“Caught in war, wanting peace”

 Posted by on April 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Mad Men, Season 7
Apr 142014

Lost Horizon opening titles

During the course of Mad Men episode 7.01: Time Zones, two different quotes captivate Don. I feel it’s worth reviewing and comparing them.

The first is the opening to the film Lost Horizon.

In these days of wars and rumors of wars – – haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight?

Of course you have.

So has every man since Time began. Always the same dream. Sometimes he calls it Utopia – – Sometimes the Fountain of Youth – – Sometimes merely “that little chicken farm”.

The second is Richard Nixon’s inaugural address:

We find ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching with magnificent precision for the moon, but failing into raucous discord on earth.

We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity. We see around us empty lives, wanting fulfillment. We see tasks that need doing, waiting for hands to do them.

Each quote mentions war and the desire for peace. Lost Horizon talks about a place (because in the film, the characters find such a place), while Nixon talks about spirit (in the next sentence, not shown on-screen). Both quotes seems to be speaking directly to Don. He is wealthy in material goods, and is “torn by division”–from his wife, from his children, from his work, while wanting unity. He dreams of peace and delight, but finds his hands empty.


  38 Responses to ““Caught in war, wanting peace””

  1. In the pilot of Mad Men, Rachel Menken talks about Utopia (the “good place” and “the place that cannot be”), and Don longs to find it… perhaps with her. In this, the first episode of the final season, Don again longs for Utopia.

    Will Don find Utopia this season? I think he’s been looking for it all along — but he’s always though that it was something that could be given to him, from the outside, granted to him in a single moment, maybe by a woman. We have seen him get that “Utopia” look in his eyes when he first encountered, or first focused on Rachel, on the schoolteacher (whose name I’ve repressed because I didn’t like her character, LOL), on Megan.

    Could this season finally be the time when Don realizes there is no Utopia, but just a world where you have to be “a person like the rest of us,” and where.. perhaps, he finally accepts that challenge and works on becoming genuine.. genuinely open and vulnerable to other people, and genuinely himself?

    • When I saw the word “Utopia” float across the screen-within-my-screen, I yelled, “Hi Rachel!”

      It would have seemed rude not to do this.

      • Anne B, it would have! I did the same. 🙂

        And I admit I cling to a (no doubt vain) hope that it was a signal that Rachel will come back in S7, because I adore her, not least because she was so insightful and made Don think about things (though of course he didn’t use those insights as an impetus to change himself, and instead tried to escape his life and get Rachel to go with him).

        • I adored Rachel, but was also rather fond of Midge.

          • I find myself hoping Midge got clean.

            • I wouldn’t be surprised if she were dead by now.

            • She probably is, dirigentin. Still, I like her and hold out hope that she’s okay. I can be such a pollyanna sometimes.

            • Midge probably is still alive.

              These days in the the US (since 2000) very roughly 100,000 are dependent and roughly 2000-3000 die from using each year. 2-3% is a high mortality rate (20-30/1000/year) – three times the general mortality rate. Still the odds are greater than 80-90% that an addict will not die within five years.

    • Correction: Not the pilot. The episode was Babylon (1.06).

    • Elizabeth is spot on – Utopia does not exist and neither does Shangri-La. And the images of Utopia of Rachel’s comment and Shangri-La of Lost Horizon (or Disneyland) contrast with what Anna sees in the Tarot cards in Season 2. Don longs for peace, contentment, balance, happiness etc. as if by magic or through yet another person. As Anna says it is all within his reach but he has to do the work within himself to achieve it. As long as he continues seeking the quick fix he is doomed.

      I loved Babylon and Rachel too – a top 10 episode for sure. Sorry, getting nostalgic now . . .

      • I think the question for Season 7 is — will Don finally do that work within himself to achieve peace, happiness, etc.? He has avoided doing it so many times…. but there have been moments, too, when he started down the path of doing the work, such as when he kept the journal during his time living alone in his bachelor pad, when he took his children to see the house where he grew up, even during the Hershey pitch when he told everyone in the room who he really was. These instances show that Don knows the work is necessary, and appreciates that doing it could earn him the inner peace he seeks. But so far, he has never been able to sustain that kind of inner focus and self-analysis.

        • I still see Don as self absorbed not introspective. When he was romantic with Rachel he wanted his own needs met. Don wanted her to run off to California with him when Pete tried to reveal Don as Dick Whitman to Bert Cooper. Rachel, even though she loved Don, she was not going to sacrifice her business for Don. Don has found other women that enable Don to remain self absorbed. If Don is going to find peace he must find someone who will allow to become introspective and reconcile his life as Dick Whitman and Don Draper. I think only Anna touched him this way. Don was looking for another Rachel on the plane. Megan and Betty were never able to make Don introspective. If Don doesn’t find introspection he will self destruct.

          • Absolutely. And in that same vein, in “To Have and to Hold,” when Don and Sylvia had the conversation about her wearing her cross in bed, she told him that she didn’t pray for his return, but for him to find peace.

      • I was thinking of that very episode.

      • I mentioned, and linked to, Rachel’s discussion of Utopia in my “non-spoiler” review last week, so I didn’t bother to do so again here, but of course you’re all correct.

    • IIRC I thought Rachel talked about two different meanings (and pronunciations) one being the good place and the other the place that cannot be.

      The funny thing, or very sad thing, is that Don could have the good place if he lowered his expectations to a more realistic good place, and not a perfect place. But his deeply ingrained belief that a good place for him can never be, always gets in his way.

      He thinks a good life, or love, is without struggle or boredom. It entails so much perfection and material goods and status.

      If he can get over that, he could have a relatively decent life. Look at Freddy. What seems like he’s fallen in life, actually Freddy is pretty content and better than when he was sloshed 24/7.

      I find it sad. After telling the truth in the Hershy meeting, he’s back to using his life in a twisted fantasy version to sell again. Freddy’s pitch was a “dad tousling his hair” version of his childhood pitch to Hershy, but using his “shitting the bed” pitch, turned into a young insecure executive with food on his tie in a meeting. And a “Steve McQueen type” asking about his watch and finding value in the young executive. (Ted has always been dressed Steve McQueen like-but is not at all Steve McQueen like-so even Ted is upgraded in the real life-turned-fantasy pitch.

      So don is returning to bullshit to rebuild his life.

      If he could just sell the big apartment, let Megan go, and just become a writer already! Go to AA maybe. He could have a good, but imperfect life.

      And don’t just go rent a punishment apartment like he did in season 4!

      • Eutopia = good place: Utopia = no place. Thomas Moore, who wrote the original in the 16c., presumably meant both.

      • First of all, I love the phrase “punishment apartment”!!

        When I first read the assessment that Don should be a writer, I thought, Don Draper? A writer? No way. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes — we know how much he loves to read, and how attentively he watches movies. Even his best ad pitches are, in essence, the marks of a good story.

        I’m especially appreciative of this week’s BoK discussion, because without these eloquent insights I might have seen, at first, a disappointing episode. Of course, I use “disappointing” in the most solipsistic sense of not giving me what I wanted from a season seven opening, which is, Peggy Oh, a version of what you describe.

        Last season’s finale found me dissolved in completely unexpected tears that went on for quite some time. I was so moved by Don’s newfound devotion to the actual truth, to his determination to say to Sally, “Look, I’ve hid from you for what I thought were reasons, but if you want to know me, here I am.” I loved his Hershey’s meeting, and that final scene, the look on Sally’s face, the bewilderment, and that so-often-used but rarely if ever so weighted phrase, “This is where I grew up” — I felt like this isn’t only why I watch Mad Men but why I’ve always had such passion for stories at all.

        I was hoping that the next Don I saw wouldn’t be in advertising at all, though in a sense, he isn’t: If Don Draper is a contrived persona, then, as far as we now know, he’s bestowed it onto Freddie. Freddie asks, “Why don’t you cut the Cyrano act and march yourself in there?”

        Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe Dick doesn’t want to be Don anymore.

        On letting Megan go, though, we might differ. Certainly theirs is a troubled marriage, and I was relieved when they broke up last season, but she fascinates me. I find it sad and deeply relatable that she hates most in herself that which she inherited from her mother, and I could happily watch a spin-off about Marie and Emile. When I saw that they were back together, I wondered why, but now I’m curious: Is Don trying to recapture what he once had in California with Megan?

        At the end of the episode, he’s sure he can’t. Disneyland/Eutopia is not to be found. And Megan, I’m convinced, signed on for the Draper persona: she wanted a confident, well-dressed man who wouldn’t be rendered insecure by her love of attention, her passion for acting. Don is not who Megan thought he is, and Megan, as was already pointed out, will not be Don’s utopia.

        I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

    • This makes me think about that scenario Roger wakes up in. Whatever it’s like now, it does seem to have begun as his attempt to create a kind of utopian space – “got to get ourselves back to the garden” and all, but how ironic that of all these characters, it’s Roger who’s always leading the pack in actually making the attempt. I wonder if Harry Crane, for all his counterculture aspirations, ever even contemplated a setup like that….

      • Of course Roger remembers a more radical era — the 20s.

        • Yes, it was very similar! After the war, young people just did not want to follow what the older people said, or did, or wore.

          Women got the vote and were finally welcome in bars!

          Roger was in Paris, being bohemian. Or wanting to be bohemian.

          Free love was an important concept then among intellectuals and bohemians, it was not invented in the 60s… Nor was contraception

          I can never quite put Rogers timeline down though. When did he come home from Paris and why? When did his dad die? When did he go to war in relation to when he started working at Sterling Cooper…

          • I can’t answer any of these questions, but your other observations remind me of one of my favorite lines regarding Roger, what was her name, the dog food heiress:

            “You’ve been living your life like a character in somebody else’s novel.”

            Maybe it’s Don’s.

    • Don somewhat did come to a realization that life isn’t perfect/no Utopia in “Summer Man.”

      “When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him…If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect.”

      But that all got thrown out in “Tomorrowland” when he went back to the fantasy (“perfect” Megan will fix his life).

      The line “when a man walks into a room” is particularly interesting in reference to the poster inspired trailer. At first glace it seems Don is walking out of a room. But it also could be that Don is walking into a room.

  2. Interesting that Don seems to be deriving some inspiration from Richard Nixon, Since Season 1’s “Nixon vs. Kennedy,” he’s been identified with Nixon, the poor boy who came from nothing (Pete being Kennedy, the rich man’s son who had it all handed to him). Of course, Nixon was a bullshit artist, too, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t give genuine inspiration.

    Considering how Nixon ended, though, I hope for Don’s sake it isn’t too much foreshadowing.

    • I kind of hope it IS foreshadowing. I’m so over Don and his man-angst it’s not even funny. Peggy and Joan’s stories are far more interesting.

  3. The more reviews I read I am coming to believe that the sequence with Neve Campbell was part of dream. The lighting, the weird conversation alluding to things, he was “thirsty”. There were too many parallels with Don’s own life and possible future (death by alcohol) that it seemed to be his subconscious talking. It was too intimate and revealing a conversation to have been real.

    • I wondered that, too. Maybe she is like the Jessica Lange character in All That Jazz.

    • Good observation on Neve Campbell’s appearance. She could represent temptation or death. It is interesting to note that Don refused her invitation of a ride in the car she has waiting for her. One of my favorite movie endings of all time was in “Sid & Nancy.” In the final scene, as Sid walks down an alley, a taxicab comes out of the fog and pulls up along side him. The rear window rolls down, and Nancy (already dead) in the back seat says, “C’mon, Sid get in.” Of course, Sid hops in and the cab disappears into the fog. Truly haunting and beautiful.

    • Me too. I just can’t see it any other way after reading Matt Zoller whatever his last name is, in Vulture.

      I find it more believable. The dialogue was just too spot on for oblique MW. As well, we know Don hallucinates/dreams. They often invade his physical space. His flashbacks in season one and three happen in his home.

      Andrea when he was sick with the flu…

      And it was during the time he should have been asleep.

      And he starts by saying ‘I always hope (dream?) I’ll be sitting next to someone like you.’

      • And when he saw Anna’s apparition in his office in “The Suitcase.”

  4. Two thoughts about the quote in this post:

    1) I love the irony of Don, so proud of the color TV he got for Megan, watching a movie about Utopia that was shot in black and white.

    2) The Fountain of Youth reference seems connected to Neve Campbell’s story about a husband who died of “thirst.”

    • Professor Spouse and I actually got into a disagreement about it. Until I looked up the quote, she thought it was Camelot, and I said Camelot was too recent to be on TV, and besides, it was in color. She said, no, they were watching in the bedroom, it was the small black and white set. So I was very careful to watch–this was definitely on the new living room console set.

      • If it’s any consolation to Professor Spouse, my first thought was that the opening quote was from “Brigadoon” until I remembered that it was shot in color and Don was watching this on the new TV. How sad is that? 🙂

      • Yes, it’s clear they’re not in the bedroom. Don finally makes a move to GO to bed. Plus they’re clearly lying on the day-bed, which is in the living room.

  5. […] we didn’t even know we had. The starvation of spirit that Peggy talks about is a lot of what the two quotes from Time Zones alluded to. This entire season has told us we’re starving for lack of the […]

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