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Draper's Inferno

Draper's Inferno

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Published by David Weisblatt

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Published by: David Weisblatt on Oct 29, 2012
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05/27/2013

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Or How To Sell The Hell Out Of It Without Even Trying
David Weisblatt
Shortly before its first season, “Mad Men” creator, Matthew Weiner describedhis new series as “science fiction”—
set in the past. Despite the impliedcontradictions, it is a fairly straight forward claim; perhaps deceptively so.Though it is true both may act as cautionary tales, Weiner knows "Mad Men"does something science fiction can't. Because when we replace Mars withMadison Avenue, we get a chance, not only, to contemplate where we're going,but how we got here.While Don Draper and the rest of SCDP may believe it has been through theall-American pursuit of happiness, we intuitively know happiness is not an easything to define. As Draper says in "The Color Blue" (S03/E10) "People may see
 
things differently but they don't really want to." Though season five may haveopened with its characters relatively content, to quote Roger Sterling, "It woreoff."This fits in neatly with one of "Mad Men's" dominant themes this past season:
"Not knowing when something is good”. It began before its first episode even
aired: not in the controversial "falling man" ads (which we will address later)but in the one seen here.
Through a glass darkly/ Don, in rare moment of self reflection
 
In the photo, Draper stares at his own reflection in a department storewindow. The image is mysterious and alienating; but what may be moreinteresting is what appears behind him. A close look above his hat reveals asign that reads simply "S Nicholas".While this may seem inconsequential at first, it relates directly to somethingWeiner said in an interview earlier this year. When asked whether this past
season suggested there’s a trade
-off between happiness and success, this iswhat he said:
"Right, (Don says) happiness is the moment before you need more happiness.That is not a healthy way to think. I know he sold the hell out of it and the 
 
audience was distracted by Jon Hamm’s incredible delivery and the great 
directing in that episode. But the wo 
rds he’s saying are strange." 
 Are they? The reason "S Nicholas" is important here, is not because it's thename of a fictional department store, but who S Nicholas was; St. Nicholas.Life saver/ St. Nicholas patron saint of sailorsLong before being transformed into Santa Claus, Nicholas was the patron saintof New York City...and sailors. The miracle he is most associated with is knownas "The Multiplication of The Wheat".According to Wikipedia:"
During a great famine that the Bishop of Myra experienced, a ship was is in the port at anchor, which was loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. He invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need. The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. Only when Nicholas  promised them that they would not take any damage for their consideration,the sailors agreed. When they arrived later in the capital, they made a surprising find: the weight of the load had not changed, although the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing." 
 

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