Eliza Berman: The Mad Men Title Sequence Is Eerily Similar to This LIFE Magazine Cover

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The falling men on a 1967 LIFE cover seem to presage the falling man in the AMC show’s opening credits

Eliza Berman writes: Analyzing the title sequence to Mad Men has become something of a sport for the show’s fans. Does the suited man hurtling toward earth foreshadow protagonist/anti-hero Don Draper’s literal death or his figurative demise? Does it echo the chilling photograph of a man who jumped from a burning World Trade Center tower? (Showrunner Matthew Weiner has said emphatically that it does not.) Whatever it represents, where did Imaginary Forces, the agency that produced the sequence, get the idea?

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Here’s another idea: it’s now been pointed out that the design has many similarities to a 1967 LIFE Magazine cover, the first in a four-part series on “The Struggle To Be an Individual.” The cover, like Mad Men’s credits, features silhouetted men against the backdrop of a 1960s-era skyscraper. Both suggest a sense of helplessness, of ceding control to powerful forces beyond one’s self.

“The cover, like Mad Men’s credits, features silhouetted men against the backdrop of a 1960s-era skyscraper. Both suggest a sense of helplessness, of ceding control to powerful forces beyond one’s self.”

The Imaginary Forces team that produced the credits has spoken about some of the inspiration behind the design. Weiner initially approached them with the skeleton of an idea — a man walks into an office building, takes the elevator to the top and jumps — and they began developing storyboards. Those boards included a Volkswagen ad, movie stills and, as designer Steve Fuller told Print, “the design stew that’s been swirling around in our head over the last 15 years since we left college.”

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Though AMC could not confirm, as of publication time, whether this particular LIFE cover ever made it onto those storyboards, the photo essay the cover advertises in many ways articulates the existential crises Draper faces in Mad Men. As an ad man, Draper sells access to an American dream he himself hasn’t entirely bought into. Even as he accumulates successes in the boardroom and the bedroom, the satisfaction never lasts longer than a few drags of a cigarette that might kill him anyway.

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The ethos of the 1960s is, of course, omnipresent in Mad Men — and not just in its fastidious commitment to the furniture and fashions of the time. In post-WWII America, many Americans had settled into the comfort of corporate jobs that afforded them the same white picket fence and station wagon their neighbors boasted. Responding to that phenomenon, books like William H. Whyte’s The Organization Man, published in the mid-1950s, lamented how modern workers’ collectivist group-think ran in opposition to creativity and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »


Coconuts: Venus De Milo, Scarlett Johannson Get Cropped After Chinese Cleavage Ban

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China’s online community has a new meme: The chaste, and unexplainable, close-up

Lilian Lin reports:

The Empress of China,” a popular Chinese costume drama, returned to television late last week just days Weibo-clevageafter its abrupt disappearance.

 “People care less about the cleavage. They are more concerned about the group of cultural gangsters that’s managing approvals.”

— Ren Zhiqiang, a Chinese property mogul and prominent online commentator

Rumors had swirled about why it was yanked from the air, and the edited shows that reappeared appeared to confirm them: Images of the actresses had been tightened to eliminate their low-cut necklines.

The anti-cleavage campaign marks the latest step in China’s tightening hold on the media. It has put limits on dating and talent shows and will more closely scrutinize foreign shows streamed online. The push – which also includes other media such as movies and the Internet — comes as Beijing calls for more positive and moral content.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which is in charge of managing what the country watches on TV, didn’t respond to request for comments. Zhejiang Talent Film & TV Co. which produces “The Empress of China,” didn’t respond to requests for comment on Monday. People close to the company said it declined to publicly talk about this issue for fear that the venus-de-scarletteshow would be pulled for good. In December it said it pulled the show for technical reasons.

Empress,” also called “The Saga of Wu Meiniang,” is about the life of a famous Tang Dynasty empress also known as Wu Zetian and played by actress Fan Bingbing. The Tang Dynasty is considered one of the most prosperous periods in China’s history, and also one of its less conservative.

The move was greeted with scorn online. “People care less about the cleavage,” said Ren Zhiqiang, a Chinese property mogul and prominent online commentator on his Weibo account. “They are more concerned about the group of cultural gangsters that’s managing approvals.”

Others pointed out that the edited images often didn’t make sense. “I collapsed when I saw the scene in which the emperor is leaning on Meiniang,” said another user, about a moment when one female character cradles the emperor to her breast. “Even [the emperor’s] face was cut out.” Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING MAD: Screenwriter Robert Towne Joins Writing Staff of ‘Mad Men’

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A sign of confidence? Or uncertainty? Mad Men hits the final stretch.

Cynthia Littleton writes:

“Veteran screenwriter Robert Towne (pictured) is among Matthew Weiner’s new recruits to “Mad Men’s” writing staff for the upcoming seventh and final season, which AMC announced Monday will unfold in two seven-episode batches in spring 2014 and spring 2015.”

I question the decision to break up the final season into a two-year boutique-sized spread. Is this a creative decision? Or is AMC milking the popularity of the series for additional commercial or prestige reasons Or is the Mad Men staff pressed to conclude the series to Matthew Weiner’s satisfaction, and AMC is giving him more time? Let’s hear what you guys think. — The Butcher

“Towne is serving as a consulting producer…. He won an original screenplay Oscar for 1974′s “Chinatown” (a source of many oft-quoted lines including: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”). He earned three other Oscar screenwriting noms, for 1973′s “The Last Detail,” 1975′s “Shampoo” … Recent credits include “Mission: Impossible II…”

Read the rest of this entry »