Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mad Men "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword": Guilt vs Shame

The book from the episode title, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture, that everyone is supposed to read, is a famous post-war study of Japanese culture that helped popularize distinctions between guilt and shame societies. According to the (since questioned*) study, Japanese are ruled by a shame culture, and Don picks up on this and uses it after they're already out of the running (thanks to Roger's shameful outbursts). Shame is intrinsically a negative tool in upbringing in that it lowers self-esteem, but it's effective in maintaining subservient employees.

*It's probably best that Roger didn't read the book as this classic "anthropology at a distance" would've just reinforced many of his prejudices.

Sally's story, while delving a bit in shame (mostly what Betty feels thanks to her sad upbringing), is governed by the Western world's predominant guilt culture. For instance, as Betty lays it out for Don on the phone, sex is bad unless you're married. Sex (and, it's younger sibling masturbation) is (are) one of the predominant guilt culture contradictions. Going even further, you'll notice several references were made to the Civil Rights movement, and that was a fine example of the use of guilt to push forward positive societal change -- by making the general population feel guilty about how another group is being treated.

No time for full analysis mode (which hasn't been triggered here, probably, since the extensive delving of seasons one and two), so here's some bullet points:
  • "Who is Dr. Lyle Evans?" Turns out Roger Sterling's angry reference in early part of "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" was a Google bomb thrown in from the writers. Searches for "Dr Lyle Evans" and "Lyle Evans" spiked during and after the broadcast, but there was nothing really to find, except folks asking "who is Dr Lyle Evans?"
  • Favorite exchanges of the night both featured Joan: "They're not very subtle are they?" Joan says, referring to the clients. "No, they're not," responds the translator, looking at her Joan's ample bosom. Add to that Joan's exchange with Roger and you have the most efficient use of a character.
  • Unless you count Peggy's ride around the stage on the Honda motorcycle (and you should... bravo).
  • This episode moves us up in the timeline to mid-March, 1965, as evidenced by newspaper headlines and an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which aired March 15).
  • "Help Me Rhonda" was also referenced, as the Beach Boys album The Beach Boys Today! was released in March, but the referenced single wasn't released until a month later, so perhaps it's a bit of a stretch to mention the song. The recording of that track was famously interrupted by daddy Murray Wilson, who should be part of a Shame vs Guilt study of parenthood.
  • Rogers and Hammerstein's "I Enjoy Being A Girl" (from Flower Drum Song) closed out the episode. On it's face, it seems simple enough, but the song is actually about growing up Chinese in America. Wrong country, but it's Asian nonetheless
Previously: "The Good News" (Episode 4.04)


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Helene said...

It's Richard Rodgers, not Rogers.