of a powerful song. So for about 25 years, they used 'Now Is the Time, Now Is the Best Time.'"

The lyrics go like this:

"Now is the time. Now is the best time.
Now is the best time of your life.

Life is a prize, live every minute.
Open your eyes, and watch how you win it!

Yesterday's memories may sparkle and gleam,
Tomorrow is still but a dream.

Right here and now, you've got it made.
The world's forward-marching and you're in the parade!

Now is the time. Now is the best time.
Be it a time of joy or strife.

There's so much to cheer for, be glad you're here.
For it's the best time of your life."

"Be it a time of joy or strife"? "Be glad you're here"? Not exactly the most uplifting lyrics in the world.


One commenter on the ride's documentary website wrote, "It's very sad that the original concept and the original ride died so soon after Walt Disney himself died. The early to mid-1960s was an era of hope, vision and wonder that was completely dead by the end of the decade. For all of Walt Disney's personal faults, he was a man of vision and a positive belief in the future of the United States, and of the world really. Perhaps it was somehow tragically fitting he passed away when he did."

Richard Sherman also notes in the documentary that the original song, "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," was largely written about Disney himself, a self-made man if there ever was one.

If anyone was gifted at instilling "a little glamour, a little hope" in people, it was Walt. Even if it was sometimes a bit of a sham.


Sound like someone we know?


In this episode, Sally doesn't know what she wants to do with her life (and is tired of being asked about it) mainly because she's still coming to terms with what she doesn't want. It is the experience Don had when he started on his current course—at age 24, he was running away from his family and past because, as he tells his brother, Adam, in season one's "5G," he just "couldn't go back there."


Don spends much of his life just trying to maintain who he pretends to be. He expends an enormous amount of energy on this, to a point where there is barely any left to put towards thinking about the future. He is a survivor, and a survivor mentality does not leave much room for making optimistic plans.


When he tells Mathis this episode that he doesn't have any character, and Mathis accuses him of the same, they are giving the word two different definitions. "Character," in Don's book, is hard work, even if it involves a little fibbing. For Mathis, though, "character" means authenticity—and that's something Don is certainly lacking.

See the problem for Don and Betty's generation is that though they seemed very grown-up by all traditional standards—the well-kept house, the car, the job in the city, the 2.5 kids—they were putting so much emphasis on status that something got lost along the way. Don's just an extreme example of what an entire generation was experiencing. He and Betty have paved the road for their children to somehow be better.


When he tells Sally, "You're a beautiful girl. It's up to you to be more than that," that's really all he has to say. Because Sally has the chance to live authentically that Don never had.

Unlike Mathis and Melanie, Don doesn't want Sally to sell something imaginary. He wants her to sell something real.

The thing about being 16, of course, is you're never really aware of the fact that the people around you are not necessarily internally the age they ought to be. Because when you're 16, and sometimes even when you're 25, it's very "us vs. them." There are children and then there are adults. So why can't these so-called adults get their damn acts together?

Maya Angelou once said that everybody gets older, but not everybody grows up. Perhaps Sally can teach her parents how to do that.

It makes it all the more fitting that the only product discussed in this episode is a cookie named after a character who stayed a boy forever: Peter Pan.


And incidentally, by 1971, Disney's Carousel of Progress added a new line to its repertoire in the 1920s portion of the ride. The narrator/father of the American animatronic family says to his teenage daughter, "It's a man's world out there, Jane."

Her response? "Well, it won't always be, Father."

Until next time, "Now we have to find a place for you!"


















"Teach Your Children"

by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (July 1970)

You, who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by.
And so, become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye.

Teach your children well
Their father's hell did slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

And you (Can you hear?) of tender years (And do you care?)
Can't know the fears (And can you see?) that your elders grew by (We must be free).
And so, please help (To teach your children) them with your youth (What you believe in)
They seek the truth (Make a world) before they can die (That we can live in).

Teach your parents well
Their children's hell will slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you will cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.














1 comment:

Blogger said...

Did you know that you can create short urls with AdFly and make dollars for every visitor to your short urls.