And was the guy in the grassy knoll from Madison Avenue?
An article by theatre critic Richard Ouzounian in Tuesday’s Toronto Star, (Time in a Mad Men World) travels the well-tread ground of blaming Madison Avenue for pretty well every ill confronting the modern world.
Having attended “a scholarship Jesuit boys’ prep school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan” during the early to mid sixties, he and his friends “wore jackets and ties and moved within that bubble of artificial but attractive sophistication that was Manhattan in the 1960s.”
It was during this time that the “real-life equivalents of Drapper and company at Sterling Cooper” force-fed Ouzounian and his friends with the lies that would scar each of them for life.
“Hathaway delivered to us a mysterious gentleman with an eye patch who wore shirts that bespoke a world of sophistication filled with stripes and colours that our white-on-white world could only gawk at, culminating in a campaign for one shade called ‘Cezanne Blue’ that had us wishing we dared to wear such an assertive hue.”
God help us! Images of men in shirts! Striped shirts!
As if fully clothed men weren’t bad enough, Ouzounian complains that these propagandistic messages were completely devoid of warnings, such as: “Pursue this dream and your life will eventually self-destruct.”
If this seems over the top, just look at what happened to his friends.
The “Pete Campbell” of his group became a “cold-blooded creature with a weakness for vulnerable women,” who entered the priesthood, only to leave it for “the secular world and marriage, still searching for meaning.” You have to admit, this could only have been caused by advertising. Certainly the Jesuit school had nothing to do with it.
Meanwhile, the “seemingly solid Harry Crane of our world went through four wives and an equal number of treatment centres before falling off the radar permanently.” What else could cause multiple marriages and the need for therapy? And certainly nobody would ever lose track of old school buddies if it weren’t for advertising.
And the closeted gay “Salvatore Romano” among them married, moved to suburbia, and raised a family. “It was decades later,” says Ouzounian, “when he was dying of cancer this past summer that we learned he had finally admitted his homosexuality after years of repressing it through alcoholism.” Ah, for those bucolic days before advertising when gays could live openly and without shame!
There is more — oh, so much more, in Ouzounian’s muddled scree against Madison Avenue. But what really puzzles me is why he, like so many others, seems determined to present himself as a helpless, empty-headed automaton. During the same period of time in which Ouzounian and his buddies were being brainwashed into drinking Beefeater martinis (“because that’s what we were told to consume”) and smoking Benson & Hedges (” because they bespoke true sophistication”) millions of his contemporaries were reaching out to new ways of living, completely separate from the diabolical messages of advertising. They protested war, they turned their backs on materialism, and they most certainly didn’t get freaked out by shirts in Cezanne Blue.
With an infinite number of influences in our lives, why do people want to give all the credit to advertising?
It’s a guy wearing an eye patch, for Christ’s sake — not Svengali!
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See Chuck Nyren's "King of Madison Avenue," about the new Ogilvy biography.