Mad Men Season 4.13 “The Blue Pill”

Tumblr_la7ytc7zUj1qzlum5o1_r1_400 Lilya Kaganovsky in Kritik's Mad World blog:

In 2008, six years after The Wire first aired on HBO, Film Quarterly published a review of the complete fourth season on DVD, which described (in a positive way) the show’s fans as junkies and the show as a drug. Fans come to video stores, wrote J. M. Tyree, jonesing for a hit, desperate for another dose of a show that missed its audience only by finding it (much like Proust suggests a good novelist does) after the fact, when its five (really four and a half) seasons were nearly over:

There is a growing cult around The Wire, although many of its members do not subscribe to HBO, appearing instead like junkies at their local video rental stores months after the original broadcasts, and helping the show continue its extraordinary afterlife.

If Season 4 of Mad Men has been about anything, it has been about addiction. Cigarettes, alcohol, and sex appeared this season no longer bathed in the retrospective glow of nostalgia, but as vice, pure and simple, starting with Don’s masochistic sex with a prostitute in the first episode, and ending with Midge’s heroin addiction. As with so much television since the 1990s, and in the realist novel before that, smoking and drinking are used only to show weakness of character, a man (or woman) out of control. Pete, for example, who has been a much more upstanding citizen this season, doesn’t smoke and barely drinks, and the same goes for Henry Francis, as he holds his moral high ground against Betty’s fits of rage. “You need a drink? What are you, a wino? You need a drink?” he snarls during a memorable car ride home (“The Summer Man,” 4.8). No wonder Don vomits twice during this season: his very being is rejecting the thing he has become, while addiction itself is linked to cancer that eats away at you from the inside (another theme that begins with Anna Draper’s illness and ends with a possible anti-smoking campaign for the American Cancer Society).

But what, as Avital Ronell asks in Crack Wars, do we hold against the drug addict? What do we hold against the drug addict?

… that he cuts himself off from the world, in exile from reality, far from objective reality and the real like of the city and the community; that he escapes into a world of simulacrum and fiction. We disapprove of hallucinations. . . . We cannot abide the fact that his is a pleasure taken in an experience without truth.

Ex-stasis, going beyond/outside of yourself, the “high” of transgression. For pleasure to be what it is, says Ronell, it has to exceed a limit of what is altogether wholesome and healthy. Otherwise, “it’s something like contentedness, which can be shown to be in fact an abandonment of pleasure.”