Mad Men is making me miss my fandom days of geektastic episode analysis. If I were writing one of my old-style essays on this week's "Mystery Date," I'd start with wondering what it means to be a man. There's a different one behind every door, just waiting for you... and these days (in 1966), some of them might even be women. Turns out they can be just as hard-drinking, ambitious, disgusting, and sex-craved as men, you know. The rules are up for interpretation and reinterpretation, and everything goes topsy-turvy: men and women, sure, but also young and old, black and white, green and experienced... power's shifting (now it can come in the most unexpected packages), but change comes at a price. Underneath the sleek and polished surface flows a darkly threatening undercurrent of seething violence, repressed urges and needs, angers and desires seeking any available crack to bubble forth, erupt into riots, expose the badness beneath the civilized veneer. Even Cinderella has to run for her safety--but deep down, she really wants to get caught, right? She just doesn't want it to happen while she's half-barefoot.
The Mystery Date is a fairy tale, and Prince Charming can be an average Joe who happens to be in the right place at the right time with the right shoe (doesn't even matter what he looks like, at that point, he could even be a young Jewish kid in an ill-fitting jacket), or he can be a dud, or a knight in slightly tarnished and dented armor that he's been wearing so long he's afraid of what he might do if he let himself take it off. Or, he might be someone who's appeared on your doorstep just to murder you, and let that be a valuable warning, young lady.
I'd write about trust, the trust we place in the people close to us (who don't always know what to do with it, or manage to keep it safe), the expectations we have that may or may not line up with what actually happens. The trust we want to be able to place in others, and want others to have in us, but that confusion of habit and ingrained training and unfamiliarity might lead instead to awkward moments salvaged only by haphazard housekeeping. The trust necessary in people as a whole, in institutions, in business as usual, to keep society running smoothly. When trust--or our willingness to pretend it--erodes, everything falls apart. It's like the Tower card in the Major Arcana: it comes rumbling-tumbling down, and it ain't pretty, but it's the only way to build something new. Beauty requires pain and sacrifice, every woman (and every advertiser) knows that. Pretending that it doesn't only makes you weak, or a dullard.
I'd write about dreams, the ones we strive to achieve, the ones induced by fever or stifled by Seconal, the ones we thought we wanted but might not, in the end, and the ones we realize aren't worth the sacrifice. Not to mention the ones we have to struggle just to be allowed to dream about. Dreams and fantasies, that's what Mystery Date is built on. Different options, different possible futures to imagine. Some doors open, some never do. Sometimes, we can decide we want to choose a different door than what we were dealt, and that's what's new. It's a risk, but you can't win if you don't play the game. You have choices. But what happens when everyone has choices? Therein lies the mystery.
That's the kind of thing I'd write about, if I were still writing for fandom.
I really do miss it.
I'm feeling a little: