Mad Men Goes Full Circle

Mad Men was a very appropriate show to conclude this semester’s screenings with. We began this course wondering whether there are truly any differences between generations or if generational issues remain static throughout time, only to be framed and presented in a slightly different manner. After analyzing various TV shows, from Veronica Mars to Mad Men, I believe the clear answer is… a little bit of both. Mad Men is an excellent example of how issues from the 1950’s are strikingly present today. Many people try to characterize the millennial generation as morally ambivalent, but it is clear that in Mad Men, moral codes were followed loosely in the past. While this is a clear example of a similarity, it should be noted that the way in which moral ambivalence is presented in Mad Men is far different than it is presented in millennial media. In the 1950’s, there was a certain discreteness associated with illegitimate sexual conduct. Now, sex and scandal couldn’t be further away from closed doors, as shows like The Real World tape morally deviant actions for the whole world to see. Thus, I reiterate the idea that some generational issues are homologous across time, only to be presented in a different ways. However, Mad Men also shows obvious differences between millennials and past generations. I do not watch Mad Men, so I do not know how the female characters develop, but in the pilot, the control that men have over them is astounding. When compared to shows like Veronica Mars, it is clear how far women have come in their fight for equality. This list could go on and on, but you get the point.

I think the reason why Mad Men is so popular is similar to the reason why people are so fascinated with millennial musicals like Glee. As we discussed, millennial musicals use songs to connect their viewers to the past. Older viewers can reminisce about their youth while millennials realize, through the music (in shows like Glee), that what they thought were “millennial” issues have been experienced in the past. Glee uses many old songs to address serious issues, and the lyrics of these songs reflect how modern issues have been dealt with before. A similar dynamic is present in Mad Men. GenX and baby boomers love the show because it is a flashback to a time in their past, and millennials (i’ll generalize based on my own feelings) are fascinated by how many of the show’s themes seem incredibly familiar to modern day circumstances.

Flat Stan Goes to North Carolina…Again

After a triumphant win at the NESCAC tournament, the Middlebury College golf team has qualified for NCAA’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. After a solid day 1 at Neshobe Golf Course, our squad ran away from the field on day 2, firing a tournament low 292. So, on Saturday, we will be flying down to North Carolina again to play some golf in the sunshine and warm weather…hopefully. Luckily, Flat Stan fits right in my backpack, and even though Midd is pretty stingy about dishing out plane tickets, Stan will be able to come down to NC and watch me play.

Only problem…the tournament is during the first week of finals. Looks like my grades might be taking a serious hit during finals week. Oh well, it’ll be worth it.

Pretty Little Liars

While I have never seen Pretty Little Liars before, I thought that the pilot was mildly entertaining because of its mysterious cliffhangers. The themes of PLL are not quite up my alley, but I do kind of want to find out who “A” is. PLL does strike me as a millennial show, especially because of the faceless technology that stands to haunt each of the main characters. In this way, it shares many similarities with Gossip Girl. Not only are the main characters posh teenage girls who have skeletons in their closet, but the driving element of both shows revolves around the use of media to anonymously stir up emotions and memories. I must say, this theme does strike a chord with our generation. We are learning more and more about the internet, and how secrets are impossible to keep once they have been digitalized.

PLL also shares a striking resemblance to Veronica Mars, in that both shows use a dead character from the past to develop a mystery. As Stein states, “In Veronica Mars there was a sense that Lily had power beyond the grave to draw everyone into her mystery…Lily even in death was still a deeply powerful character, and revealed to be even more so with each twist to the mystery. In Pretty Little Liars we have Alison, similarly a sexually direct teenage girl, and a social power player when she was alive. Now dead, her digital extension “A” seemingly rules the characters from beyond the grave, through the millennial tools of social networking and mobile technology.” So, what is it about giving dead girls from the past the power to control characters of a show? Most obviously, it is an intriguing way to introduce twists to the mystery. But, perhaps there is more to it. Could it be that this reoccurring theme is a millennial metaphor for the inescapable past. Especially in PLL, the past materializes through a digital message, one with no face or concrete identity. Especially in this day and age, it seems as though nothing can’t be dug up and exposed. I mean, Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate…right?

Flat Stan Goes to McDonalds

I’ve been sick for the past week, and with finals approaching, Flat Stan has not been getting much attention. So, I decided to treat him to a feast at the golden arches. Besides, what better of a way is there to get over a sickness than to over-indulge in some good old-fashioned American health food. Despite Stan’s size, he can really pack it in. He decided to crush the dollar menu, ordering a mcchicken, mcdouble, small fries, four piece nuggets, drink, and a sundae. Afterward, he could barely walk, but he sure was happy. I will say, Stan was a little disappointed by the (very) limited selection of fast food in Middlebury. I think it’s about time that we add another. I vote Chipotle.

Millennial Musicals

This week we watched two episodes of Glee followed by an episode of Flight of the Conchords. Both shows heavily incorporate music into their plots, but they do so in different ways and each show’s musical element serves a different purpose. In Glee, music is the driving force through which the show approaches many of the social and moral issues that they attempt to resolve. In this way, Glee has been seen by many as a very progressive show in which important but sensitive issues, such as racism, sexism and homosexuality, are addressed through mainstream media. The cast of the show seems very diverse, and these characteristics have led some to see the show as very liberal. However, in the articles we read concerning Glee this week, the authors questioned the supposed liberal nature of the show. Doty points out that the minorities, while they are included in the glee club, “were consistently used to create a colorfully diverse narrative and musical background for the straight, white, able-bodied characters” in the first season. They served as the medium to address certain issues and they were given the occasional solo, but the attractive, white actors were still the leads of the show. Hilderbrand argues, “I was struck during the pilot that, among the conspicuously diverse cast of characters, only the white characters are fleshed out as characters or get to sing the solos. The rest of the cast seemed like set dressing.” Similarly to Doty, he notes that the minorities were background characters for the majority of the show. He also states that while the marginalized characters do sometimes have their moment to shine (during which their is always an issue that must be addressed and resolved), the “reductive equivalences between different kinds of marginalized experiences flattens out the complexity of difference.” Often, the marginalized characters can unite through their struggles, but by doing this, the fundamental and important differences that underlay their hardships can be lost. Nevertheless, Glee maintains a steadfast audience who cannot get enough of its eclectic choice of music.

I have never seen an episode of Flight of the Conchords before last night, but I thought it was pretty funny. I am still unsure whether I would consider it a millennial show, but they do sing, so it was a fitting choice for the week covering millennial musicals. In the show, the two main characters break spontaneously into song, showing that the lyrics of their band’s songs come from real life experiences. Their music is original, unlike Glee, and it fits directly into the narrative of the show. In Glee, each song is performed, while in Flight, the songs could be interpreted as lyrics or just lines from the script.

Millennial Noir

After watching my first ever episode of Gossip Girl, I was shocked by how millennial it was. The most fundamental element of the show (Gossip Girl Blog) fits perfectly with what we are studying. Furthermore, the issues surrounding the Gossip Girl blog share many similarities with what we have covered earlier in the semester. Gossip Girl stresses the importance of understanding how public everything put up on the Internet is. Information on the Internet is accessible by everyone, and it is easy to forget how damaging words can be when they are put up on the Internet. When watching Gossip Girl, I couldn’t help but to think about the scene in the beginning of The Social Network, in which Mark Zuckerberg blogs about his ex-girlfriend. In similar ways, Gossip Girl and The Social Network use technology as a vehicle in which the dark side of human emotions are exposed in a millennial fashion.

This leads to the topic of “millennial noir.” Before this week, I did not have a grasp of what the noir genre was all about. However, I find it very interesting the noir-like elements are reemerging in millennial shows like Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars. In Gossip Girl, nearly all of the characters are focused on sex, money and superficial social structures. Furthermore, Blair serves as a classic femme fatale. She seems to be a threat to everyone on the show and she manages to escape from threatening situations by using divisive tactics. Blair embodies many noir-like qualities and portrays them in a very millennialized fashion. Gossip Girl confirms the fact that technology can be abused in a way that can become extremely damaging to others.

Let’s Rewind

This week, I want to take a step back from Flat Stan’s adventures and analyze the millennial qualities of Flat Stanley. First of all, Flat Stanley was created as the main character of a children’s book (1964), in which he has to live life as a completely flat person. But, in 1995, a teacher in England created the Flat Stanley Project in order to encourage pen-pals among students as they document where they have been with Flat Stanley. Already, this project exhibited millennial traits as it promoted globalization and “connectedness.” Children from completely different cultures used Flat Stanley as a medium to connect and share their experiences. As Strauss and Howe said, the millennial generation strives to stay connected and continues to become more globally intertwined.

As time passed, the Flat Stanley project evolved with technology, and adapted to the technological advances that now characterize the millennial generation. Instead of sending letters, students began to write emails with photos of themselves and Flat Stanley attached to the message. The process quickly became totally millennialized, as students could connect with each other after just a click of a mouse.

With internet capabilities, the need for a pen-pal, or anyone on the receiving end at all, became unnecessary. People could simply put pictures of themselves and Flat Stan up on the internet, and everyone could see it. Now, celebrities and political leaders have begun to participate in the Flat Stanley project to spread the message of literacy and globalization. For me, Flat Stanley serves two purposes at once. He serves as a medium through which I can document some of my experiences at Middlebury, while he is also an embodiment of millenialization himself.