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Today's Inspiration

June 26, 2012

If mental health practices are Other Natasha’s cocktail topic of choice, fairy tale analysis is my particular hobbyhorse. Most people know the Disneyfied versions omit the morbidity and dark themes of the original fairy tales, but the original Beauty and the Beast, aside from some interesting quirks*, mostly remained intact from its romantic origins. (Actually, in the Disney version, the Beast is much more volatile than in the earliest version, in which he is essentially a courtly, chivalrous suitor.) This is probably the result of its feminized origin. The first version was written down by Madame de Villeneuve in 1740, as a longer version of the typical oral tale of Girl + Animal Bridegroom. (Bestiality a big topic in days of yore.) 
Since every fairy tale is not really just a cute kid’s story — indeed, Beauty and the Beast was originally written for sharing at the court with other adults and then widely circulated thereafter — there’s an underlying moral at the heart of this one. A few scholars feel the tale was intended to convince young girls that arranged marriages weren’t so bad, once you got used to the idea. Consider the elements: a father gives the hand of his daughter, the Beast cautions that the girl must “come willingly” and “of her own accord”, she has to honor both her father and new suitor’s wishes, the Beast grants the father wealth in return (essentially a dowry), and she comes to love a stranger, for which she is then rewarded with a becoming a princess and a pretty sweet marriage. He even gives her a ring at one point as a reminder of him. 
It could veer into a Bluebeard-esque cautionary tale about minding your husband, but — again possibly because of the female origin — Beauty actually gets away with a lot. The Beast grants her every wish, and takes an incredibly passive role in her life until she falls in love with him of her own volition. He even gives her lots of money and freedom to do whatever she wants with the place — should Megan buy some more white carpets, do you think?
So Don walking away from the Beauty and the Beast diorama has some interesting connotations. (First of all, the tale is French, not German, so the whole barmaid getup on Megan is rather odd.) Don lived out the Beast part of this fairy tale bargain, but he never becomes the Prince in the end. Megan married the temperamental Beast, trying to convince herself that he was the prince the whole time. And he certainly did provide for her, the way the animal bridegroom must in order to keep his young nubile bride. The reward for him (and her) is supposed to be a happy marriage; it’s one Don desperately needed, especially after failing with Betty. But she exchanges that reward for her own pride and success, and he never gets that happy ending he wanted. He went through the motions — he tried the courtly husband routine. It didn’t work. Don can’t become anything other than what he is; he walks away. He stays the Beast. And the Beast is marked by one thing: being alone. That castle gets mighty lonely, whether it be Ossining or a Manhattan suite.
*Footnote by Natasha Simons
*Three quick fucked-up things about this story, since it wouldn’t be an old-ass fairy tale without them: 1) in the first version, the Beast was cursed because he wouldn’t have sex with a fairy — they’re vindictive motherfuckers; 2) the Beast doesn’t turn into a prince until AFTER the wedding night — eek; and 3) Beauty’s sisters, who are real dicks to her in the original, are turned into statues by fairies to sit outside the castle until they recognizetheir assholery. Don’t fuck with fairies, man.

June 11, 2012

Finally! A chance to talk about my favorite cocktail party topics: BIPOLAR DEPRESSION and ELECTROCONVUSLIVE THERAPY!

Here are some talking points for you:

*Electroconvulsive therapy has benefits (rarely though)! It’s most often used for schizophrenics or those with severe major depression, the sort that includes periods of catatonic paralysis. Did you see Melancholia (it’s on netflix!)? It’s like how Kirsten Dunst was when her sister tried to giver her bath. Poor Kiki. Poor Beth.

*Did you catch what Beth’s brute husband said? How she spreads her legs for the first chump that comes along? Between that comment and Beth’s post-coital musings on death and the feeling of DOOM after looking at pictures of earth from space, it’s safe to assume that she’s bipolar. Especially since it sounds like she’s fucked around before, meaning, perhaps, HYPOMANIA! A distinguishing characteristic of bipolar disorder :

 Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

* Bipolar didn’t even have a name in 1966, psychiatrists were still using DSM 1 from 1952! The DSM wasn’t updated until 1968. That means thirty six years where severe, manic, major, bipolar, unipolar, schizophrenia, were all lumped into one category as some sort of organic brain disorder. Thus, treatment was as blunt as the diagnosis.

*The memory loss issue with ECT is very real! A 1986 study on ECT interviewed 41 recipients of the treatment. 83 percent of women said they had experienced short and long term memory loss. Many of them had treatment in the mid sixties. Here are some quotes from the study:

  • ""I can’t remember my 20-year Marine Corps career…or daughter’s birth or childhood…"]
  • "Turned me into a walking zombie, killing all emotions and feelings for several months…" 
  • "It’s like a bomb being set off inside your head…literally a mind-blowing torture…"
  • "I couldn’t remember people’s names, but it gradually came back…with some prompting…"
  • "Doctor stopped returning my phone calls when I said ‘memory’s not returning…’"
Temporary bandages on permanent wounds and such. :(

1:45am  |  251 notes   |  mad men |  season 5 |  season finale |  psychiatry |  electroconvulsive therapy |  DSM |  depression |  beth 

The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment. This picture becomes a little more intelligible when we consider that, with one exception, the same traits are met with in mourning. The disturbance of self-regard is absent in mourning; but otherwise the features are the same. Profound mourning, the reaction to the loss of someone who is loved, contains the same painful frame of mind, the same loss of interest in the outside world—in so far as it does not recall him—the same loss of capacity to adopt any new object of love (which would mean replacing him) and the same turning away from any activity that is not connected with thoughts of him. It is easy to see that this inhibition and circumscription of the ego is the expression of an exclusive devotion to mourning which leaves nothing over for other purposes or other interests. It is really only because we know so well how to explain it that this attitude does not seem to us pathological. — Freud, Mourning and Melancholia. 

1:11am  |  122 notes   |  mad men |  season 5 |  freud |  mad men unbuttoned 

Closing credits tonight via Nancy Sinatra. You only live twice. One for you. One for your dreams. #YOLT

1:00am  |  73 notes   |  don drapper |  mad men |  mad men unbuttoned |  season 5 |  the phantom |  yolo 
May 28, 2012

Important foreshadowing quote:

You are a grimy little pimp.” — Lane Pryce.

On par with theme encompassing “Who is Don Draper?” quote from the previous season.

11:04pm  |  75 notes   |  mad men |  season 4 |  lane pryce |  pete campbell |  FORESHADOWING! |  mad men unbuttoned 
May 23, 2012
Excerpt above from America Hurrah. Below are some reviews:
—“Fascinating! Brilliant! … perhaps the most consistently fascinating, frequently brilliant evening of drama produced so far this season.… “ Wall Street Journal.
—“Hurricane of horror.” Boston Globe.
—“At last something new.”  New York Review of Books.
—“Brilliant.” Harold Pinter.
—“His plays don’t develop, they explode.” Variety.—“I was especially impressed by America Hurrah. It is possible that Motel is the best one-act play I’ve ever seen.” Norman Mailer.

Excerpt above from America Hurrah. Below are some reviews:

—“Fascinating! Brilliant! … perhaps the most consistently fascinating, frequently brilliant evening of drama produced so far this season.… “ Wall Street Journal.

—“Hurricane of horror.” Boston Globe.

—“At last something new.”  New York Review of Books.

—“Brilliant.” Harold Pinter.

—“His plays don’t develop, they explode.” Variety.

—“I was especially impressed by America Hurrah. It is possible that Motel is the best one-act play I’ve ever seen.” Norman Mailer.

1:06am  |  45 notes   |  america hurrah |  mad men |  season 5 |  THE THEATAH! |  motel |  tv |  interview 
May 15, 2012

For normal people too. 

8:53pm  |  46 notes   |  manischevitz |  mad men |  season 5 |  mad men unbuttoned |  jews 
May 11, 2012
Of course, if anyone rises with “red hair” and “eats men like air”, it’s our zaftig miracle Joan Holloway. Keep an eye on this space.

Of course, if anyone rises with “red hair” and “eats men like air”, it’s our zaftig miracle Joan Holloway. Keep an eye on this space.

4:02pm  |  266 notes   |  lady lazarus |  joan holloway |  mad men |  sylvia plath |  natasha simons 
Lady Lazarus and A Chat About Death, Part 2

Lady Lazarus”, in Plath’s own words, is about “the agony of being reborn.” And Megan spent a good deal of the last episode attempting a career rebirth — an agony we can all vibe with. Not only did she have to contend with her own ambivalence about the situation, but with the risk of bringing her all-id husband dangerously close to an existential meltdown. The man cannot handle even tacit questioning of his liiiiiife.

I am your opus
I am your valuable
Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Operating not so much as her own character but rather an agitator of the characters around her, Megan may be bringing everyone else to a frothing analysis of her motivations before burning out in a flash of phoenix-like glory like the Lady Lazarus of the poem. (The peanut crunching crowd/Shoves in to see) Notice that “wedding ring” is one of the primary material symbols that the speaker claims does not represent her. Megan is impossible to analyze, refracting attempts to do so into a million opinions on how to feel about her (in us too!), but she is an extraordinary illuminator of the people around her.

Footnote by Natasha Simons

3:41pm  |  37 notes   |  megan draper |  peggy olson |  don draper |  lady lazarus |  sylvia plath |  mad men |  natasha simons 
Lady Lazarus and A Chat About Death, Part 1

With all the death talk this season (cancer scares! nurse killings! snipers!), many Mad Menites are wondering if Matt Weiner is in the mood to finally pay up and off somebody. Rumors swirled last season about Greg Harris and Roger Sterling, but this season the likely friends we have on offer are either young sad Peter or young happy Megs. Let’s consider Pete first:

Do you remember all the way back in “Pilot” where there was some scoffing discussion of a small consideration called the death wish? Don may have blown it off then, but he’s not laughing (down an elevator shaft) now: the man is facing mortality somewhat brutally at the hands of his heedless young wife. Who wasn’t laughing all the way back in 1960? Why, Pete Campbell, of course, who has always understood the morbid urges we all feel: the man and his erstwhile rifle have been hurtling down that metaphorical Freudian highway onto an oncoming car for five seasons now. And now, he’s kind of literally hurtling down that highway. With a re-introduced rifle. And he’s a bad driver!

Speaking of metaphors and psychology, this episode is named after Sylvia Plath’s famous, stunning poem “Lady Lazarus”, which in large part is about the speaker’s fractured identities making it impossible for her to liiiiiiive. Based loosely on autobiographical circumstances, the speaker details her various suicide attempts, and the struggle to reconcile her reluctant, warring body and mind with the facticity of life. Pete, who attempts to mirror Don (and is now seeking out a brown[haired] Betty of his own) while maintaining a complex and frighteningly sad inner life of his own, has to balance his multiple personalities as well in what is becoming an increasingly tenuous situation.

Note well:

It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute

Which is clearly how Pete has begun to view his existence of coming home on the 525 train. Pete hasn’t attempted to kill himself (yet), but ever since his woeful Job-ian cry of “I have nothing”, it’s been clear he feels he’s dying a small death each time he lives a life he has begun to see only hollowness in. This was also an issue Plath wrestled with, loving her complicated and destructive husband and young children as well as seeking to free herself from it in due course.

Footnote by Natasha Simons

3:31pm  |  55 notes   |  pete campbell |  sylvia plath |  lady lazarus |  mad men |  natasha simons