Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mad About Whiskey: AMC's Mad Men, Drinking, and Other Things…

"All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses." 
– Friedrich Nietzsche

I love the show Mad Men. Recently I introduced my wife to it through Netflix. Now she's addicted. So about once a week, or twice depending on how badly we want the next few episodes (since we only get one disk at a time), she and I sit down on the couch and delve into the world of advertising for about 2 to 3 hours. And without much thought, before we even get to the start menu, my mouth starts to water. I get up and walk to the bar, pouring myself a double of whatever happens to be on hand. Finally ready to relax the night away I sit back down next to her and press play. 

And during those three to four 45 minute episodes something happens. I forget about everything I had done that week. I forget about everything I have to do tomorrow. I am transported into a world which is so different than mine - a past I never knew. Yet somehow everything is familiar to the point that one of my largest emotions is nostalgia. Nostalgia for something that has passed, a time that will never be. I find myself yearning to live in a world where the cars are classy, the restaurants are swanky, where all the women dress in beautiful clothing, and where the men order Scotch instead of beer. A place where smoking actually has sex appeal.

But then I sit back and think about what I’m watching. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) the star and face of the show is an identify thief. As a married man he sleeps with every woman he can get into bed with. And he is a complete alcoholic who lives by the motto, “I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.” And speaking of egotistical self-loving narcissists, almost everyone else in the show seem to exhibit much of the same characteristics. Sleeping around, drinking too much, lying, cheating… the list goes on. Everyone is striving for a life they believe will fulfill them, the epitome of the American dream, in a world speeding forward at a pace no one can quite keep up with. So the natural question to ask would be: Why do I enjoy the show so much? Why does it make me nostalgic? Why is Old Overholt getting an overhaul in the real  world – rye Old-Fashioned anyone? Why are more men wearing suit vest again? Why is Don Draper so cool?

I guess my questions are not necessarily about drinking, per se, as much as the way people used to drink. The way in which Scotch used to be enjoyed. A cultural essence of sorts. Where have the classy bars gone? When did playing video games and cheap beer replace drinking Scotch and playing cards? Have we lost something, in spite of the rampant prejudice, sexism, and tumultuous times of the 60s, which was worth having? Somehow Don Draper in all of his folly, exudes a quality which people admire.  “What,” asks Lauren M.E. Goodlad, “is it that makes this odd blend of Jay Gatsby, American Gigolo, and the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit so captivating a figure for today?” 

Maybe Don Draper, with our hindsight of the impending world crisis to be had in the next decade, just makes falling look good.

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