L'Shanah Tovah, Don Draper!

I admit, I did not keep up with the episode schedule so last weekend I spent Sunday afternoon glued to my screen watching Don put Pete in his place, Ken get published, and watching Don feel out of place in Greenwich Village. When I got to the end of the sixth episode, "Babylon," after that women got through her ridiculous poem about making love with Fidel Castro, and the two men took the stage, I had a sudden feeling of déjà vu, or rather déjà ecouté. “We remember, we remember, we remember you Zion,” sounded so familiar and then suddenly I remembered. I had heard it no more than 24 hours ago at the Yom Kippur Shabbat service at Temple Israel.

For all of you goys out there, Yom Kippur is the holiest of holies. It is a day of atonement and repentance observed by fasting from sundown to sundown and going to prayer services. It’s believed that on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, God writes everyone’s fate for the year in the Book of Life and then “seals the deal” on Yom Kippur. During the eight days in between, the Days of Awe, Jews try to repent for any wrong they have done against God or another human being so God will bring them good tidings for the rest of the year. That’s why common Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur greetings are “shanah tovah” (for a good year) or “gmar chatima tova” (may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for Good). These greetings may sound more awkward than saying “Happy New Year!” or “Merry Christmas”, but it’s more appropriate than saying “Happy Yom Kippur!” because after all, it is a day of penance.

During the service I went to, people were encouraged to share their wrong doings with the temple so the temple could forgive them. Many people called out their sins such as not supporting a friend in need or giving up on a social cause. Would Don Draper speak up? (If he did, he’d probably something vague and open ended.)

In addition to fasting, Jews are not allowed to eat, drink (alcohol or nonalcoholic), wear leather shoes, bath or wash, use perfume, or have marital relations in order to cleanse themselves. From the soles of his shoes (most likely leather, possibly Italian leather) to his fingertips (which are almost always holding a drink), Don Draper would not be a good Jew, although without a doubt, he could find a way around no marital relations.

The song "Babylon," based on Psalm 137 ("Psalm 137") when the Jews were exiled from Babylon, (click here to see the original version sung by Don McLean), is a typically sung at Temple. Thought it wasn’t written for Mad Men, it seems to relate to Draper. Zion is a name for Jerusalem and the Biblical Land of Israel, but it also has become a metaphor for any Promised Land or wanted goal. It has even been used in a spiritual meaning, symbolizing the yearning by wanderers for a safe homeland ("Zion"). What a coincidence, since Don could not have seemed more out of place and exiled than he did in the last scene of Babylon when Midge and her obtuse friend dragged Don to a show in the middle of Bohemia in Greenwich Village (see Don looking sad and alone here!). Don Draper is a vagabond, constantly wandering in between the city and the suburbs, going from woman to woman without finding a true confidant or soul mate. Although recently, Don has been confiding bits of his past and his worries to Rachel Menken, could she be his Zion?

Links referenced:

"Psalm 137." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 15 Sept 2010. Web. 26 Sep 2010.

"Zion." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 11 Sept 2010. Web. 26 Sep 2010.


And You Might Consider Wearing a Scarf

The wardrobes of "Mad Men" are adored.  They’ve turned the phrase “Mad Men” in to an adjective used to describe any clothing deemed 60s chic.  Countless articles have been written about them.  They’ve even sparked clothing lines at Banana Republic (“Mad About Style”) and a Don Draper suit at Brooks Brothers.  The attention to detail evident in Wiener’s work is one of the many reasons why so many are drawn to his character’s clothes, fans and actors alike.

“The clothing is just amazing.  Her hats alone, you could write a book,” said Alison Brie in an interview with Nylon Magazine.  The interview went on to reveal that she couldn’t take anything from Trudy’s wardrobe because the show often repeats clothes characters have worn.  “I’ve tried to weasel out some gowns, but I haven’t stolen anything [because] if I’ve worn it, it stays in Trudy’s closet.  Which is something I love.’"

Mad Men recently auctioned off select set and wardrobe pieces for charity, including Joan’s dress which sold for $1,324 and Betty’s dress which went for $2,025.  The show’s fashions highlight the day to day dressing we’ve lost.  The public obsession with Mad Men has bled in to trying in some small way to relive it. We can’t go back in time, but at least we can dress like we did.

Links referenced: Lauren Ward, “Mad Men,” Nylon Magazine, August 2010, 202, Mad Men Joan Harris Dress, Ebay, Mad Men Betty Draper Dress, Ebay, David Colman, “Dressing for Success, Again,” New York Times, December 16, 2009.