The Style of Mad Men

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The first thing that I noticed when I began to watch “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was the cinematic style, or the filmic quality of the image. This is clearly the intention of the series, beginning with the Saul Bass-style introduction sequence. Our generation is used to this notion of the cinematic television series; it started with The Sopranos and, with its success, it expanded what is possible to produce for television. The look of the image is crisp and clean, paralleling the style of the period, as can be seen in the dress of the cast. There is an attention to detail unlike that of many series I’ve watched. In reading a little background information, a lot of effort was put into finding authentic furniture and other set details to create a realistic environment. Something related that I noticed or, couldn’t possibly escape, was how much cigarette smoking there was. It seems like an easy way to recreate a 1960s setting, by making every single character smoke cigarettes every couple minutes, but it actually proves to be more effective than I would think (critically). Also, just the idea that the cigarette smoking is shown seems fairly important. The MPAA, as of a few years ago, started to include cigarette smoking into criterion for an R-rating. Not only do the characters of Mad Men smoke cigarettes, but they smoke them in large quantities. There’s something seemingly subversive and awesome about a show that can get away with doing that, even if they are actually smoking herbal cigarettes.

In reading the Newman article, it seems to make sense that the episode may have been composed “backwards from the curtain.” The reveal that Don Draper is married with children is a huge concept in the plot and it’s most effective as a curtain. The structure of the episode was such, including the slow construction of Don Draper’s persona, that I didn’t truly believe he was as bad as, say, Pete. The reality is that, well, Draper lives his life in two distinct realities, or so it seems.

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