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‘What else is there?’

Frames from Mad Men Episode 5.8, 'Lady Lazarus'

Frames from Mad Men Season 5, Episode 8, ‘Lady Lazarus’

Last season […] I was showing that the culture [of the United States in 1968] was like Don. It was carnal, it was anxious, it was having a huge self-confidence problem… And now [in Season Seven] I want to look at the material and immaterial world. Things that are of this world — ambition, success, money, and time to some degree — and the contrast of what we can’t see, the spiritual, the internal life… When your needs are met, when you have a roof over your head[…] and at a certain point those needs are met, what else is there?

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner on the show’s seventh (and final) season, which premieres this Sunday night; interview with amc.com dated April 7, 2014; emphasis added.

***

DON DRAPER (1960)

You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.

–Matthew Weiner, Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 1 (‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’)

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DON DRAPER (1960)

Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.

–Matthew Weiner, Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 1 (‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’)

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DON DRAPER (1967)

You’re happy because you’re successful… for now.  But what is happiness?  It’s a moment before you need more happiness.

–Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men, Season 5, Episode 12 (‘Commissions and Fees’)

***

ROGER STERLING (1967)

What are the events in life? It’s like, you see a door. The first time you come to it, you say, ‘Oh, what’s on the other side of the door?’ Then you open a few doors and then you say, ‘I think I want to go over a bridge this time. I’m tired of doors.’ Finally you go through one of these things, and you come out the other side, and you realize that’s all there are: doors! And windows and bridges and gates. And they all open the same way. And they all close behind you. Look, life is supposed to be a path, and you go along, and these things happen to you, and they’re supposed to change your direction, but it turns out that’s not true.  Turns out the experiences are nothing. They’re just some pennies you pick up off the floor, stick in your pocket, and you’re just going in a straight line to you-know-where.

–Matthew Weiner, Mad Men, Season 6, Episode 1 (‘The Doorway, Part 1’)

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DON DRAPER (1960)

I remember the first time I was a pallbearer. […] I remember thinking, ‘They’re letting me carry the box, they’re letting me be this close to it, they re not hiding anything from me now.’ And then I looked over and I saw all the old people waiting together by the grave and I remember thinking I… I just moved up a notch.

[…]

Jesus, Rachel, this is it. This is all there is, and I feel like it’s slipping through my fingers like a handful of sand. This is it. This is all there is.

–Bridget Bedard and Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton and Matthew Weiner, Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 10 (‘Long Weekend’)

***

What, after all, is the use of not having cancer, cirrhosis, and such, if a man comes home from work every day at five-thirty to the exurbs of Montclair or Memphis and there is the grass growing and the little family looking not quite at him but just past the side of his head, and there’s Cronkite on the tube and the smell of pot roast in the living room, and inside the house and outside in the pretty exurb has settled the noxious particles and the sadness of the old dying Western World, and him thinking: Jesus, is this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?

–Walker Percy, ‘Bourbon’, Esquire 84 (December 1975): pp. 148-149; collected in Signposts in a Strange Land

Comments

  1. FILE UNDER says:

    Notes toward a keynote address for the third biannual conference of the Walker Percy Center for Writing + Publishing, centered on the theme of Walker Percy Saved My Life; What Can He Do For You?

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

      To become aware of the possibility of a Percy Center Conference presentation on Walker Percy and Mad Men is to be onto something.

  2. Brilliant writing. Really, the best stuff being written these days in any form is on Mad Men.

    I can’t watch anymore because those women are like crack to me.

  3. Tagged With: What else is there?

    There’s this show “Penny Dreadful” about the occult, old devilry, and the unnatural in Victorian London. (Neat concept, plus who doesn’t love Eva Green?!) Well it’s been unsatisfying, verging on the regrettable.
    The 2nd to last episodes had some redeeming elements as the merry band finally had to face the facts – Secular Humanism & Natural Philosophy can only go so far against old scratch. Yayy exorcisms!
    It’s mostly lost potential. Clearly Lickona should have been writing the show. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Catholic / sexual guilt, the last things…

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