The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


A good mad man is hard to find

posted by Deacon Greg Kandra
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Could Flannery O’Connor have invented Don Draper?  

An astute critic in America magazine suggests the answer is “Yes.”  Rev. Terrance W. Klein draws some intriguing parallels between O’Connor’s Gothic South and the 1960′s-era boardrooms of “Mad Men’s” Madison Ave.: 

“Mad Men” employs the same creative device Flannery O’Connor used. It radically resets a character or situation so that readers or viewers see themselves from a previously unknown vantage point. O’Connor did this geographically by exploiting her native, rural South–strange territory to many of us. Matthew Weiner, the creator of “Mad Men” and a writer for the last three seasons of “The Sopranos,” accomplishes the same through temporal dislocation. He takes us back to the early 1960s and, with the aid of a half-century of hindsight, we see ourselves with new eyes…

The danger of the temporal dislocation of “Mad Men” is that so many years have passed since the 1960s that viewers no longer recognize themselves in the insecure men and women who bed each other in hotel rooms and commit rape in corporate boardrooms. Do career women today feel themselves more secure at work than Peggy Olsen does? Is the emotionally suffocating marriage of Don and Betty Draper a relic of the past? “Mad Men” is a morality play, and Don Draper is an everyman. Even his identity is borrowed from a dead comrade of the Korean War. As brilliantly played by Jon Hamm, Draper is reminiscent of Walker Percy’s oft-repeated protagonist, a walking wound that no philandering can cure, here transplanted from New Orleans to Ossining, N.Y., the Draper suburban home. The self-alienation that expresses itself in perfervid promiscuity is not a thing of the past.


Both O’Connor’s fiction and “Mad Men” can be received without any shock of grace. (Students are often surprised to learn that O’Connor intended her stories to be all about the action of grace.) Some read them simply as macabre stories without a moral. Not everyone sees the morality tale implicit in the saga of Sterling Cooper. Surely there are viewers who wish they could be Don Draper, who don’t recognize the soul-sadness stirred into his martinis. Hollow men have hollow dreams. It takes a lot to see grace at work in territory held largely by the devil. The same might be said of time, as O’Connor might put it, when Satan winds the springs.

Check out the rest.  Fascinating stuff.   
Also: did anyone else catch the curious Catholic reference Sunday night?  Peggy Olsen said that she had read Conrad Hilton’s autobiography.  “My mother gave it to me,” she explained.  “He’s Catholic.”   (He was also married to Zsa Zsa Gabor and was Elizabeth Taylor’s father-in-law for a while — and was the great grandfather of another Hilton named Paris.)    


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posted September 30, 2009 at 7:57 am


Racism and sexism still in play presently but on a more subconscious level. It is like a farmer plowing a field and removing the big boulders first since they are the most obvious. Then the smaller rocks and other debris that would hinder growth need to be removed through a more finer filtering method.
I did catch the Catholic comment in my half awake/sleep state on the couch. It seems to me that we should be willing to take the scrutiny of the public as a way of showing us how we have been weak in our faith in order that we may practice our faith with more awareness of how this affects others. When we say we have the fullness of the truth and that God is Love then we should expect a tremendous amount of scrutiny.



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