Monday, August 1, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

*spoiler alert* - if you are planning to begin watching Mad Men from the beginning before its return in January, or ever plan to see Sweet Smell of Success, stop reading this post now. You really don't want to spoil the fun for yourself.
Tony Curtis is desperate. Burt Lancaster is ruthless. Susan Harrison is an ingenue in pain. Martin Milner is vapid.

Sweet Smell of Success is a slice of Mad Men with a side of Clifford Odets. In fact, AMC was showing Mad Men opposite SSoS on TCM this morning. Jon Ham and Tony Curtis make a marvelous pair. Don never shows up with the birthday cake; arriving hours late with a puppy, instead. Sidney pimps out a friend, ostensibly in an effort to save her job. Neither is oblivious to the moral ramifications of his actions, and neither seems to care.

Success = Money, Fame, Power and Moral Vacuity. Sometimes I think that nothing has changed since 1960.

I'm watching Tea Party impudence smirking behind Boehner's frazzled face. I'm hearing Liberals cry "FOUL!" as they vow to protect their base. No one is addressing the fact that without fundamental changes to our entitlement programs, without incremental adjustments to the bills we are projected to incur, without recognizing that wars must be paid for and that declaring bankruptcy does not qualify one to give economic advice to the nation... in any event, no one is discussing the more frightening reality that talking about cutting 1 or 2 trillion dollars from our spending is like peeing in the ocean.

There are larger issues to be discussed, massive changes which must be implemented, an overhaul of the system so drastic as to make Obama-Care look like the sketchy outline it is. And yet, because those in power are interested only in staying in power, their realities are quite small. What keeps me where I am? What can I sell? What empowers me?

There's no sense of the entirety, in the movies or in Washington, it seems. JJ Hunsecker (isn't that a great villian's name?) is interested in his power and only his power. The truth or the consequences of the items he publishes in his New York City nightlife column (does anyone else remember Earl Wilson?) are irrelevant. It's his ability to control - the popularity of a restaurant, the fate of a quintet, the love life of his sister - that motivates him

Don Draper's whole life is an illusion. Truth is fungible. Control is imperative. He defines "truthiness" . He's not a bad guy, but he's a guy who needs to win, to be on top, no matter the consequences to those in his wake.

The spectacle in Washington this month, this week, this weekend is Mad Men and Sweet Smell of Success writ large. It's about having the microphone, occupying center stage, moving the pieces by threatening reprisals. Control exists through perception. Gridlock is the result.

What I wrote in March, 2010 seems relevant today:
Listening to The Great Health Care Reform debate is near to pushing me over the edge. Things are accurate but not true and yet everyone is yelling.... No one is listening, because we all know our own truths and accept their veracity unquestioningly
Both sides are screaming, posturing, flinging numbers and facts and aspersions and there's a crumbling of accuracy and no sense of the whole.

The world's going to hell in a handbasket and we are NOT enjoying the ride.


  1. I always understood JJ Hunsecker to have been based on Walter Winchell. WW certainly seemed to me (from the outside looking in) to be a bigger jerk than Earl Wilson.

    Someone somewhere, even as we speak, is starting to work on the scaffolding of a truly great novel about the US government. I don't know; maybe it was Advise and Consent, but I'm still looking. Especially in this world nowadays of shouting and ineffectual sputtering.

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  3. My Mom said she was glued to MSNBC last Friday and I almost had a heart attack thinking about her blood pressure and anxiety. Oh wait, that would be me. Honestly, I practically lose my breath every time I watch the news.

  4. I think it's interesting you brought this up. Last night, hubby said let's put on the news and I told him, I would rather not. Told him I would like to watch The Universe on Netflix. Great series and so much more interesting than the news.

    I cannot be bothered to watch this whole charade one more time. It's all political posturing and it seems like kids having a fight on the playground. I do not have the patience nor time to invest any emotional energy into it.

    Hope you had a good weekend.

    Megan xxx

  5. I'm with MS - I quit watching news about 5 months ago.

  6. I try to watch only the PBS NewsHour for halfway calm coverage of the current pissing contest, but I am still disgusted and depressed. A pox on all their houses!!

  7. Term Limits. That is the closest thing I can think of to getting the rascals out of there and getting in some calm, serious folk in there.

  8. Originally, no one was to make a career out of being a politician. Sinecures are hard to give up, I guess. Term limits will just give us new rascals, I fear. Watching/Not Watching.... I'm on the seesaw. I'm upset either way.

    Just not loving this deal at all... the next two votes are right before Thanksgiving and Xmas. Gee.....

  9. What a sad government we have. Just makes you ill. Our grandchildren are really going to be in a big hurt. Such a shame...debbie


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