“‘Ya know I can’t believe I even thought about getting back together with you! We are SOOO over!”
~Rachel, re-breaking up with Ross on Friends (Episode 4:01; The One With the Jellyfish)

In a discussion about the possible origins of the term ‘self-worth’, Rondi commented about the anachronistic “1960, I am SO over you“.

First of all, Rondi, don’t second guess yourself. This one is absolutely undebateably out of step with the era. Is it POSSIBLE that a woman in 1960 could have put those words together in that sequence? Sure, it’s technically possible. But it screams Today. It screams it so loudly that I wonder if it was deliberate.

There have been some language glitches throughout the series… (even if, as Monique R pointed out, self-worth turns out not to have been among them). But this, this I am SO over you business, seems too obvious for Weiner not to have noticed. Remember, he’s not us. He doesn’t see it once on TV. Or five times, if we’re obsessive. He spends time with the script, and then he watches the words come to life, and then he’s around while it’s being edited. AND he’s a self-professed fetishist when it comes to the accuracy of this show. It’s hard to imagine this one getting by him.

So I now engage in a bigger question; what is the viewpoint of the show? What is the voice? Was this moment a mistake, or was it a nod to now?

Last summer I performed in a workshop; a first iteration of an original musical about the Manson Family. (You heard me right; a Manson Family musical.) It was written by Brad Forenza, a young man (good friend of mine) in his 20’s.

Brad and I discussed at length the issue of era-accurate vocabulary. He had naively included phrases, expressions and actual words that were out of step. A real gone cat (too early); It sounds lame (way too late, not dissimilar from I am SO over you), yuppie (not invented and its evolution is too well known). Even dickhead needed to be called into question.

We discussed what the voice of the show should be. If it was to be modern, if he wanted the viewpoint of the story to be a look backwards from here and now, he would need to somehow establish that; be boldly anachronistic.

This was handled quite uniquely in the Tony award winning musical Spring Awakening, in which all the dialogue is appropriate to its late 1800’s German setting. But the music is rock music, and the lyrics and staging are current (actually, more punk than now). They sing into hand-held mikes and rock out like stars. The lyrics clearly establish this ‘out of time’ quality so that the audience knows, without question, that it is deliberate. Lyrics like: “It’s like, just kiss some ass man“, “I don’t do sadness“, and “I go up to my room, turn the stereo on…” leave no one wondering if it was a mistake, only wondering, perhaps, why.

But that’s live theater, and musicals at that. You have a lot more artistic license. Mad Men has extremely ‘period’ vocabulary. So if Weiner did this deliberately, he also did it subtly. And I am wondering why.

In the New York Times Center interview, he offers us a clue.

As my sister pointed out in her live blog that night,

Weiner’s most important quote, he says: “This is not one of those movies. This is not The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. This is about the people who watch those movies.”

Weiner talks about this very scene (from Long Weekend, btw):

She (Joan) says, I want to look like Doris Day in Midnight Lace and I want to be Kim Novak in anything.

(This is me quoting Weiner, who is paraphrasing from the episode.)

(Carry on.)

Just take the names out put in whoever it is now… nobody’s playing an attitude…the clothes change…

but it’s really take Doris Day out and put Keira Knightley in.

There are two themes that keep repeating. One is that all of these characters are really alive, not just caricatures. The other is that while in many ways we, the royal we, the global we, have changed so much since 1960, in many ways we really haven’t. Perhaps this was a little wink from Joan that she’s not so different from us, after all.

I think Matthew Weiner and his peeps are doing a tremendous job of not giving the show an appearance of self-awareness. But it is storytelling, and we, now, are the audience. And it is through that funnel that the show can be so startling. So if Weiner used one very anachronistic line to underline that to us, I’m okay with that.

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