After watching an episode of my favorite show, I’ll often read reviews online--and just as a woman can’t not remark on her husband’s secretary... I am compelled to say something about this deconstruction of Mad Men’s “The Crash.” Posted on The Hollywood Reporter, the analysis overlooks two major themes in its critique of Don’s inexplicable “love” for Sylvia.
First… if you haven't seen this episode or read the deconstruction, the following paragraphs will probably confuse you worse than “The Crash” confused the Twits... Anyway.
“I’ve got this great message,” Don says, “and it has to do with what holds people together. What is that thing that draws them? It’s a history. And it may not even be with that person…”
He says this because the oatmeal mother in the ad is inspired by Aimee, the prostitute who became Don’s surrogate mother (and first girlfriend). Don has focused on this ad because, in his mind, he has conflated Aimee and Sylvia. But it’s even bigger than that, bigger than just these two women. Bigger than Chevy.
Now, flashback to “The Doorway” at the beginning of this season, when Don describes love: “We want that electric jolt to the body,” he says. “We want Eros. It’s like a drug (hint, hint). It’s not domestic. What’s the difference between a husband knocking on a door and a sailor getting off a ship? About ten thousand volts.”
Don’s calling it love, but what he’s describing is much more chemical than that. It’s much more transitory (like a shot in the glutes). This is a feeling he’s become addicted to. He doesn’t understand what love truly is, how it abides, how it ages. He’s confusing love with… a chemical dependency. A dependency that, for Don, stretches back years. Decades.
From Aimee to Betty to Rachel and Midge, from Midge to Bobbie and Mrs. Farrell and Faye, and finally from Megan to Sylvia: any one of these women could be a stand-in for the whore mother feeding oatmeal to her son. Don has built up a history of loves, of dependencies. Henry Francis once said there are no fresh starts. Lives go on. So every time Don becomes addicted to a lady, he brings with him a whole sexual history. That’s the theme of his pitch he planned to give Sylvia: you’re every woman I’ve ever had this feeling for. It’s why he’s so attached to her. It’s not for love but the electric jolt, shocking his damaged heart back to life, if only for a while.
That’s what this deconstruction in the Reporter overlooks. It forgets that it’s bigger than Sylvia. Bigger than oatmeal even.
(It also would’ve been nice to see the article mention Kenny’s line about where he learned to tap dance: “My mother… No, my first girlfriend.” Because that, too, was really a line about Don.)