Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mad Men: Character vs. Plot

So recently we discovered Mad Men.

Not discover as in "Oh hey, what's this?"  Discover as in, toodle on down to the library, pick up season one, and proceed to watch all thirteen episodes pretty much back to back.

I'm hooked.

Not hooked as in "Can't wait to see what happens next!"  Hooked as in "Can't wait to see these characters again!"  Because besides the cigarettes and alcohol, Mad Men is its characters.  And that's it.

More recently, my wife went to see World War Z.  Her take?  "Meh.  Rather watch Mad Men."

As someone who is interested in Story, I find this fascinating.  Normally, a story has to start somewhere and end somewhere and somewhere in between a bunch of stuff happens to 'move the story forward.'  Plot.  Kinda like WWZ, and most other summer tent poles.  Even TV shows have plot.

Not Mad Men.  Mad Men is unique, because plot - the sequential progression of events - is irrelevant.  Mad Men is entirely about the characters: their contradictions, their secrets, lies & deceits, scars & fears, prejudices, addictions & escapes, their agendas and ambitions.  I can drop in on an episode, and never feel like I have to backtrack to find out what happened.  It's simply intriguing to see these characters forced to exist in each other's world, to see them seek some resolution in one area of their life, only to see some other area spin out of control.  The creators simply put two (or more) of these characters in a room and set them loose on each other.  I can't look away.

I realize this is what most nighttime dramas (i.e. soaps) aspire to, but it seems to me like other shows cling to plot more than the creators of Mad Men, no?  Much to process and apply to my own notion of Story.

Is that the library calling?  Time to go pick up season two!

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