Disconnection and Perspective in Mad Men

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The idea of being disconnected appears throughout Mad Men, from the opening credits to the scenes within the episode. The opening credits depict the image of a solitary man in a black and white suit falling through the sky. This man could be anyone. When Draper first appears, we see him from the back as he sits alone at a table, smoking and drinking. After he leaves the bar and arrives at his “mistress’s” (for lack of a better term) he is seeking advice from a woman also working in the advertising industry who does not have any desire to marry or commit. “I don’t make plans and I don’t make breakfast,” she tells him when he suggests they marry. Nevermind the fact that he is already married and with two children, as we discover later in the story. The next morning when he goes to work, there is a small scene as he enters the building containing the image of the revolving door. Men in nearly identical suits go through the revolving door, re-emphasizing the image of the man in the suit from the credits. He is indistinguishable from his colleagues, and they are each the same.

Another instance occurs in the encounter between Draper and Rachel, the owner of the Jewish department store. He asks why she is not married, and her response is that (aside from the thrill of business) she has never been in love. He says love does not exist, but that it was created by men like him to sell things, and that he “lives today like there is no tomorrow, because there isn’t.” She acknowledges that she knows what it is like to be on the outside, using the word “disconnected,” and she believes he knows the feeling as well. While her disconnection comes from her position in business as a woman, his comes from the fact that as a man, he is lost in the crowd. It’s an interesting parallel drawn between the two characters, and one that makes Draper visibly uncomfortable.

As for perspective, the camera angles add an important element to the filming. Almost always the frame is dynamic, with at least one person in the foreground. This is particularly evident in the meeting with Lucky Stripe. There are three men on each side of the table, all surrounded by clouds of smoke, and each time the frame is shot it includes each person as if someone were looking from the end of the table. When Draper and Sterling are discussing the meeting in Drapers’s office, Draper’s knee and arm are visible as he looks across his desk at Sterling, while Sterling’s shoulder can be seen in the corner when the camera views Draper from his perspective. It is important to include these elements, as it provides a more detailed frame and makes us believe we are in the room.

 

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