'Mad Men' and the Second Age of Jimmy Carter


People drank then. They drank like Russians. But they drank better, and some — some of the very best — drank all of the time. Possibly thinking was more subtle and complex. Certainly the writing was better.

“Mad Men's" main character, Don Draper, looks a little like Mitt Romney, although Romney would have been doing his mission in Paris at the time and has likely never smoked a cigarette. I take it that it is not entirely by accident. I noticed because during the 2008 race when I wrote about Romney I’d receive letters in the chronic commenter/stalker range that complained about his looks; the devo way he dressed, the way he combed his hair. Now it is all the rage.

“I love to go to work and put on that suit,” said Don Draper’s man, Jon Hamm, in a TV interview. “I makes you feel like a million bucks.”

It was a day of warrior individualism — Truman Capote, Jackson Pollock, Audrey Hepburn, Miles Davis, Jackie Kennedy. Of intensely focused zen with D.T. Suzuki and depth psychology with C.G. Jung. A day in Brooklyn, as Pete Hamill once phrased it (before he quit drinking), when Jewish girls read Dostoevsky in their lit rooms at night and Irish boys, coming home from the celibacy of the Irish bars, longed for them without luck.

“Mad Men” brings a change from the '70s redux of the last year or so — the Second Age of Jimmy Carter. "Saturday Night Live" yet again, but not funny this time; the easy irony and titters of the night mother, scornful of genius as being subtle, insidious and unfair. The post-Woodstock venue yet again, where the big questions asked are not about the banality of evil as Hannah Arendt, cigarette in hand, posed it, but “Will Letterman apologize?”

The first Age of Carter was a time of reprieve and rest. A human need, perhaps, to fall fallow for a season. But the public spell broke back then with the rise of the TV show "Dallas," which not by coincidence accompanied a new cycle of power, prestige, good will and prosperity in our country and brought the post-war period to its peak. Maybe we are at the edge of that again. Maybe “Mad Men” is the new "Dallas."


Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.