If I were a student at a small liberal arts school in rural Massachusetts, and my Media Studies professor asked me to analyze the newest Mad Men poster (in no fewer than 3 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman), here’s how I would totally bullshit that paper. (Disclaimer: all of the papers I wrote in college involved hours of research, much soul-searching,and extensive meta-analysis.) Here’s the poster, and below is the pretension.
- The female mannequin has no face, indicating how little Don Draper is concerned with his sexual partners’ identities.
- The male mannequin has no face, representing the flux of Don’s own personas and identities.
- The female mannequin’s lower sexual organ is concealed, representing society’s expectation for him to remain chaste in extramarital contexts.
- Don’s face is inscrutably impassive, representing the constant compartmentalization of his emotions.
- It is unclear whether Don is looking at the tableau or at his own reflection. In the case of the latter, his blank expression perhaps signifies a failure to recognize himself.
- The robe, pajamas, and flowers are maroon, a hue between red (evoking Don’s carnal lust) and purple (evoking his status as social/professional royalty).
- The desaturated blues and grays of the rest of the image echo the cold apathy of Don’s milieu, the city.
- The female is naked and standing, while the male seems to gaze upon her while clothed and seated, reinforcing the era’s rampant gender inequality.
- Don perhaps leers at the female’s naked form along with the male, affirming his libidinous and maybe even lecherous mindset.
Enough! Uncle! Now that I’ve been a blowhard, let’s get real: this poster is brilliant. Don is not only pausing to look at a fellow advertiser’s work, but the display has been subverted with a simple act of physics, and the result is that Don is looking at his own life being reflected back at him. Nice work, AMC (or AMC’s advertising firm, rather). I’d imagine even Don would be impressed with this advertisement.