I am not going to lie to you, I am one of the millions of Americans who tunes in to Mad Men every week. It is an intriguing show, the nostalgia, the 60’s pop culture references, the style, etc. Also, with Mad Men midway through its fourth season, the character’s story arcs are starting to really take shape. Things are starting to come into perspective, and I think the show is a walking example of how totally depraved we humans really are.
In most drama’s nowadays, writers have gotten clever, and really develop the characters overtime, to keep things from getting too soapy or unrealistic (they still do from time to time, I mean it is TV). One of my chief complaints about Mad Men in the beginning was that it was slow, and that I could not see that they were taking the story anywhere but to the destruction of each character. Each character acted so selfishly, and I couldn’t see any redeeming qualities in any of them.
Now, four seasons in, and this trend is still going on. Sure, characters have moments of selflessness, but overall, every character on the show is pleasure seeking, completely disregarding who they hurt in the pursuit. And I watch with fascination, why these characters continue to dig themselves into wholes that are not satisfying them. Don and Betty Draper, each pursuing their own pleasures, completely tore their marriage and family apart, now trying to pick up the pieces or their respective lives, unsuccessfully. Peggy keeps climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of anything personal, and still has no confidence, Joan finally has her man and a respectable position in the office but still not the affection, attention, and respect she desires.
It is interesting to watch these people push so hard for something, that in the end leaves them lacking. And the writers keep them from finding their happy ending. I thought for a time that the happy ending was just waiting for the end of the series, but the characters (accept for Betty) are becoming more self aware. They are realizing that their selfish pursuits are what is leaving them lonely and empty. But its like they can’t stop.
I am reading Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God. In it he tackles skeptics questions about the Christian faith. One of them is how can a loving God send people to hell. Keller basically says that afterlife is eternal consequences of our life on earth. So if one chooses to ignore God in life, God gives that person what they want in the afterlife, by removing his presence from that person forever. One basically choses hell by choosing to live life without God. He says drug addicts are a mini-picture of that process. They alienate themselves from everyone because they love the high so much and keep seeking after it. Hell will be full of sin addicts looking for their next high, and probably wouldn’t want heaven even if they suddenly were convinced of its existence, according to Keller. That all makes sense to me. I am probably not doing the explanation justice, I recommend reading the book just for that chapter, honestly.
How does this apply to Mad Men you ask? These people are stuck, they cannot get away from their own selfishness. It is sad, but we are glued to our TVs, and cannot stop watching these people run their lives into the ground. They are all in their own personal hells, and I don’t think they could chose heaven even if they believed it existed. They just keep trucking through.
I may not have my fingers on the pulse of Mad Men fans, but I know that I wouldn’t want to trade places with any of these characters. But I am destined to follow a similar path, but for the grace of God. Only by crowing King Jesus as Lord of our lives can we even begin to let go of our own hell and truly enjoy this life and eternity afterward. As I watch a well-made TV show, I think about how those characters are broken, and its obvious to everyone. But does everyone see how broken they are too, and how much they need Jesus? I hope so, maybe thats the happy ending our Mad Men will have.