"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Inspired by TV? Why not...

One of the shows I've been enjoying over the past couple months (thanks eztv!) is AMC's Mad Men, a stylish serial drama full of moral ambiguity set in the NYC advertising industry (Madison Avenue, hence the title) circa 1960. Aside from just generally being smart and well-executed, I'm occasionally actually inspired by the marketing presentations that the protagonist Don Draper gives.

They remind me of the best of Larry Lessig's powerpoints, but because the whole point is that Draper is being brutally emotionally manipulative -- both in the context of presenting a modern marketing strategy, and also in the sense that he's closing the deal with a client -- they resonate with my artistic side even more. Truly the greatest performance work I've done has been essentially along the same lines: stacking up rhetoric with music and stage-imagery to seduce the audience in one way or another.

There's something you can definitely feel as a performer when this is working, when the crowd is in your pocket. I've felt the same thing in business meetings and selling vacuum cleaners door to door, the energy of control when another human will folds itself into your own. It's probably the rawest power I've ever experienced, and mostly since I've used it for good, it's been a good thing. Lot of responsibility though.

Anyway, the season finale of the show had a particularly great sequence like this, and it's got me mentally cutting up the music I listen to, looking for theme-clips, thinking of images, ways of explaining. Explaining what exactly is an open question. Hopefully we'll find out.


The finale haunted me for days. I've felt that rush as well. it's that great power-great responsibility thing. Draper's world, however is not a good place and you see all the supposedly responsible people and institutions crumble around him. Beautiful stuff.

Draper’s world, however is not a good place

Totally. It's a glimpse of the dark future of the past. It's also not as though Don Draper himself is really a good person. Though I find him an identifiable protagonist, he's also fond of cheating on his wife, etc. It still works because, I think, the show frames all the extramarital activity within the central theme of unfulfillable desires.