This weekend's TV was momentous with AMC's crown jewel ending at the beginning of the glorious Free to Be You and Me 1970s. Don Draper finally hit bottom and was in the right place at the right time to surrender, couched in the loving heart of the American 12-Step share. After sneering through the consciousness-raising retreat center, ambling after the niece of his (stolen identity's) wife, the closest thing to a mother/lover he has left, and finally driving her away through his last straw / drowning man clinging, he's ready for the joys of complete collapse. He came to this retreat with this younger woman, a truth-seeker of her time, but she's the one who's not ready for the light. It turns out he's the one who's finally ready. At last, utterly beaten, he's able to rise up and hug a shlemiel in a group therapy session, tears flowing like melting ice after a long long winter. And that frees him.
Dude! I can vouch that it happens. Don't quit before the miracle and the miracle only comes when you're so near quitting you're already packing up your shit. It's like a deep end pool, when you get down so low you can finally launch yourself up from the bottom. Crack off the last few shreds of your toxic ego and rise, humble, beautiful, drenched in loving tears, the blood of the lamb. I been there! You understand at last that the expressions "everything's rosy" and "rose-tinted glasses" come from a real thing - the world does look washed in rose red; the color of the Buddhist's robes, and roses.
Ever the quintessential 'American' ad man, the spark of enlightenment leads to the perfect Coca-Cola commercial, one that would define the decade itself, the "I'd like to teach the world to sing" commercial, that seamless interweaving of the mainstream popular plastic packaging, post-Aquarius encounter group openness, commercialization and a freedom beyond the boy's club sexo-alcoholic escapism of the Don Draper sixties. This Cocoa-Cola commercial offered a freedom that understood no one escapes oneself for long, and the minute you stop trying to run, you start seeing yourself in others, you're what we in AA call "a worker among workers" (rather than the "piece of shit at the center of the universe") then joy comes dropping down like a cartoon anvil. Hugging the shlemiel (Evan Wood, below) is the first truly free thing Don's ever done, to release seven seasons worth of accumulated stress, of the Don Draper mask, the alpha male swagger, all melting like globally warmed iceberg wicked witch through just hugging it out with a weak-chinned balding charismatically challenged schlub, the kind I used to be always mean to, fearing if I was nice they'd hang around and try to poach foxes, embarrassing themselves, chasing off foxes and cramping my style by association. Learning to recognize myself in them, to love even them unconditionally, was the biggest surrender I ever had to make. Part of me always knew and hated to be reminded, in some circles I am that same shlemiel.
|The Nordic Aliens bring their universal message|
And to me, my interpretation, he did pitch it. It's his career capstone. Because if he did, then the entire show from beginning to end makes a post-modern socio-historical Guy Debord meets Alcoholics Anonymous kind of sick-6th sense. It's glorious to see how the show really understands these kinds of breakthroughs. As for Don and Jon Hamm, of course no actor is worth a damn unless they've already worked through a lot of it. And moments like these remind us that being able to act deeply emotional 'true' stuff hinges on such unrelenting self-honesty. And that's how fiction ends up being truer than truth. How Don, as a fiction, is truer than any real person can be. I know it sounds corny, but I'm getting weepy just thinking about it.
TV - THE ONCE-SHARED LANGUAGE
And most unique to the 70s too, we were all--the entire nation--into that song. We all knew and know all the words, not that there's many. Because irony didn't exist in the popular media; we were too open-hearted and there weren't enough channels or options to separate us, no other devices on which to watch things. In the 70s we all had to endure each other's programming and the kids never got first draft choice if dad was around, but we were always in the same room, seeing the same things. Bored as hell as Meet the Press droned on Sunday mornings, for example, though dad might let us see Sesame Street later, because he thought it was pretty cool, good music. It left us all with a cross-generational water cooler currency woefully missing from today's everybody on their own screen post-nuclear familial structure. That's how that Coke commercial crossed the generations, it bonded the entirety of the nation in its moment.
TV was a shared language in the 70s but it was the EST and therapy groups and encounter sessions that brought us closest. Even if your parents didn't go, some couple they knew did, and the message of openness and being 'perfect in the now' crossed from that couple to your parents and outwards in a loving pink energy ripple effect. Parents knew how to treat us like people rather than valuable art objects being smuggled through downtown Rome, to not hold on tight or try to align us to their thinking, to not evaluate their worth as humans via what daycare we tested into. They were them and we were us and all were okay to do our own thing. This kind of encounter group wildfire helped prep me for later LSD, yoga and eventually AA. Don's encounter group scene's tremendous cathartic power comes from that same rippling love wave, the time when yoga and meditation were brand new to the west. There was no arguing with the resulting slow burn awakening as the news of inner peace's availability spread (like that 70s Faberge Organics shampoo spot: "tell two friends / and they'll tell two friends / and so on / and so on").
It's the same with Don's mountain retreat moment, as we say in AA, "your own best thinking got you here" - which has about two dozen dual meanings. To be able to commit to a meditation class without smirking, or judging, being able to take instruction from a young hippie kid in the lotus position, to get the message rather than let your ego--like a jealous rival--convince you to hang back and judge the messenger, to sneer at such naked emotional simplicity rather than shiver in the naked heat of the sun when the cool bar beckons. But looking at the entirety of Don's seemingly haphazard journey west, we see how every little incident led to this moment, from the invite to the Veteran's fundraiser to giving some snotty thief his car, all step by step, like a careful opponent making sure all his enemy's (i.e. ego's) avenues of escape are blocked before springing the iceberg break coup de grace. If he had his car he would have quit before the miracle (as we say in AA); if the guy speaking had been attractive, or young, or old, or somehow different enough to be either desirable or a threat the miracle would not occur; if that mopey bitch in that first encounter group hadn't cross-talked about being abandoned by her mom, then his ride wouldn't have bailed, and so forth.
Don was hugging the shlemiel not because he heard, as we say in the rooms, his own story, or recognized the dawning of the commercialization of the Age of Aquarius, but because he saw beyond himself finally, so beaten down his ego actually left the room, so he could know this person was him, and was Jesus, and the dying Betts, and his children, and his whore (real) mother, and the brother he drove to suicide, all wrapped into one flag-draped coffin of a rainbow child.
But Don is an ad man to his core, and even there in the crucible of surrender, lurks the next gold ring. For him they are inseparable, but that's the thing you go into the wilderness of Self but if you don't bring back a present, a souvenir we can use here in the communal house, you just wasted our time telling us about it. We're conditioned to accept that from popular culture, so maybe it doesn't even get our French theory noses in a twist when-- right after the finale's final credits-- comes a car commercial with Jon Hamm voiceover. The average critic writing about the show doesn't mention that, doesn't see it in the context of the show itself. But any acidhead huckster would note, that's SYNERGY too!
It's because I'm a Pisces and a child of the 70s that I can both scoff at astrology and yet know it's true, and it's because I have seen the land beyond duality; I know duality is beautiful as long as you know it's fiction. And I know that fiction is far truer than reality in depicting the truth of reality; I've hallucinated enough to know never to believe my own eyes or ears. When skeptics say they need evidence to be convinced of flying saucers I snort derisively. I secretly mock those I deem less humble than myself, and I get that irony of that, and yet prefer to laugh at myself rather than try and change it. And I know I can cry and feel bad about pollution all I want, but that never helps things, only action. I can donate $ or volunteer without losing the joy or sense everything's okay. I know I should meditate and feel joy and love and put it out there to those who need it, not who's hot or deserves it, to effect change. Not for nothing Jesus washed the feet of the lepers instead of the dirty supermodels. When I first had a big spiritual awakening I knew that, for that selfless perfect love to stick around, I'd have to be nice to ugly idiots, and god there were so many! Instead I ran and ran. By the time I stopped it was ready it was the 90s, and too damn late. Now there was the internet, and SSRIs. My hair was not on fire so I was no longer willing to dive into the well.
|Helen Slater, showing she always had a way with reticent buds (Supergirl, 1984)|
It's what makes a Subaru a Subaru.
Until the fuckin' 80s. Don't get me started...