Monday, February 27, 2012

"Mad Men" Brings on the Mannequin Madness to Start Season Five

It's been a long wait, but "Mad Men" -- the curiously addictive (and beautifully dressed) drama about the life of advertising men and women in the 1960s* -- is finally back. Or almost back. We still have a few weeks to wait.

To build some buzz for the show's return March 25, AMC has been releasing teaser videos that reveal almost nothing about what will befall gorgeous, tortured Don Draper and his ad pals in this 5th season. Now we have a new poster to go with the video, and it's hard to tell whether it and its mannequins in a store window reveal anything or not.

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner told the New York Times that the poster is intended to be "a dreamlike image," one that is "'a nonverbal representation of where my head is at and where the show will be."

He also promises in the article linked above that by the end of the season, we will all understand why exactly this poster was chosen to represent the new season.


When last we saw Don, he had just proposed to his secretary after knowing her for about five minutes. She'd filled in as babysitter when he took his kids (he has three from his terrible marriage to Ice Queen Betty) to California, and pretty much did a turn as Maria from "The Sound of Music" in charming him and his children. Oh, and the reason Don needed a babysitter to go to California was that stupid, annoying Betty got into a snit and hauled off and fired loyal household help Carla, the only real mother the Draper children have ever known, just to prove to TV Land that she really is as big a moron as we all suspected. But, hey, Betty did finally deign to move her frosty white butt out of the Draper home, so there is that. We also got the idea that Betty's new husband sees through her petty little games and that this marriage won't do any better than #1.

Back at the office, red-hot office manager Joan has been promoted to Director of Agency Operations without a salary increase, plus she's pregnant, and Roger, who has a trophy-secretary wife of his own, may be the father; Pete is unhappy that the firm has added Ken Cosgrove without telling him; and Peggy has scored an important pantyhose account, mostly because she has moxie and is pretty darn awesome at her job. Not that Don notices, what with the toothy eye candy on his arm and the diamond ring on the eye candy's finger.

So what of the poster and what it tells us about the direction all those stories are taking, now that we finally get to see what happens next for Don and Joan and Pete and Peggy?

Is the mannequin picture supposed to signify that Don finally realizes how shallow his life and his view of women is? That Don will continue to reveal nothing of himself (since the male mannequin is fully dressed) while the women in his life are naked and vulnerable? That he has all the power, while everybody else dances (and strips) for his pleasure? That he is as fake and as insubstantial as the mannequins, given that his ghostly image is superimposed between them? That the "perfect picture" of a husband and wife never did exist, and he needs to stop trying to paint himself into such a picture? That Don is going to turn into Hugh Hefner, avec smoking jacket and slippers and naked women with lingerie at their ankles? That the old ways are gone, that men in smoking jackets and women in frilly lingerie are being cleared out of the window to make room for bell-bottom jeans, psychedelic miniskirts and Nehru jackets?

I don't know. But it seems clear there are implications about sex and power in that poster.

New episodes of "Mad Men" begin on March 25 with a special two-hour season premiere.

*"Mad Men" and its ad men started in the 50s, but are now up to the late 60s, story-wise.

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