Three Twenty One

The Sun Also Rises

How far into this blog did I get before dedicating a post to Mad Men?

A ton has been written about this show, so bear with me as I add to it. As a latecomer to the series, I am now just catching up. I have heard the show described as a novel before, and I get the comparison – it is meant to be enjoyed as a subtle yet detail-rich, melodramatic yet smart narrative – however, I’d like to counter argue that this is serial television at its best. Calling it a novel is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both fruit, but they taste different. The unique qualities that privilege television are that they are conveyed visually and aurally. Novels are words. To say Mad Men is a novel is to not give television credit it can be effective as a long-form narrative. Television is different from movies in that it unfolds over a longer period of time. Movies are shorter. In fact, one of my favorite excuses not to go to the movies is to say, “It’s only one episode!”

Currently, I’m watching seasons 1 – 4 of Mad Men for a second time and just finished season 2, episode 10, titled “The Inheritance. What struck me is a detail that Mad Men is known for – restrained, simple, beautiful, yet says so much. In the very last scene of this episodes before the credits roll, we see Don Draper on a plane, window seat. He is looking out the window, another unreadable expression on his face. As “Telstar” by The Tornadoes starts to play, the plane rolls right, and Don’s face is slowly brightened by the sun.

What a shot! In just the 12 seconds or so in which that scene unfolds, it indicates so much: hope, escape, the future, revelation. Now, having seen already what happens in the following episodes, the meaning only deepened. But even in just the context of this episode, the scene tells us that Don is headed somewhere brighter. The darkness is literally lifting from his eyes.

A cinematography teacher once taught me that lighting for film is essentially the removal of shadows. This simple rectangle of light rolling up Don’s face… truly cinematography at its finest.

[1] From Miss Moss (I love her description of this photo.)
[2-5] From the show

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This entry was posted on July 28, 2012 by in Television.

Stuff I said before

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