SPOILER ALERT! If you aren't caught up on Mad Men, stop reading now.
I’m a huge fan of Mad Men, but lately I’ve had trouble feeling quite as excited as I probably should for this new season. Maybe I’m taking it for granted because it’s been on for so long, in contrast to something like Game of Thrones, which is still new and exciting to me.
Or maybe it’s because the last season was so overtly damning to nearly every character: the agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce swallowed Pryce whole and prostituted Joan and drove out Peggy. The show, via none other than the dream-ghost of Don’s dead brother, came out and basically explained to Don, and us, that a rotten tooth was a metaphor for Don’s soul or whatever. Roger unintentionally exposed Sally to “dirty” sex. Pete was punched in the face repeatedly, and everyone watching it with me cheered each time, even though the second face-puncher was a far greater monster than Pete could ever aspire to be. And as for Megan, I'm not saying she's a gold digger, but...
So what hope do these characters have? More importantly, can we care what hope they have? Can we get ourselves worked up, for old times’ sake? For… nostalgia? For the good old days of 2007, a time before Skrillex, before the Ikea monkey, when people still sometimes gathered around the soft, forgiving glow of actual televisions, with loved ones— can we reach back to this place we ache to go again, and feel a twinge in our heart more painful than mere memory—
Sorry. Something in my eye. Anyway, yes! Of course we can! Here’s how:
1. Do Some Reading
Since Mad Men is one of the most literary shows since Wishbone, why not check out some of its influences? What else are you going to read, articles about pop culture? Please continue reading articles about pop culture! But afterwards…
--The Short Stories of John Cheever. Cheever wrote his stories, which often concerned mid-20th-century New York, booze, existential despair, sexuality, infidelity and privilege, with such heartbreaking attention to detail that he became known as “The Chekhov of the suburbs." If you’re not familiar with his work, check out “O City of Broken Dreams!”, “Torch Song,” (which features a character named Joan Harris), “The Country Husband,” and “The Swimmer.”
--The White Album by Joan Didion. Given the pacing of the show, it’s safe to assume that Season 6 will take place in or around 1968. Here, Didion writes about aspects of that particular zeitgeist—The Doors, The Manson Family— with beautiful, ambling sentences and a mood of dread and paranoia.
The regret! The misery! You don’t have enough of that in your real life, right?
2. Dress Up Like Your Favorite Character!
You think you’re better than cosplayers and LARPers just because your favorite show makes allusions to Frank O’Hara and Sylvia Plath? Guess what? Allusions to Frank O’Hara and Sylvia Plath are actually the nerdiest thing possible! Embrace it, Poindexter, and check out these great vintage stores in the Bay Area for all of your sartorial needs:
--Mars in Berkeley. This Telegraph Avenue highlight features two floors of old-time class at decent prices.
--Retrofit in the Mission. This Valencia street space places an emphasis on drag and personal transformation.
You’re sure to find period-appropriate realness at any of these places for your dorky Mad Men get-together.
(Or don’t. At least, please don’t drink like the characters on Mad Men.)
When my friends and I first got big into this show, we started ordering “old-fashioned” cocktails at bars, a la Don Draper. However, the old-fashioned you get at most bars nowadays, poignantly enough, is not what it used to be. It's more like a weird, sangria-esque soup of fruit and sugar, or a fruit salad drenched in whiskey and bitters. Are you at all surprised that Rachel Maddow has the most succinct and charming explanation for how to make an old-fashioned old-fashioned?
And of course, the order here is important-- don't drink too much before trying to read any of those books or put on fancy clothes.
What are you doing for the upcoming season of Mad Men? Probably going about your business, not worrying about this kind of stuff? Planning a super-cool party that you're still waiting to invite me to? Wondering how I got through this article without making a single reference to Jon Hamm's recent trouser difficulties? Let us know!