Thus Spoke Mad Men

 Posted by on August 5, 2014 at 6:21 am  Film, Mad Men, Season 7, Themes
Aug 052014

A lot of recaps of Mad Men 7.04, The Monolith, noted that the episode contained multiple references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, very few actually listed them all.

Well, if you want something done right…

Here is my list of 2001: A Space Odyssey (referred to henceforth as “2001”) allusions in Mad Men. To fans of the film, many of them are pretty obvious. However, others are more obscure and certainly open to debate.

Field Trip (7.03):

The episode opens with Don watching Model Shop. The movie stars Gary Lockwood who also played astronaut Frank Poole in 2001.


The Monolith (7.04):

Don exits the elevator facing an elevator door situated on other side of the hall. It looks exactly like the infamous monolith from 2001 (see photo above).

Don enters SC&P to find it strangely empty. Confused, he wanders through the office to find out what is going on. At the end of 2001, astronaut Dave Bowman wanders through the empty environment aliens have set up to observe him in.

Roger remarks that Don has been locked up for three weeks in “a cave” and hasn’t “clubbed any apes on the head.” This is a reference to the “Dawn of Man” scenes in 2001 where cave dwelling apes with enhanced intelligence figure out how to use weapons to club rivals.

bone spinning
Outside of his office, Don overhears Harry Crane talking about Turn On, a variety show starring Tim Conway, that depicted computers using psychedelic lights. David Bowman is treated to a psychedelic light show when transported through the star gate in 2001’s third act.

The name of the rep from LeaseTech, who is supervising the installation of the IBM mainframe at SC&P, is Lloyd Hawley. The name of the computer in 2001 is HAL 9000.

HAL_AP 333_1
When Hawley talks to Don talk about computers, he characterizes them as having mastered “the infinite.” The title of the final sequence in 2001 is: “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite.”

Lloyd Hawley asks Don for a light because he’s forgotten to fill his own lighter. “Human error,” says Hawley. In 2001, HAL incorrectly predicts a failure of the “AE35” unit, an important component of the space ship’s communication system with Earth. When confronted about the mistake, HAL blames “human error.”

AE-35 circuit display
Lou Avery gives Peggy a $100 a week raise but informs her it comes “with a mission.” 2001 was about missions to the moon and Jupiter.

Realizing exactly how low a rung on the SC&P ladder he had fallen to, Don smashes his typewriter. Infused with alien induced intelligence, one of our prehistoric ancestors in 2001 is shown smashing hog skulls at the moment he realizes that a bone makes a good weapon. Later in the Mad Men episode, Don will use a typewriter as a weapon to keep his job.

Awaking on his couch, a point-of-view shot follows Don’s gaze up across the ceiling and backward to the wall behind him where he sees Lane Pryce’s NY Mets pennant while practically leaning upside down. One of the iconic shots in 2001 is of a Pan Am stewardess on a flight to the moon who walks upside down (on the ceiling) while entering the ship’s cockpit.

Drunk, Don verbally assaults Lloyd Hawlin saying that the computer techie has been plotting since the “dawn of time.” The title of the opening sequence in 2001 is “The Dawn of Man.”

At the commune, Roger and Margret gaze up at the night sky through the roof of a barn. The shot of the moon and stars evokes imagery of the alignments of stars, planets, moons and objects which occurs often in 2001.

Deciding it’s time for his daughter to leave the commune and come home, Roger get into a physical altercation with Margret  that ends with the two of them wrestling around in a huge mud puddle. In 2001, the group of alien altered apes who learn how to use weapons win a major victory over a group of less intelligent apes in a battle at a watering hole.

The music playing during the end credits is “On A Carousel” which includes lyrics such as “Round and round and round and round and round And round and round and round with you.”

Obviously, the idea of a carousel has been used before on Mad Men. In the context of 2001, it can also refer to the memorable imagery of Poole running around in circles on the gravity inducing centrifuge of the spacecraft on its way to Jupiter or the space station orbiting Earth that balletically spins to the tune of “The Blue Danube.”



The Runaways (7.05):

At SC&P, Michael Ginsberg sees Lou Avery and Jim Cutler talking in the computer room and reads their lips. This panning shot between Avery and Cutler is set up exactly like the shot in 2001 where HAL reads Poole and Bowman’s lips. Both HAL and Ginsberg are mentally unstable.

Well, there you have it. Some of these may be a stretch and I’m sure I’ve missed others. In the meantime,  I’ll sit down, take a stress pill and think things over.


  10 Responses to “Thus Spoke Mad Men”

  1. Excellent list! I picked up most of these on initial viewing.

    I saw 2001 at the Cinerama theater in Times Square during its original run, when I was 13. One of the signal events of my youth, it instantly solidified my incipient film geek tendencies. I became a rabid Kubrick fan, and over the years I’ve read almost everything that’s been written about this great film. And I’ve watched it so often that I have it essentially memorized!

    I’ve also, unfortunately, now had to put up with several generations of post-Star Wars folks who nearly universally consider 2001 to be “weird and boring and exhaustingly slow and it doesn’t make any sense.” The differences between visionary SF attempting to seriously comment on the human condition, and space opera about warring superhero wizards that just happens to occur in a technological setting, seems to be utterly lost on most contemporary viewers!

    But us hardcore 2001 buffs are still out there, and occasionally someone younger still manages to appreciate it despite the effort it requires to immerse yourself in it and go with its mystery and slow pace…

    • In Analog magazine (which was Cambell’s Astounding going back to the 30s) there was quite the dicussion over whether Star Wars was Science Fiction or Space Opera (a horse opera in space). As one who devoured all of Asimov’s and Clarke’s fiction (and who viewed 2001 at age 10) I inclined to the latter.

      I imagine many of those who squirm, uninvolved, at the stunning vision are part and parcel with those who think The Matrix is “deep”.

  2. Excellent job, as always, Matt. And as always some of your analogies are stretched as thin as Sal passing for straight. But i do like your connection that both Ginsberg and HALwere unstable. And i think i have a better connection to “On a Carousel” and that is Hal singing “Bicycle Built forTwo” a staple of carousels everywhere.

    i also commiserate with the good Doctor and his lament about kids today. Doc, did you ever try showing them a marx Bros. movie. Talk about exercising futility. they moan about the blck and white, their eyes roll so high in their heads i think they’re zombifying, and they immediately go back to their “smart” phones. Howeve, if ever a classic movie cried out for the 5.1 3D refurbishment it’s 2001. Kubrick has such a composed structure to all his scenes that i thik the 3D process would graft itself seamlessly to his work

    • “YA gotta get ’em young”. I, and my then young children, were both introduced to Marxian Madness at the same time. My daughter watched, on her own, the four hour Gone with the Wind several times before she was a teen. Now she tells her friends what’s going to happen at the movies.

      • Oh, I raised my kids (now in their twenties) as third-generation film buffs. I exposed them to all kinds of films from an early age, including all manner of classics (silents, musicals, dramas, comedies, gangster pix, costume dramas) and foreign films (Bergman, Kurosawa, Powell & Pressburger, etc.) I also inculcated them into Mad Men as soon as they hit an age where they could appreciate it!

        However, they never took to the Marx Brothers, find Laurel & Hardy annoyingly slow, and – this is particularly disturbing to me – can’t relate to westerns at all. This is so sad: our old national myth just doesn’t speak to today’s youth, in a world where spies and superheroes are the norm. I mean: they didn’t like High Noon, Shane, or The Searchers, and they insisted that I stop The Magnificent Seven an hour in! Argh!

        And re 2001, my son – a hardcore SF fan that I started on Star Trek when he was around 5 – likes it, but my daughter has never made it past The Dawn Of Man…

        • I forgot to say that my wife was the Marx Bros. fan who educated us (with a decent library no less). In our family, I am the one who is most likely to easily disengage from typical filmic fare and pick up something to read (usually within 15 minute of opening sequence).

          Current so-called “spy-movies” and superhero movies (really just non-sensical action-adventure) just bore me to tears – I’m thankful that the trailers are usually fair warning. My teens (17 and 19) and many of their friends are Mad Men fans. I once pulled my son’s then-14-yr-old friend from a game of Magic by playing S4 MM DVD’s (hah!)

          I don’t think I’ve watched 2001 with them, nor many westerns. They like Star Trek (STOS and STNG) and Twilight Zone (the Serling Production of course).

  3. Kubrick smiles upon you and Matt Weiner for your wringing out and Weiner’s ringing out all those allusions to 2001.

    When the LeaseTech partner told Don of “infinite” computing capabilities it struck me as a facile overstatement – unnecessary since the sale was being physically realized behind them. This strengthens the notion that the use is allusive.

    I’ll note that Weiner and set designers went with standard elevator door dimensions (roughly 96″H x 42″W). Clarke’s novel cited the monolith as 1:4:9. Of course a 1:4 elevator door would look nearly as alien as the Monolith did.

  4. The open look of the computer room, with large white tiles, evoked the room created by Bowman’s hosts with 18th C. French decor and illuminated tiles.

    • There were also some references to The Shining. I remember noting in the original comments thread that Roger’s grandson had a real Danny look to him, and I think possibky he was running around a corner through the halls or something. And just now reading your post, I was thinking was the bartender’s name Lloyd? I’m just not knowledgable enough to remember.

      I think as the season went on, there were some other Shining references as well, but I’d have to rewatch, to remember the ones that occurred to me at the time.

      This reminds me of last Season and all of the Roman Polanski references, especially Rosemary’s Baby.

      The frequent Blue vs Yellow costuming last year was used in Rosemary’s Baby (one of the very many scenes where this can be seen is really strong in the scene with a Joan and Peggy outside the elevators after the Avon meeting.)

      The head scarf both Sylvia and Aimee wore is the same as the one Ruth Gordon wears in RB. Don in the pool, Mia Farrow in the water scene…The list goes on and on…

      Stanley Kubrick makes so much sense for 69 and Roman Ploanski’s type of horror entering into your home and personal life so appropriate for ’68…

      It might be interesting to go back through the seasons and see what Director/Films may have been an inspiration/reference in other seasons. I know MW has said that though many people thought season one was Douglas Sirk inspired, they really had decided on using Hitchcock’s North by Northwest as their style model. Thinking of Hitchcock and season one, though, it also may be more referential than it ever seemed, even watching it as often as I have. The mystery of Betty’s hand numbing. The way Betty’s car goes off the road and crashes into the bird bath is filmed. Betty shooting the birds … Midge’s apartment and friendship a messy, sexier version of James Stewart’s gal pal in Vertigo. There’s just a ton of indirect references. (Hey I just realized these Betty/Birdie destruction references are kind of Freudian too)

      Season 4 I remember had an almost TV feel. The brighter office lighting, the noisier, more obtrusive office noises sound and I know of at least one reference to a scene two other TV shows: Mrs. blankenship’s death at her desk and being wheeled out. This was in the Pilot of LA Law (which MW has said he admired) and then in Andy Richter Controls the Universe (a wonderful, short lived comedy that MW was a writer on). At the time, I thought maybe season 4 was going into a more TV style to start to show the changes to a more intrusive world, no longer being hidden/filtered by external beauty. But since the next two seasons have been back to film, I don’t know anymore.

      It seems like it would be fun to try and figure out the major influence of seasons 2-4.

      • pops I meant this to be a stand alone comment and not a reply.

        But your comment reminded me of the secretary/card puncher in the computer room was heavily referencing the stewardess( ?) in 2001.

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