Reinventing the Wheel

 Posted by on April 22, 2015 at 8:24 am  Mad Men, Season 7
Apr 222015

The last shot of The Forecast shows Don Draper who, having just been expelled from his freshly sold apartment, wears a confused expression as “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” plays under the closing credits. The title refers to the statement about the company’s future Roger tells Don to write. Don struggles with this assignment as his prognostication abilities don’t seem up to the task. This inability to see forward is also shared by Joan and Richard Burghoff in their storyline.

Struggling to come up with 2500 words on the future, Don asks (pesters) the people around him to describe their visions are of what lies ahead. None of the responses Don receives helps improve his sight. Likewise, Joan is first shown in the episode wearing a sleeping mask designed to  block out light. Later, Richard Burghoff, who interrupts his visit to the optometrist to pretend to be a job applicant named “Jim McCloud,” admits to Joan that he is near-sighted.

mad-men-550x309Don never gets a suitable answer to his question about the future which nags him throughout the episode. In Season 1’s The Wheel, Don crafts an incredible campaign for Kodak’s Carousel slide projector by describing it as a “time machine.” However, Don’s time machine seemed designed to just look backwards. Peggy, whose character parallels Don, is only adept at looking backwards as well. In The Forecast, she’s clearly more focused on her performance review and gets frustrated when Don tries to get her to look in a different direction.

It would seem deliberate that the brand name of the central client in The Forecast is
Peter Pan.  Don’s inability to see forward is linked to his lack of growth personally and emotionally. The carousel that ten years previously was a portal to the past, has become a ferris wheel. It lifted Don through dizzying heights in the ensuing decade, but ultimately is leaving him exactly where he started.


  43 Responses to “Reinventing the Wheel”

  1. You tied in “near-sighted”! Matt Maul at his best, ladies and gentlemen.

    • And Peter Pan!!! My Mercy!! ….

      • Yes, amazing. The Peter Pan motif keeps growing the longer one looks at it. Glen and his girlfriend appearing out of the blue to invite Sally to come with them to Playland – how close is that to Peter and Tinkerbell summoning Wendy (who also has 2 younger brothers) to Never-Never Land? Which is also where Richard wants to go with Joan – off on adventures, not helping take care of a toddler. His kids are grown and he wants to shed his own grown-up-ness, and even Joan considers doing the same. When Glen comes back for Betty, it’s just like the end of the play where Peter comes back for Wendy, who’s now grown and married… And Roger? Pure Peter Pan from the moment we met him – except at the commune, a real-life Never-Never Land, where he opted to disapprove. And maybe Melanie’s a Tinker Bell figure for Don, but my mind isn’t quite stretching to connect those dots just now…
        I’m also less clear on how this ties in to how many people want Don to be Dad for them in this episode – or on how blissfully detached from the business both Roger and Ted are acting this half-season, which is disturbing now that I think about it (though Don at times appears to be right there with them…)

        • On the Dad topic – what’s the connection between Peggy, Mathis and Sally all telling off Dad/Don, and Glen’s loaded relationship with his stepdad (let alone his real dad, who’s been out of the picture this whole time)? So much to ponder… God I’ll miss this show and these discussions.

          • I think it might be called a theme – an ‘adolescent tell off Dad’ theme.

            (I was one of those readers who sort of “got” themes – but was always much better at paying attention in class to learn them – pretty much why I read this blog)

            In this case it is not so straightforward who is adolescent and adult.

            Peggy is squarely an adult – though less inclined of late to defer to Don – he has always expected her to become less a protege and more a peer.

            Sally is definitely growing up – she’s in transition to adult.

            Mathis seems to carry around a poor self-image and with this crisis he devolved (regressed) to child – at least for his moments with Don.

            Deborah Lipp has said many times that the series may end but this blog’s treatment Mad Men’s deep well will not.

            Plus, this blog does regualar coverage for some of my favorite TV shows – Downton Abbey, Better Call Saul, Masters of Sex, Homeland, The Americans – and others.

            Definitely worth a bookmark.

    • Like Deb said, great post and great catch with nearsightedness and lack of sight!

      With the whole theme of looking forwards vs. looking backwards, it may tie into the S7.1 promo image of Don and Peggy sitting in an airport looking in different directions. I’d posted in the “Time Zones” thread that this resembles the Roman god Janus, who has one face looking towards the future and the other looking towards the past.

      Janus is also the god of doors, which could explain why the episode ends with Don in front of his soon former apartment doors.

      With the same Don/Peggy joined image, I’d also mentioned that it could be a reference to the Greek prophet Tiresias, who figures into T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” which MM seems to echo at points.
      In relation to “Forecast,” a forecast is basically a prediction of the future, which is what a prophet or oracle does. Also, Tiresias was blind, which could tie into the theme of lack of sight in “Forecast.”

      Here’s the original post.

    • As an audience we are are near-sighted in this episode as well:


      At the beginning of the episode Joan takes a collect call from Gail and has a brief opportunity to chat to her son. The call is disconnected; and rather than immediately calling back, Joan places an order for room service.

      As the episode unfolds and Richard returns to SC&P to apologise to Joan, she ‘claims’ she has already thought about their relationship and has decided to send Kevin away (boarding school?) ‘choosing’ Richard over her son…

      Joan also chooses breakfast over her son…

      As an audience we already had the answer to Joan’s situation before it occurred – near sightedness!

  2. The inability to “see” also ties in with the sale of the apartment. When Melanie, the real estate agent, complains about how an empty apartment is hard to sell, Don replies that it should make things easier because people can see their own belongings in it. But, it doesn’t work that way because most people have “no vision” or imagination.

    Betty has vision problems too. She stares at Glen, unable to recongnize him at age 18.

    Sally is only seeing what she wants, blinded by her anger at both her parents. She isn’t seeing that they both love her and want things to be better, she is only seeing their neediness and inadequacies.

    • Good stuff here Daisy!

      It occurs to me that Glen can’t see the future either. His vision, imagination of his meeting with Betts is way off and he is understandably scared of his murky future. Glen and Betty try to reassure themselves that Vietnam will have beer and “all the comforts of home” but they both know this is a Peter Pan fairy tale.

      • This is going to sound crazy, but what if Glen ends up as a Saigon soldier, or something similiar, spending his entire tour behind a desk? If he’s hoping to please his father, and come back with stories about how he saved his platoon, or captured enemy soldiers, then wouldn’t the worst thing be for him be to never to see action at all?

    • Good stuff, especially about Betty not recognizing Glen.

      Sally sees her parents being seen, and that’s what enrages her.

  3. Matt this is excellent as usual full of insights and thought provoking goodness!

    Melanie: “Now we just have to find a place for you!” In order for Don to find a place – his place in the world – he has to do some serious soul searching work. Perhaps ironically Don needs to climb into his time machine and go way back to wrestle with the demons of his childhood and youth before he can find his place in the future. Melanie in many ways gets the lines of the week in The Forecast: “. . . the emptiness is a problem . . . this requires too much imagination.” Ted passes on the speech project because Don is “so much better at painting a picture.”

    Don is overtasked in this job to look into the future because it requires “too much imagination.” Now if the task is just selling stories, fantasy, fairy tales, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell – well that is something Don is quite good at but we are dealing with a different task here aren’t we?

    It turns out imagination is the wrong tool and Don Draper is the wrong man for the job. Typical Don attacks this project as a straightforward and pure advertising problem. As usual he casts himself as the Lone Ranger. Note that Don does not actually consult with his colleagues which might have actually helped but instead tries to trick both Ted and Peggy into giving him easy answers.

    For Don to find some lasting answers and ultimately find his place he needs to take a Dick Whitman approach working with, leading and respecting others. As Deb points out, Don is at his best this episode (and season) when he is acting as a good father like sorting out the sibling squabble between Peggy and Pete and helping Sally’s friends explore their futures (alright, alright before Don gets a bit flirty with the precocious one). He is at his best when he is making milkshakes for his kids and interacting in a way that is genuine and not self-centered or manipulative.

    Don seeks a quick and easy vision of the future but he already had his fortune told. He’d do better to recall and apply the lessons from Anna’s Tarot prognostication years before, namely that Don is a part of the world and the only thing keeping him from being happy is the belief that he is alone.

  4. Great catches on Peter Pan and Richard’s being near-sighted. This also gives me an idea of why “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is the closing music. There’s the beautiful melancholy ache of its sound, of course, so suited to the mood, but what makes it a Don Draper song is that it’s about a perfect beginning which assumes that the future will be wonderful. Does Don love “the beginning of things” because he believes the future will be better, that, as he muses to himself while struggling with The Forecast, “it’s supposed to get better?” How ironic is it that Don, who tells Rachel Menken right at the start that “love was invented by guys like me to sell” is actually a romantic? Without love in his life (“Do we have to have love” he tells Peggy and the crew in rejecting the first tagline) he doesn’t know how to think about the future.

    • An additional thought: This terrible romanticism is another thing that connects Don to the fictional character he’s most often been compared to: The Great Gatsby.

      • Can you correct the past?
        Why, of course you can, old sport!
        If Don is shed to bring back Dick as the way to save himself, then he is a man with no future.
        That’s how DD would see it.
        Can he admit that to go forward one step he has to have the courage to take the two steps back, and not see it as a failure?

        I was happy for Don that his apartment got burglarized.
        He was left cluterless.
        No wife, a mill light in the pockets, no furniture in an apartment he never saw as his style.
        How many more obstacles have to be removed in order to put the persona to bed, and come to terms with who he is, what he really is?
        A hardened romantic.
        He ain’t Gatsby.
        He’s Rick Blaine, in the metaphysical desert.

        • Ahhh Tilden my thoughts exactly.

          Could it be any more appropriate for Don to goto the cinema to watch a re-run of Casablanca?

      • Melville,

        With the Gatsby connection and Matt’s great catch about nearsightedness and glasses, it may go back to the pilot.

        “Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”

        The billboard reference always reminded me of the optometrist billboard in “The Great Gatsby” (The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg). The billboard interpretation I’ve usually gone with is it’s the judging eyes of God. Which is the opposite of what Don says, “It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.” Add to that Don’s revulsion to getting the “Judgement” card in Anna’s Tarot reading. Interestingly , Don is judged often and accurately in “Forecast,” by his realtor, Mathis, Peggy, and Sally.

    • It’s also so ironic, because he tells Adam in s1, my life only goes forward!

      At dinner with Sally’s friends we see he didn’t haven’t a plan beyond wanting to live in New York, like in the movies or magazines.

      Another irony, in s1, ep 1 scene 1, the bus boy (man that sucks to write) says “Ladies like their magazines” and they share a chuckle. But here it is Don who really took magazines seriously, and it was Betty who just wanted something real from him. Same with Megan.

      Oh, and Diana says his apartment looks like something out of Architectural Digest…

      He made himself a movie/magazine life. But it never satisfies. He “scratches to get in” but magazines and movies are 2D. You can’t get in them.

  5. And all this from the man who said in season 1 “I have a life. And it only goes in one direction. Forward.” (1:5 5G)

  6. If there were three cookies that got Dear John letters and now … Finally the Tinkerbell cookie is true love.. Don has had three three wives (on paper) is he going to find true love now???

  7. There is much discussion about Joan’s apartment on 12th Street and questions about why she hasn’t moved and how the apartment hasn’t changed. If you click on the links you can see that the kitchen has changed from the time she was living there with Greg and the recent episodes. She has bought a turquoise refrigerator, painted the kitchen walls blue, and the configuration of the kitchen switches around from the fridge being on an inside wall to being visible from the living room. The magic of televison. (I hope these links work, some interesting reading.)

    Also of interest:

    • Daisy, the links worked and I loved “The Lovely Side” site…great pics! Did Joan have a top fridge with bottom freezer or was the bottom some kind of storage space? Now that I think about it, I kind of remember my parents having a fridge with storage bins below where they stored potatoes.

  8. Now that we are well into the final half season of the series, we’ve seen enough Dick Whitman flashbacks for someone to put together an alternate version of Don’s brilliant “Wheel” pitch, keeping the verbiage from the original, using those scenes instead. About the closest thing to it that we’ve seen so far, was the disastrous Hershey pitch. I don’t have parody in mind here, but on some level it would be instructive – and that’s not even the right word.

    • What a great idea!

      The young Dick scenes were so unrelentingly depressing that parody (at the very least irony) seems like the only way to do it.

      It would take more (a lot more) genius and craft to make it actually poignant/nostalgic.

      • I’m still searching for some word to replace “instructive.”

        The notion I’m playing with, has to do with the school of thought that explains current trauma in terms of it arising in the present, not because of what’s going on now, but because what’s going on now reminds us of what we were feeling when the original trauma occurred. A reaction, if you will. As the theory goes, the present problem is rooted in our unwillingness or inability to have experienced fully, the experience of whatever the original trauma was. And that, to fully experience the experience of an event, completes it for us and puts us in a space where we are free to move on.

        Don/Dick’s problem all along, has been that he’s been running from the experiences. He calls it “moving forward,” but he’s been carrying all that, or attempting to juggle it, all along. Then, there are all the reminders of past stuff that has remained not completed, that launch him into fresh reactions to the reminders of previous traumas, in the present.

        • In pediatric psych we were taught that children return again and again to the traumatic event in their lives even consistently re-creating it until it is resolved. Which is why so many people show these patterns in their lives, children of alcoholic parents have a very high percentage rate of finding and getting married to alcoholics.

          • If Don is returning to previous traumas, he seems to be taking the long, scenic route! A pattern of returning,given his background, would be expected to show up with him becoming involved with women who would abandon him or who judge him harshly. Yet, his pattern suggests one of him abandoning them. I was suggesting that returning is the last thing on his mind, though running away or hiding. I mean, his adopted name is the exact definition of it: Don (to put on) Draper (one who covers up something)!

            • Typo/missed phrase! It should have read “though running away or hiding, is his prime response.”

            • I feel like we see him more and more standing there and taking it. Often looking confused. But not running.

              These are the times I feel more presence of Dick Whitman coming back…

          • I think his abuse by the working girl with the heart of gold, and I am being sarcastic, in my mind it was rape, was one of the major traumatic events of his life. We have seen him search for this woman in various women and even in old ad campaign posters. There is a very small body of research on this topic, but if you have read the book “The Reader” it alludes to this type of event

            • I agree with this, and I am surprised/dismayed at how little focus it (the role that the rape trauma has played in his life) receives.

  9. Another thing about the slide carousel, you can only see one image at a time.

    Don has tended to live life with one image in mind at a time. Most recently, and maybe most intensely, we see this with Diana. He gets an image of her, and makes life altering decisions based on it. He doesn’t see his kids in the picture. Diana lets out more information about herself, just one *slide* at a time…

    • Don seems to do fairly well in the moments, displayed one slide at a time, though I do wonder sometimes, if he feels that he’s worthy or or responsible for, those lovely and loving moments. Much of the time, his issue isn’t with the moments seen in the slides, his troubles are sourced in what goes on in those blank moments happening between the slides.

  10. Another thing about the “seeing” metaphor; If you look at the poster for this half of season 7, Don is looking in his rearview mirror “seeing” what is behind him. Don is driving away from something. It could be that he has had enough and makes the decision to leave Don and everything about him behind. Maybe that is what it will take for him to heal all his broken relationships, including the one with himself.

  11. Matt, many thanks for your eloquent and insightful post. I loved the time machine reference and observation that it only looks back in time. The time machine transforming to a ferris wheel was simply brilliant.

  12. Wow, I love this post.

    Don is right back where he started and has found no fulfillment on his ride this decade. The entire ad industry could be considered the ghouls who feed off others’ pain, which as Megan told Sister Sanctimony, is a sin. There is no fulfillment to be had there.

    Ads are generally, in my opinion, designed to help a consumer believe that the product in question will relieve whatever pain they happen to suffer from. And we all suffer pains. Got a problem? There’s an app [product] for that!

  13. The collected examples of poor vision or lack of vision, plus Don’s “less to do, more to think about remark,” reminded me of an anecdote from that dumb old book I bring up at least once a season, “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor” (a/k/a MW’s unofficial showrunner’s bible). Jerry Della Femina relates this cautionary tale in Chapter Three:

    In 1967 and 1968, when a large agency was going through a very, very tough shakeout to save their skin, they must have fired about six hundred people. Many of those six hundred people were secretaries, clerks, and so forth, but there must have been several dozen biggies. They were all on one floor – and that floor was called ‘The Floor of the Forgotten Men’ by people in other agencies around town. The floor was manned by only one girl, who sat out front answering phones to give that last shred of dignity to those guys so they wouldn’t have to answer their own phones. These were the Forgotten Men. They all had offices and they all were working out the employment contracts they had with this large agency.

    These were top-money guys, account supervisors and management people, making fifty, sixty, seventy thousand dollars a year – the very top of the advertising business. None of them ever admitted that he was one of the fired people, but you know, they never had a secretary or anything. It was weird; they really didn’t know whether it was the ‘Floor of the Forgotten Men’ but they had a pretty good notion. They would run around for interviews and the telephone would ring and the messages might come in, and at the end of the day when they were back that one receptionist would walk into an office and say, ‘You’ve had messages.’ They were walking around, but they were zombies. What I can’t get over is that they never talked to each other about being fired. They all would show up for work at 9:30 in the morning, because that was the thing to do, and then they’d have to go to another floor to find the coffee machine because there wasn’t a coffee machine on the ‘Floor of the Forgotten Men.’ Nobody ever said, ‘Hey, I got a lead on something over at Kenyon and Eckhart.’ A guy I know today was on that floor and he recently ran into another guy who was also on that floor at the same time. They started talking about it and they realized for the first time that they had been fired.

    Now, of course, there are differences between that passage and what’s going on in Mad Men: SC&P definitely still has a coffee machine, it’s 1970 not 1968, almost everyone does still have a secretary, and it at least seems like they’re still able to draw in new business once in a while (Hanna-Barbera’s giving them a look, for what that’s worth). But if things start to go downhill at the parent company– McCann Erickson Worldwide, one of the true biggies– there’s no reason in the world they can’t just bring SC&P’s clients into the main fold (assuming no conflicts, of course) and cut the subsidiary loose, in a way that no one catches on right off the bat. They’ve already dumped Cosgrove; the remaining former partners all have contracts, but I’ll be very surprised if they all get to see them expire on time. They sure aren’t likely to be renewed.

    • Very interesting. Though, I don’t think Hanna-Barbera is giving them a look. I think that is something Lou Avery is doing on the sly behind the back of SC&P to get “Scout’s Honor” made into a cartoon. And of course, Lou is one of the “Forgotten Men.” He was shipped out to California because in actuality he was fired. The California office is now SC&P’s version of the “Floor of Forgotten Men.”

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