On Mad Men

1. (10.00 - 11.10) Melissa Hardie (Sydney): The Three Faces of Mad Men: a Multidisciplinary Object. Monique Rooney (ANU) "'Out of Town': Mad Men as Interdisciplinary Melodrama" Respondent: Lindsay Tuggle 2. (11.40 – 12.50) Prudence Black and Catherine Driscoll (Sydney): “Don, Betty and Jackie Kennedy: On Periodisation” Caroline Hamilton (Melbourne): “A Vintage Ethic: Mad Men and the Mid-Century Consumer Craze” Respondent: Karen de Perthuis Lunch 3. (2.00 – 3.10) Melissa Gregg (Sydney): The Return of Organization Man Julie Robert (UTS): The Dirty Open Secret of Creativity: Alcohol and Mad Men Respondent: Marise WIlliams 4. (3.30 – 4.40) Lee Wallace (Auckland): “Fag Men: Mad Menʼs Homosexual Style” Kate Lilley (Sydney): “Wounded beauty: Donald Draper downtown.” Respondent: Rodney Taveira

Abstracts
Don, Betty and Jackie Kennedy: On Periodisation Prudence Black and Catherine Driscoll Why is it that we watch Mad Men and think it represents a period? Flashes of patterned wallpaper, whiskey neat, babies born that are never mentioned, contact lining for kitchen drawers, Ayn Rand, polaroids, skinny ties, Hilton hotels, Walter Cronkite, and a time when Don Draper can ask "What do women want?” and dry old Roger Sterling can reply “Who Cares?” The embrace of period detail in Mad Men is both loving and fetishistic at once, and it belongs, like all period film, to the politics of the present. The series begins with the start of the Kennedy administration and invokes an image of cultural revolution associated with the Kennedys and the 1960s. The story about the 60s which frames Mad Men focuses on this idea of cultural revolution--on new hopes, fears, and the decline of “the American dream”. What strange nostalgia draws an audience to this period piece of commercial television; an audience most of whom never experienced the period themselves? Mad Men asks to be viewed as a type of history, as a display of period detail about men, women, families, business, aesthetics, politics, and many types of pleasure? Within the frame established by this archival claim Mad Men says many things that would seem outrageous or impossible outside it. Mad Menʼs period film claims are what make it so timely. Among other pleasures invested in the period film genre, including pleasure in transgressing present limits by reference to the past, Mad Men provides content for a nostalgic genesis story about what is perceived as present decline. If a degree

 

of melancholy is central to the series this too depends on its period frame. Mad Men claims the 60s as a period in which the idea of ʻhopeʼ created a familiar ripple over the surface of sceptical realism. This is the very same ʻaudacity of hopeʼ that would appeal to Mad Menʼs audience as Obamaʼs catch cry. The Return of Organization Man Melissa Gregg This paper considers the significance of suburban commuter imagery in a selection of screen visions of mid-century modernity. A number of examples, including Mad Men, and the screen adaptations of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956; adapted from Sloan Wilsonʼs 1955 novel) and Revolutionary Road (2008; adapted from Richard Yatesʼs 1961 novel), will be shown to echo key themes, symbols and scenes in their depictions of suburbia and the cultural impact of the corporation. Taken together, these narratives indicate the resilience of the “Organization Man” (Whyte 1956) as a figure marking the tension between individualism and conformity in post-WWII United States. In each text, this tension is further exacerbated by gendered distinctions that pitch suburban domesticity against the city-based world of work. If Mad Men follows an evident tradition in its critical representation of the suburban idyll, in a post-9/11 context, this is matched with a degree of nostalgia. As such, the series raises larger questions about present threats to US hegemony and the durability of its manufactured visions of contentment.

A Vintage Ethic: Mad Men and the Mid-Century Consumer Craze Caroline Hamilton Mad Men has captured the popular imagination in a way quite distinct to other popular ʻevent TVʼ programs such as The Wire and The Sopranos. Unlike these programs Mad Men has been incorporated into popular culture at almost all levels of everyday consumer life. Beyond watching, audiences can buy Mad Men: in the form of Barbie dolls, on the cover of magazines, in vintage fashion and furniture stores, at Banana Republic (the Don Draper suit), and on websites like eBay and Etsy. Mad Men is a 1960s-styled twenty-first century lifestyle choice. This paper is an analysis of this aspect of the programʼs popularity. Why Mad Men and why now? Mad Men not only looks to the past for a source of narrative drama but also mobilises the aesthetics of the past to trigger desire in the audience. Strikingly, this mobilisation of aesthetics to the purpose of consumer desire is one central thread to the narrative of Mad Men and its Madison Ave setting. Mad Men dramatises the change in advertising philosophy that engendered the ʻindependent consumerʼ. Refusing to keep up with the Joneses, preferring their own unique standards, this consumer evolved throughout the twentieth century to become the ʻauthentic consumerʼ, searching for ways to express their individual identity through consumer goods that are rare, exclusive and have the aura of legitimacy. Over the last 15 years this consumer ʻethicʼ has been accompanied by concerns over ethical production and consumption. The consequence has been the development of a vintage consumption culture (of clothing, furniture, arts, crafts, cars, music, etc.) that is deemed by participants to be both ethically and aesthetically authentic. This is not without its problems. The critical reception of Mad Men (in particular critiques that the show is all style, no substance and is designed merely to reassure middle-class audiences as to how far theyʼve come) illustrate the trouble with repurposed vintage aesthetics. There is an uncomfortable dilemma in commodifying the past for a present day gratification. Mad Men has been criticised for its slavish devotion to authentic recreation of the past with little regard to the politics and history submerged beneath the propsʼ (reinvested) aura. As with the problem of re-commodification and re-purposing of mid-century homewares explored in Nicole Holofcenre's recent film Please Give (2010). Mad Menʼs critics have read the show obsessive devotion to period detail and satire of period mores as an attempt to assuage white-middle class guilt while ignoring the present. Entry into this world is pleasurable, like entry into well-outfitted vintage stores, but it involves a series of questionable caveats regarding personal ethics. Likewise, as films like Holofcenreʼs show, vintage consumption practices no matter their pleasurable aura of

 

distinction, authenticity and good ethics carry with them the burden of guilt and shame. In short, having good taste leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The Three Faces of Mad Men: a Multidisciplinary Object. Melissa Hardie This paper addresses the constitution of Mad Men as a multidisciplinary object in light of its temporal oscillations. Several different triplets will be offered. The first will schematise the seriesʼ staging of nostalgic regard for the 60s and the 30s, focusing on “passing” as a strategy of temporal migration. The second will consider the seriesʼ relationship to mid-century models of middlebrow as an “affective style” that has its counterpart in the sentimental, literary style of cable television drama of the 2000s, orienting this “antique” style (in the era of "nobrow") against the highbrow and the lowbrow as elegant shadow forms. The final will introduce the question of the psychoanalytic against the rise of popular psychology mid-century and its distinct, contemporary formulation in post-9/11 wound culture.

ʻWounded Beautyʼ: Donald Draper Downtown Kate Lilley Don Draperʼs voiceover reading of the last section of ʻMayakovskyʼ, the final poem of Frank OʼHaraʼs 1957 Grove Press collection, Meditations in an Emergency, establishes an oblique, contingent connection between the enigmatic ʻcreativeʼ and the most iconic ʻpersonalityʼ of the New York School poets. Located on Valentineʼs Day 1962 – when Meditations was out of print and OʼHara had ascended to a curatorial position at MOMA – the opening episode of Season 2 aligns Draperʼs instinctive understanding that advertising is successful when it engenders ʻfeelingʼ with OʼHaraʼs championing of poetry as an anaclitic linguistic charm, a seductive performance of personality that goes on its ʻnerveʼ, disclosing nothing more of its split subject – ʻwhat does he think of/that? I mean, what do I?ʼ – than the effect of being ʻbeautiful again,/and interesting, and modernʼ.

The Dirty Open Secret of Creativity: Alcohol and Mad Men Julie Robert This paper examines Mad Menʼs treatment of creativity and the creative process through its use of the myth of the drunken artist. Working from the premise that alcohol is often seen as a potion that inspires artists to express themselves, I focus on the striking silences—the ellipses—and the subsequent and partial acts of disclosure—the analepses—in the fourth seasonʼs narrative about the creation of the award-winning Glo-Coat floor wax commercial to re-evaluate Mad Menʼs seemingly obvious propagation of the stereotype of drunken creativity. I contend that the showʼs play on the dual nature of alcohol as a cause for expression (inspiration) and a reason to seek silence (shame) unsettles the link between alcohol and the creative process. In questioning one of the traditional theories of creativity, the show highlights the larger cultural debates about what constitutes creativity that were taking shape in the 1960s.

"'Out of Town': Mad Men as Interdisciplinary Melodrama" Monique Rooney “we need to reinvoke melodrama as the constitutive force behind much of what

 

we call quality television” 1 My paper examines AMCʼs Mad Men as melodrama that, working as an interdisciplinary mode, reproduces the conditions of its own production. That Mad Men is commonly categorised as a high class soap that succeeds because it transcends the melodramatic mode on which it is based is itself revealing of the ways in which melodrama has historically operated. It is a mode that has engendered both popular identification and critical disdain as viewers express the desire to participate in but also escape the ʻclaustralʼ style that has defined melodrama from its inception. The disciplinary crossings of melodrama can be seen through the showʼs intertwining of the romances of its main characters (advertising executives) with the psychosexual motivations and language of their sales pitches, through its stylistic and thematic references to classic (Stahl, Hitchcock) and experimental cinema (Sirk); and through its representation of television viewing itself as a mode of melodramatic consumption that frames the main action. Most unsettling perhaps is that Mad Men enacts the perpetuation of a melodramatic aesthetic that crisscrosses with the (melo)dramatisation of politics.

Fag Men: Mad Menʼs Homosexual Style Lee Wallace Among the many retro-fittings achieved by Mad Men–Matthew Weinerʼs still unfurling television series set in the Madison Avenue world of the early sixties–is the reframing of gay style and experience within the remit of heterosexual masculinity. The advertising creatives and account executives who occupy the blueprint-exact mid-century modern offices of Sterling Cooper are all straight, except the beatnik homosexual duo - one short and dark, the other tall and Slavic, like period Simon and Garfunkel - ostensibly brought in to cover the youth angle on consumerism but actually needed to throw into greater historical relief the closeted art director Salvatore whose hapless attempts to not be queer eventually spell his professional ruin. In this paper Iʼll consider how the homosexual storyline, evenly tagged to Cold War paranoia and the trend to sexual liberation, transfers knowledge of the closet to the straight man and the consequences of that exchange.

Prudence Black is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies. She has published in the areas of fashion and design history and her book The Flight Attendantʼs Shoe will be published with UNSW Press in 2011. Catherine Driscoll is Associate Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies at Sydney. Her publications include Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture and Cultural Theory (Columbia UP, 2002), Modernist Cultural Studies (UP Florida, 2009) and Teen Film (Berg, 2011), as well as numerous essays in collections and journals. She is particularly interested in the representation and experience of modernity and in the tension between ideas about the "popular" and the "serious". She is currently writing a book on The Australian Country Girl and researching everyday life in Australian country towns. Melissa Gregg works in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. She is the author of Cultural Studiesʼ Affective Voices (Palgrave 2006) and co-editor of The Affect Theory Reader (Duke UP 2010). Her forthcoming book, Work's Intimacy (Polity 2011), investigates the impact of new media technologies on white collar professionals. This paper is part of a related and ongoing research project investigating representations of workplace culture in film and television.

                                                             
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 Michael Kackman, ‘Flow Favorites: Quality Television, Melodrama, and Cultural Complexity’ FlowTV 11.09  h ttp://flowtv.org/2010/03/flow-favorites-quality-television-melodrama-and-culturalcomplexity-michael-kackman-university-of-texas-austin/. 

 

Caroline Hamilton is a research fellow in the Department of Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne. She has published a book on the publishing success of Dave Eggers, One Man Zeitgeist (Continuum, 2010). Currently she is investigating the future of the novel, publishing and literary communities since the advent of digital communications. Melissa Hardie teaches in the English Department, University of Sydney. Recent publications include articles on Lindsay Lohan and Kitty Genovese and recent research investigates mid-century design and queer sociability in The Night, The Prowler, Susan Sontagʼs relationship with Joseph Cornell, and a book on the death of the closet. Kate Lilley teaches in the English Department at the University of Sydney. Her interest in American mid-century modern and its redactions is centred on poetry, film/tv and sexuality. Julie Robert teaches French and Québécois cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her research interests include literature and medicine, disability studies, political rhetoric of the body, and the representations of alcohol in literature and other texts. She is just beginning a project, titled “Drunk on Culture,” which examines the paradoxical role of alcohol and other intoxicants on questions of power, professionalism, and disclosure. Monique Rooney is a lecturer in the School of Cultural Inquiry at the ANU where she teaches US literature and film. Her current research is on melodrama and late twentieth century Australian film. She has published on melodrama in both American and Australian contexts. Lee Wallace currently teaches in the Department of English the University of Auckland. Her current research investigates relations between sexuality and space. Following on from her 2009 monograph Lesbianism, Cinema, Space: The Sexual Life of Apartments, she is now interested in a number of homosexual sites and architectures, some fictional, some material. The first of these is the collaboration between lesbian director Dorothy Arzner and gay interior designer William Haines on the domestic melodrama Craigʼs Wife (1936), which concerns an obsessional housewife, played by Rosalind Russell, who loves her house more than she does her husband. Other related inquiries into gay domesticity include analyses of the Auckland and Sydney residences of gay authors Frank Sargeson and Patrick White, as well as work on homosexual architecture and interior design.

 

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