I wrote this as an email to a friend. Decided to share…
It’s interesting how big national events can have totally different reactions in different people and sometimes those people can be redeemed or even lauded for their reactions (see: Jason Collins coming out on the cover of SI as a part reaction to the Boston attacks “life is short and can change in any minute” or whatever he said) and others can completely show their gross stupidly and lack of empathy or tack (see: lots of crazy tweets during the Boston tragedy)
The thing about Mad Men is that while it’s set in a historical setting, it’s never allowed history to shape its story line. It’s just a show in a different time and space. So far I’m actually pleased with the episode, and I think people are torn on this - but it’s not for a fluffy show about a drinking whoring adulterous ad man to make grasping claims about what was happening during one of the most horrible assassinations in US history and I applaud the writers for not making sweeping generalizations.
Now, with that being said, obviously Pete’s reaction was the most emotional/powerful especially coming from the asshole of a man that he is. But what was most poignant was his pointing out that Dr.king was more than a civil rights leader, he was a man, with a family…which was the obvious reaction for a man that was losing his family. Harry’s response was the right one for a businessesman. Sure it was harsh and tactless but at the end of the day, Harry will be CEO of some TV ad agency and rolling in the dough. I’m sure this is what shrewd, heartless business people think whenever a national story breaks. If you’re not in the breaking news business, that is.
Everyone else had the same reaction everyone always has to big tragedies. You feel sad, you feel lost, you want to do something but you can’t. They felt their white people guilt, they felt their white people wariness (Peggy’s ‘do I really want to live on 84th and York when it’s sooo close to Harlem?! And the blacks are revolting! Omg!!’). White people trip me out. So afraid of everything. Seriously, you’re not that special. She hugged her black secretary and gave her the day off and felt kinda bad about negotiating for her apt during such time, but obviously did it anyway because it was in her best interest. And by pretending to care to the one black person she knew, she felt she paid her dues. Meghan is the same, all the money and time and clout they have a rich, powerful white couple, and all she did was go to a vigil in the park.
But isn’t this what we all do? We’re sad for a moment, perhaps we reflect on our own lives/life paths, but at the end of the day we have to keep going. After 9/11, was I sad? Of course. Did I feel for those people’s families? Of course. But what did I DO?! After Boston, what did I do? On a personal level? Nothing. It was quite interesting to have this episode after Boston, and obviously it wasn’t planned in such a matter, but it does show what an amazing human Dr. King was. When faced with hardship, when faced with pain, when faced with injustice, he DID SOMETHING. Everyone else just attends vigils and wonders how it affects them directly (I am no different). Am I occupying Wall Street? Am I rallying against injustice in the prison system? Am I protesting stop and frisk? No. I know these things are happening. I talk about them, I read about them. I get really angry when a particularly terrible news story appears, but I don’t do anything about it. I put a up Facebook post or write an email and express my outrage and move on throughout my life. Why? Because it doesn’t directly affect me. And that’s sad.
And perhaps I have just revealed a lot more about my psyche than about the Mad Men episode.