Don Draper

Culture Warrior

Television’s manufacturing of nostalgia often reduces the past to its most obvious series of events. Whether in revisiting popular culture on VH1’s I Love the ‘70s or in TV movies ranging from The ‘60s to The Kennedys, “the past” rarely adds up to anything more than what we already know about it. The past, then, becomes reduced to a series of iconic historical events that are imbued with the hindsight-benefit of the present rather than portrayed in a way that provides any sense of convincing every-dayness. AMC’s Mad Men has largely avoided this trap. Where NBC’s The ‘60s framed the entire decide as a monolithic event whose every singular moment one nuclear family was improbably involved in, Mad Men integrates personal storylines into major events in a way that gives them a believable microscopic intimacy which make them feel like artifacts of the present: the Kennedy/Nixon election occurs in the background during a raucous and promiscuous office party in Season 1, Don Draper’s (John Hamm) marriage dissolves as the Cuban missile crisis escalates in Season 2, and Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) daughter’s wedding is forebodingly scheduled on November 22, 1963 in Season 3. But these are the events we have come to expect and anticipate Mad Men to touch upon as its timeline moves forward. What the show is particularly adept at doing – and what separates its from traditional and redundant encapsulations of our culture’s most-revisited decade – is its use of smaller moments. Examine the news landscape each […]

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Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s messing with the bull, and ain’t scared of the horns. We begin tonight with a look at Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. He tweeted the picture himself, which is the hip new way to get first looks at new films out into the world. Which sucks, because now I have to follow him on Twitter and sift through what Hugh Jackman ate for breakfast just to see what he looks like with a convict beard. My life is so hard, you guys.

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Culture Warrior

I really love Mad Men. I talk about it a lot. Since The Wire ended in 2008, and I haven’t seen any episodes of Boardwalk Empire yet, then as far as my knowledge takes me it’s the best damn show currently on television. Nothing I’m saying here is necessarily new, but Mad Men effectively does a great many things I’ve never seen television do before in that it 1) delivers is an incredibly entertaining and engaging media object while it uses its protagonists to criticize and reveal the potentially manipulative processes of media itself, 2) interrogates any continuous notion of the ever-interpretationally-oscillating “good old days” by showing how they were neither that good nor that long ago, thereby criticizing our culture’s all-too-convenient rotating manufacture of nostalgia, 3) utilizes the past to criticize white male heteronormative hegemony and reveal a systematic culture of sexism, racism, and homophobia, and all the while 4) creates compelling drama as manifested by ambiguous, layered characters with the combination of beautiful cinematography and impeccable production design. Mad Men, in short, is an engrossing, enjoyable, and thought-provoking series in unprecedented ways. But for a show to engage in such a rare criticism of a cultural moment, a bit of negotiation is required. And it is in this respect that some major problems with the show have arisen recently.

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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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