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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.

May 23, 2012

The Drapers go to The ‘mighty’ Theater. 

America Hurrah is a trilogy of short plays written by Jean Claude van Itallie, a Belgium native who immigrated to the states during WW2 with his family and educated by way of Harvard. The trio of plays— considered ‘experimental’— premiered in 1966 and it ran for 634 performances. The plays were as follows:

* * *

Interview-  Referred to as a ‘fugue for 8 actors’. 4 actors play unemployed job applicants: a house painter, a scrubwoman, a banker and a lady’s maid. The other 4 actors are masked, anonymous, job interviewers. Each question they hurl is meant to be more humiliating and invasive than the next. The interviewees struggle for their dignity. The play toggles between a subway station, a city street, and psychiatrist’s office (this is the scene Megan and Don were watching.)

* * *

TV- Three workers in a television studio glancing at monitors. They work and chatter while being utterly disconnected from the performers on screen. From the NYT review: ‘[The television performers] look like so many up-ended zebras - go through all the violent, cloying, synthetic motions that pass for entertainment on the national airwaves. But there is no relation between the workers and the work: a yawning gulf, big enough to drown us all, has opened between the real concerns of real people and the imaginary concerns of our imaginary archetypes.”

* * *

Motel - This play is done with actors in full face masks or sometimes puppets. An ‘excursion into theater of the absurd.’ A blonde and a man check into a nameless motel on route 66. The female motel keeper is the only person who speaks. She extolls of the virtues of self-flushing toilets and hook rugs, while the blonde and the man crawl around on the floor and scrawl obscene graffiti on the wall. Here is an excerpt: 

Motel Keeper’s Voice: Myself I know it from the catalogue: bottles, bras, breakfasts, refrigerators, cast-iron gates, plastic posies…

(In the motel room, the Woman doll opens her negligee and the man doll pulls off her bra. The Man and Woman dolls embrace. The Woman doll puts lipstick on her nipples.)

Motel Keeper’s Voice: Paper subscriptions, Buick trucks, blankets, forks, clitter-clack darning hooks, transistors and antimacassars, vinyl plastics..

 (The Man doll writes simple obscene words on the wall. The Woman doll does the same with her lipstick)

Motel Keeper’s Voice: …pickles, bayberry, candles, South Dakotan Kewpie Dolls, fiberglass hair, polished milk, amiable grandpappies, colts, Galsworthy books, cribs, cabinets, teeter-totters…

May 11, 2012
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 
"There’d been no escape. What did she so desire to escape from? Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental: and what really keeps her where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited upon her from outside and for no reason at all. Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disc jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?"

Thomas Pyncheon, The Crying of Lot 49

What do you think Pete’s reading material means?? Consider the captive maidens (Betty, Beth, Peggy to some degree) and the women questioning that malignant magic (Megan, Joan) in your answer.

April 8, 2012

Thinking about Zoobie’s look: Who are you, Polly Maggoo? comes to mind. It’s a 1966 french art house mockumentary about a young model played by Dorothy McGowan.

"I’m twenty years old and I’m in love with love a young man and I yielded to him, now when I see him in the street, he seems to don’t know me anymore. Desperate."

"Desperate, desperate.."

Work that nude lipstick. 

9:22pm  |  311 notes   |  megan draper |  fashion 
March 27, 2012

The French New Wave of Feelings and YeYe

Megan pulled off her coup: a hip cosmospolitan soiree that left the guests yearning to go home and have sex. But where did the foal-like Canadian get her moves from? Where did the sex-kitten, bob cut, hip swish and a peek-a-boo routine originate? Answer: France! Her whole routine was decidedly French New Wave, right down to the casually slumped, hip young crowd on the Draper’s couch. 

Beginning in the late 50s with the “auteur theory”, which, not to get you all worked up, was the new and somewhat daring idea that a director was the owner, or the author, of his film. This seed blossomed into a full-fledged manifesto with a number of hot-shot young directors espousing it, including Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Varda, and Alain Resnais.  The French New Wave was about an aloof stance against the corrupt, flimsy nature of the world. Instead of nihilism or hot-headed rebellion, the New Wavers sought truth in the romanticism of youth, beauty and art. 

There’s no better film that encompasses Nouvelle Vague’s values than Godard’s 1966 masterpiece Masculin-Feminin (a film so trendy it’s STILL inspiring sensitive young artistesses to get that fabulous haircut). Masculin-Feminin works in the strong Marxist elements of the New Wave, mocking commercialism while simultaneously realizing there’s no escape from it — ATTENDANCE TO THE BEAN BALLET IS MANDATORY. In world of bullshit politics, crass commercialism, and an overall corrupt reality the one thing the kids could count on were their feelings. 

Much like many a movement, though the origins of the French New Wave were grounded in theory and a lot of intelligent philosophizing, what ended up leaking through to the mainstream culture was all visual. The aesthetic of the French New Wave was very firmly mod, with Twiggy-like haircuts, tons of cat-eye eyeliner, and A-line dresses. And there were plenty of nonsense songs like the one we heard Our Lady of the Uncomfortable Role-Play sing last night. And that’s how you get, as just one example, the Ye-Ye Girls. 

Ye-Ye, spawned in part from the Beatles’ “She loves you yeah yeah yeah”, is a pop-rock genre defined by its staccato bass line, go-go tempo, minimalist, and unfussy female sound. What each Ye-Ye song had was a smoldering but seemingly unobtainable sex kitten cooing the do-do-da-da sounds. The female lead of Masculin Feminin was an aspiring Ye-Ye Girl, as was the real life actress Chantal Goya. 

"Zou Bisou Bisou" was a Ye-Ye classic and, as we know, very catchy — all the boys of SCDP had it stuck in their heads all weekend.

Footnote by Natasha Simons 

March 25, 2012

Zou bisou bisou

*kick, step*