The end of an era

“It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards…it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the ‘wheel,’ it’s called the ‘carousel.’ It lets us travel the way a child travels — around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”

— Don Draper, in Mad Men

Today marks the beginning of the last few episodes of Mad Men. In an odd-schadenfreude way, Mad Men has been like comfort television for the last seven years though I believe it is largely a show which has been on the wrong side of history. I say that because its a show about terrible things happening to not-so-terrible people. The men and women of Madison Avenue never appear boring because the personal chaos they inhabit mirrors the seismic shifts of the period. Their tension between morality and immorality, stability and anomie, surface and depth is signature romantic. If romantics are anything, we are conflicted. We long for that amber-hued period in the past when work provided a bulwark against all the erupting madness of the world — yet we simultaneously celebrate the moments when fortification fails, exposing fissures across class, gender, and racial lines, revealing to us the allure of messy lives. And it’s also consoling and even a little heartening to remind ourselves that, no matter how they’ve spun it, the people who tried to navigate this world ahead of us didn’t know what the hell they were doing either.

So, tonight I raise a toast to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce!