Monday, March 15, 2010

Kudos to Mad Men

Does Mad Men have an expert on all things British?  I was so impressed by the way they told Lane Pryce's story.  Here's this British guy, sent all the way to America by his British bosses just to do dirty work.  No matter how well he does his job, he'll never get ahead —he's basically stuck as the corporate henchman — and if you're British, you knew that the second he opened his mouth.  It's all in his accent, a nice upper middle class accent, an accent that tells his superiors that Pryce is not one of them.  No wonder Pryce loves NYC.  No wonder he jumps ship.  The Americans appreciate what he can do; his British bosses only appreciate his background — or lack of it.  You see, his bosses have aristocratic names like St. John (and if you're from the right background, you know that this very plummy name is pronounced Sin-Jin) and speak with Oxbridge accents.  They belong to clubs that Pryce would never be allowed to enter, except as a waiter.  Not only do they understand this at a subconscious level, but they expect Pryce to understand this and keep to his station.  Remember that little punk who came to take over Pryce's job?  The one who got his foot chopped off?  No experience, but right accent.  That's why he was getting Pryce's job.  And remember how explosively angry St. John got when he discovered Pryce's betrayal?  It was like his butler had walked into his bedroom at three in the morning and told him to fuck off.  It simply isn't done.

What I found so wonderful in all this was that the writers never tell you any of this.  If you understand the British class system, great!  If you don't, it doesn't really matter because all this is played seamlessly into the plot: Pryce isn't appreciated so there's the subtext for his actions.  I also love the fact that the American characters in Mad Men don't understand any of this either — and they don't care (a comment on American insularity and perpetual near-sightedness?).  This kind of sophisticated storytelling is unheard of on TV.  You don't even see it very much in "literary" novels.  So just who do these writers think they are, anyway?

1 comment:

Geoff said...

Spot on commentary.