preparing for ‘Mad Men’: history, design, protection

As the fourth season of “Mad Men” rages forward, I’ll mine the Web for interesting tidbits that will enrich the experience for all of us, and I’ll post what I find before the weekends. You’ll be properly marinated in time for the Sunday premieres of new episodes.

As happens with every new season, we take a moment to orient ourselves on the timeline of American history. New York Magazine made it a little easier with this look back at the real history that unfolded between the third and fourth seasons: “What Happened During Mad Men’s Year Off?” The New York Times recently assembled a magnificent interactive timeline of the history dominating the series, which can be savored here.

One thing we do know that continued during the show’s year off was Draper’s slick though not-always successful pursuit of women. New York Magazine created a slideshow exploring a question not even Draper can answer: “What Is Don Draper’s Type? A Guide to His Many Women.”

And what do those many women find so appealing about Draper? Natasha Vargas-Cooper, the editor of the blog Mad Men Unbuttoned: A romp through 1960s America and author of its book version, recently explored the answers in a piece in the Daily Beast. “Whether it’s ancient biology or socialized norms,” she concludes, “there is a protection that Don offers that we women want.”

The key woman in Draper’s life, arguably, is Betty, who has left him with hopes for a better life with Henry Francis. But do we know what her fate will be, regardless of how she may try to defy it? Open Letters Monthly offered Laura Tanenbaum’s grim review of the cultural and historical tides that have and will affect Betty’s evolution as a character. “It seems unlikely her life with Henry will bring her much in the way of feeling, phantom or otherwise,” Tanenbaum warns us. “As the series moves into its post-JFK assassination high-sixties moment, we don’t know where it’s taking us, but we’re fairly certain it will be leaving Betty behind.”

The aesthetic sense of the 1960s “Mad Men” examines through its historical prism is explored in “Designing ‘Mad Men,’ “ a short piece by Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books blog. Miller commends Matthew Weiner for “performing one of the most instructive—not to say diverting and entertaining—sleights of hand in the modern theater of memory.”

Many more links can be found at the wonderful Basket of Kisses blog.

(Photo from the ‘Mad Men’ soundtrack album)

Author: Fernando Ortiz Jr.

Handsome gentleman scholar, Civil War historian, unpretentious intellectual, world traveler, successful writer.

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