Millennial Mad Men

I spent most of the weekend watching people die.

Death is a central theme of Game of Thrones, last night’s Season 5 finale being no exception. I won’t get into who dies or what happens since that’s the sort of info that angers people on the Internet.

I will say, however, that I believe we’ll see more out of the person from the last scene.

But enough about that.

***

Don Draper has been on my mind lately. Why? Obviously it’s because he’s a sexy beast, an American Adonis in a perfectly tailored suit. No, but really, Emily and I have been watching a lot of Mad Men lately.

Actually, she’s been watching a lot of Mad Men and I got sucked into it.

Having skipped Seasons 2-4, I watched a good part of Season 5 this weekend. This is the kind of show where episodes and seasons can be skipped and the watcher won’t be completely confused. Unlike Game of Thrones, plot lines are rather unimportant – it’s about the characters. I don’t think viewers care that the ad firm picks up Jaguar as a client or not, but they do care about who is sleeping with who.

Last night, we saw the big reveal of Season 5, Episode 11: Lane Pryce hanging himself in his office.

It’s about time someone committed suicide on that show.

***

I must admit: I didn’t get Mad Men after watching the first season, but I do now.

The show is actually teaching me a lot about life.

Many Millennials, myself included, believe that our generation faces issues that are totally unique to us. Let’s take dating, for example. We believe that today’s unprecedented landscape of social media and online dating creates a society full of one-night stands, devoid of romance – a “hook-up culture.”

Mad Men shows that hooking up has been going on for decades. It’s pretty much an American pastime, like late night talk shows and baseball.

The theme that resonates with me the most is the disillusionment of the American Dream. People are straight up miserable in Mad Men. Betty envies Don’s lifestyle. Joan feels alone. Despite having a pretty wife and a baby, Pete cheats on his wife and misses the Manhattan life. Roger feels unappreciated and useless as a partner. And Lane, well, Lane did something about his unhappiness, didn’t he.

***

A particular scene stuck with me. Don and Joan are at a bar:

They are analyzing a man sitting alone, taking peeks at Joan. Life has taught her to be cynical – the man is obviously married and is looking for some extracurricular fun. But it’s Don’s words that stay in my mind.

He doesn’t know what he wants, but he’s wanting.

People don’t know what they want, and if they do, they don’t know how to get it.

We’re raised to want certain things: a spouse, a stable income, a mortgage, a retirement plan, and 2.5 kids. As teenagers, these sound great, but what the hell do teenagers know?

The way society is arranged, people are asked to make crucial life decisions at ages 18-22. Anyone over 30 will tell you how little they knew at that age.

I still believe we do face unique challenges as Millennials. Education has never been more expensive; we spend four to eight years in university and have to pay for it for another twenty five years. One can find out more information on someone than ever before without even having met that person. The greatest challenge, however, is one that’s been around for generations: the challenge of want.

What do we want in life? What do we want our lives to look like? How can we get there? 

What’s admirable about Don Draper is that he is a man who knows what he wants – he lives to be a creative advertiser, and I think he may even love his wife too.

Having a life we want takes courage. People will go through failures and setbacks along the way. Let’s just hope that we have more courage than Lane.

– Chris.

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