CLOSE
AMC
AMC

12 Works of Literature That Were Featured on Mad Men

AMC
AMC

Since its start in 2007, AMC’s Mad Men has mentioned, discussed, or alluded to a considerable amount of classic literature, from authors like Dante to Mark Twain to Edward Gibbon. Each mention or allusion serves a purpose within the show’s plotline, working either to explain a character, set a scene, or provide context for decisions made or actions taken. Here are 12 classic works mentioned throughout the first six and a half seasons of Mad Men.

1. 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand

“The Hobo Code,” Season 1, Episode 8
Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957 and set in a dystopian U.S., is the quintessential novel advocating capitalism and capitalist ideals. Bert Cooper, a big fan of Rand and one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, recommends creative director Don Draper read the book. Later, during a pitch to a client, Don appears to have been influenced by the book’s philosophies, saying, "If you don't appreciate my hard work, then I will take it away and we'll see how you do.” Viewers see in Don an egotism reminiscent of Rand’s philosophies throughout the series.

2. 'The Agony and the Ecstasy' by Irving Stone

“Flight 1,” Season 2, Episode 2
A biographical novel of artist Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy was written in 1961 and was sourced almost entirely from Michelangelo's correspondence—495 letters in all. Sterling Cooper secretary-turned-copywriter Peggy Olson’s mother, a devoutly religious woman simultaneously proud of Peggy’s work and concerned with her lack of church attendance, mentions reading a copy of the book from the public library: “I have to renew The Agony and the Ecstasy. It’s taking forever.” In essence, Peggy’s mother is, perhaps unknowingly, exploring the dichotomy of religion in that it can seem both beneficial and like a chore.

3. 'Babylon Revisited and Other Stories' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Three Sundays,” Season 2, Episode 4
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories is a collection of 10 of Fitzgerald’s most popular short stories published between 1920 and 1937. Don’s wife, Betty, carries on a short flirtation with Arthur Case, a younger, engaged man learning to ride at the stables she frequents, and he recommends she read “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” a story about a family who, materialistically, had it all but whose patriarch was never happy (which is reminiscent of Don). Later, Betty is seen reading the collection, which includes the story Arthur recommended.

4. 'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner

“Jet Set,” Season 2, Episode 11
Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, published in 1929, chronicles a dysfunctional Southern family in Mississippi as their reputation is damaged by financial ruin and the questioning of their religion. While Don is in California on business, he meets a young woman named Joy, and after dinner with her friends and spending the night together, Joy is seen reading The Sound and the Fury in bed. When Don asks, “Is it good?,” Joy replies that their sex was good, but that the book was merely OK. Later, Don jots down an address in the margins of the book—he’s going to visit Anna, the original Don Draper’s wife. The allusion to The Sound and the Fury hearkens to Don’s own troubled and fractured family life.

5. 'The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Edward Gibbon

“My Old Kentucky Home,” Season 3, Episode 3
Published in six volumes between 1776 and 1789, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire traces the trajectory of Western civilization. Gene, Betty’s father, moves in with the Drapers as his dementia worsens, and Sally reads Gibbon to him nightly, despite the subject material and structure being perhaps too advanced for a child. This is directly contrasted to Sally’s childish behavior later, when she steals $5 from Grandpa Gene and lies about it.

6. 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain

“Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency,” Season 3, Episode 6
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876, tells the story of Tom Sawyer, a young boy growing up in the fictional town of Petersburg, Mississippi. Lane Pryce, Sterling Cooper’s chief operating officer fresh in town from a London firm, mentions to Don he has been reading Tom Sawyer. The two are standing in a hospital waiting room after a gory accident with an executive who was poised to replace Lane as COO but now, due to his injury, would not. Lane alludes to Tom’s desire to be present at his own wake when he tells Don, “I feel like I just went to my own funeral. I didn’t like the eulogy.” Essentially, Lane knew the company’s plan was to relocate him, though now he was forced to stay due to the extenuating circumstances—all while knowing his superiors wish he was gone.

7. 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain

“Tomorrowland,” Season 4, Episode 13
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the mid-1880s and is told from the first-person perspective of Huck Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is often considered satire on attitudes like racism, though criticized for its use of racial stereotypes and phraseology. Henry Francis, Betty’s second husband after her divorce from Don, is seen reading it before confronting Betty about her firing Carla, her children’s longtime black nanny.

8. 'Nature' by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Other Woman,” Season 5, Episode 11
Nature is an essay written by Emerson in 1836 and is widely considered to be the foundation of transcendentalism, or the idea that God or the Universe explains reality through nature, therefore implying that reality can be understood by the study of nature. During a conversation between Peggy and Ted Chaough, creative director at rival firm Cutler, Gleason and Chaough, where he is trying to woo her into taking a job, he tells her that Emerson said, “You have to be a transparent eyeball. What he meant was, you have to take in the world and pass it through you. I am tired of people who treat this like math.” This is an accurate representation of Ted’s approach to the advertising profession; as the seasons progress, he gets burnt out on the business side and misses being purely creative, leading to a near-breakdown.

9. 'The Inferno' by Dante Alighieri

“The Doorway,” Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2
The Inferno follows Dante’s journey through hell as he is guided by the poet Virgil. Don is seen reading The Inferno while on a beach in Hawaii with his second wife, Megan; the opening lines are narrated: “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.” The book was a gift from his neighbor, with whom he is having an affair. Though he once told her he wanted to cut the affair off, he continued to see her, proving that he is often unable to navigate back to the light after straying down a dark path.

10. 'Frankenstein' by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

“Field Trip,” Season 7, Episode 3
First published anonymously in 1818, Frankenstein tells the story of scientist Victor Frankenstein, who creates a “monstrous” yet sentient creature during an experiment. When Betty goes as a chaperone on a field trip with her son Bobby, they are discussing his favorite monsters during the bus ride. He says, “There's basically Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. There's also King Kong, too, but he's not really a monster. I like all of them, but I guess Wolf Man's my favorite because he changes into it.” In a way, this discussion of transforming monsters foreshadows Betty’s extreme mood swings regarding her children; for instance, later in the episode, after a fun day exploring farm life as part of the field trip, Betty becomes irrationally angry at Bobby for giving away her packed lunch and lets it ruin their entire day.

11. 'From the Earth to the Moon' by Jules Verne

“The Monolith,” Season 7, Episode 4
From the Earth to the Moon, published in 1865, chronicles several weapons enthusiasts’ attempts to build a cannon that can launch three men into space, with the end goal of a moon landing. When Roger Sterling, one of the heads of Sterling Cooper, attempts to convince his daughter, Margaret, to return home from a hippie commune to her husband and son, they discuss the book as they are laying in a barn with the other commune members looking up at the moon. Margaret says, “I’d like to go to the moon. Don’t you want to go?” Roger replies that yes, of course he wanted to be an astronaut as a boy, and Margaret points out that astronauts didn’t exist during his childhood. He disagrees, citing From the Earth to the Moon, and Margaret reminisces on how he read the novel to her as a child. This conversation illustrates that Margaret feels a freedom in her life to make her dreams a reality, whereas when Roger was growing up, he was not afforded the same opportunities.

12. 'Meditations in an Emergency' by Frank O’Hara

“For Those Who Think Young,” Season 2, Episode 1
Meditations in an Emergency is a collection of poetry published in 1957. Don picks up the book after seeing a man reading it in a bar. After reading it, Don sends a copy to Anna Draper, believing that she’d enjoy it but also in an attempt to share his vulnerabilities with her, because at that time, she was the one other person who knew his secret. At one point in the show, Don narrates a telling excerpt from the poem “Mayakovsky,” helping viewers understand the internal emotional struggles he faces but cannot confront or move past:

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

[h/t NYPL's 'Mad Men' Reading List]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
entertainment
Why the Film You're Watching on HBO Might Not Be the Whole Movie
iStock
iStock

In the days before widescreen televisions, most of the movies you watched on VHS or on cable looked a little different than their big-screen versions. The sides of the image had to be cropped out so that you could watch a movie made for a rectangular screen on the small screen. Today, those little black bars on the top and bottom of the screen that allow you to watch the same movie scaled to any shape of screen are everywhere. But it turns out, cropping for aspect ratios is alive and well—on HBO, as YouTube film vlogger Patrick Willems explains.

In his latest video, which we spotted on Digg, Willems explains why aspect ratios matter, and how the commonly used aspect ratios can fundamentally change a movie.

Most old-school televisions have 4:3 aspect ratios, meaning movies had to be significantly cropped to fit wide-screen films on the small screen. Now, most computers and televisions use 16:9 aspect ratios, which is approximately the same as the one used for movies, typically 1.85:1, so many movies expand to fit TV screens perfectly. The catch: Some Hollywood movies are shot with even wider angles to show even more of an image at once. And even though viewers are familiar with the sight of those black bars, it seems the streaming sites are determined to limit their use, even for movies that don’t fit on a normal screen. As a result, you may only be seeing the central part of the image, not the whole thing. You could be missing characters, action, and landscape that’s happening on the far sides of the screen.

Since 1993, the Motion Picture Association of America has mandated that any film that’s been altered in a way that changes the original vision of its creators—say, to edit out swear words, adjust the run time, or to make it fit a certain screen—run with a disclaimer that says as much. That’s why before movies run on TV, they usually show a note that says something like “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen.” But this doesn’t seem to apply to streaming.

In 2013, Netflix was accused of cropping films, too, showing wide-angle movies to fit the standard 16:9 screen instead of running the original version with black bars. The streaming giant claimed it was a mistake due to distributors sending them the cropped version, and those films would be replaced with the originals. However, as of 2015, users were still complaining of the problem. According to Willems, it’s a problem that still plagues not just HBO, but Starz and Hulu, too, and there isn’t any clear rationale for it other than that perhaps people don’t like looking at black bars. But frankly, that seems better than seeing a version of a film that the director never intended.

You can get all the details in the video below:

[h/t Digg]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
22 Things You Might Not Know About Dawson's Creek
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

On January 20, 1998, teenagers found a new small-screen obsession when Dawson's Creek made its debut. Created by Kevin Williamson, the series centered around a tight-knit group of friends—Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek), Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), and Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams)—living in the picturesque (and fictional) town of Capeside, Massachusetts.

It didn't take long for the series, which ran for six seasons, to become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. On the 20th anniversary of its premiere, here are 22 things you might not know about Dawson's Creek.

1. IT FOUND ITS INSPIRATION IN SEVERAL OTHER MOVIES AND TV SHOWS.

"I pitched it as Some Kind of Wonderful, meets Pump Up the Volume, meets James at 15, meets My So-Called Life, meets Little House on the Prairie,” said creator Kevin Williamson. “I sort of threw everything in there." Fox passed on the show, so Williamson brought his pitch to a younger network, The WB, which got its start in 1995. In an attempt to reach a younger audience, the network picked up Dawson’s Creek.

2. KATIE HOLMES'S MOM PLAYED DAWSON IN HER AUDITION TAPE.

Katie Holmes as Joey Potter in 'Dawson's Creek'
Getty Images

Williamson actually wanted to cast Selma Blair as Joey, but he decided to audition other actresses—including Katie Holmes, who he'd seen in Ang Lee’s film The Ice Storm. Still a high school student at the time, Holmes refused to fly to Los Angeles to audition because she had another commitment: playing Lola in her school’s production of Damn Yankees. So, in their sewing room, Holmes and her mother acted out the scene and filmed it. "I had the camera, and my mom would read Dawson's lines," Holmes told Rolling Stone.

3. JOSHUA JACKSON AUDITIONED FOR BOTH PACEY AND DAWSON.

Joshua Jackson actually auditioned for both lead roles. He originally read for Pacey, but the producers were interested in hearing him read for Dawson as well. Then, they switched him back to auditioning for Pacey. Despite an exec falling asleep during one of his auditions, Jackson got the role. One of his competitors for that role, by the way, was future American Pie star Jason Biggs.

4. KEVIN WILLIAMSON HAD TO FIGHT FOR JAMES VAN DER BEEK TO BE CAST.

James Van Der Beek
Getty Images

Dawson was the last role to be cast. On the way to the audition in Los Angeles, James Van Der Beek actually sat next to future Entourage star Adrian Grenier on the plane, only to discover that he was also auditioning for the part of Dawson Leery. After watching the auditions, the head of Sony didn’t believe that Van Der Beek had star quality. But Williamson was convinced that Van Der Beek could do it, so they kept having him read the scene over and over again. Finally, Williamson yelled, “I wrote Dawson! I am Dawson! This is Dawson!” Two days before filming was scheduled to begin, Van Der Beek was officially cast.

5. WILLIAMSON PUT PROPS FROM SCREAM AND I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER IN DAWSON'S BEDROOM.

Williamson wrote the screenplays for all the Scream movies as well as I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sometimes he used Dawson’s world to wink at his own work. For example, in the season one episode “The Scare,” Dawson and Joey watch I Know What You Did Last Summer together. Later, in the season finale, there’s a poster for the movie hanging on Dawson’s wall. “The Scare” also has a few Scream references and contains the iconic Ghostface mask. 

6. WILLIAMSON LOVED STEVEN SPIELBERG AS MUCH AS DAWSON DID.

Steve Spielberg
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Dawson’s passion for Spielberg movies came from Williamson’s direct childhood experience. “In fifth grade, Jaws came out," Williamson once said. "It began my love affair with Steven Spielberg. I took out a spiral notebook and I wrote the sequel to Jaws.” Sound familiar?

Unsurprisingly, it was tough to get the rights to all of the Spielberg posters that hang in Dawson’s room. In fact, Spielberg watched the pilot to personally approve the use of his work. He did ask that they remove a line about Jen looking like Kate Capshaw, but other than that, he was fine with the references. According to Van Der Beek, Spielberg later approached him at a Lakers game to say, “I like the posters on your wall.”

7. THEY WEREN'T ALLOWED TO SAY THE WORD "MASTURBATE" IN THE PILOT.

In the original script, Joey plainly asked Dawson, “How often do you masturbate?” After examining the pilot, Standards and Practices told them that they couldn’t say the word “masturbate” on television. In the final version of the episode, she asks, “How often do you walk your dog?”

8. DAWSON'S HAIRCUT WAS INSPIRED BY BRAD PITT'S HAIRSTYLE IN THE DEVIL'S OWN.

Brad Pitt in 'The Devil's Own' (1997)
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The studio insisted that Van Der Beek change his hair for the role. The crew paged through an Entertainment Weekly and saw an ad for The Devil’s Own, and Dawson’s infamous haircut was born. 

9. THE SHOW LOST A SPONSOR FOR BEING CONTROVERSIAL.

The show shocked audiences and critics with its blunt dialogue about sex—and a first season plot line about an affair between a teacher and a high school student didn’t detract from the controversy. Procter & Gamble was supposed to be a sponsor of the show but pulled out before it aired.

"As we have learned more about the episodes over the long term and the content that will unfold over time, the majority of the content within the majority of the episodes walks a fine line and bumps up against what we think is appropriate," a spokesperson for the company said.

10. WILLIAMSON KNEW HE WANTED JACK TO BE GAY, BUT HE DIDN'T TELL ANYONE AT FIRST.

Kerr Smith in 'Dawson's Creek'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In the second season, two new characters were introduced: siblings Jack and Andie McPhee. Williamson claimed that while creating the characters, there was a voice in the back of his head saying, “God, I wish Jack could be gay. That would be so great to write a gay character.” But he decided not to mention it to anyone, including the writers. Jack quickly became one of the show's most popular characters and halfway through the season, Williamson had him come out to his friends. 

11. THE "TRUE LOVE" EPISODE FEATURED THE FIRST MALE GAY KISS ON U.S. PRIMETIME TELEVISION.

“True Love” was the third season finale, which aired in May 24, 2000. In the episode, Jack kisses his boyfriend, Ethan. Ten years later, Kerr Smith, who played Jack, recalled, “I did know how historic it was and he did too. I’ll never forget the day that we were filming that. I was quite nervous, as was he ... We knew what we were doing. We knew what we were addressing. We knew that it was important and that a lot of people were going to be looking up to the show now for this particular type of storyline. I think we did a good thing.”

12. MEREDITH MONROE WAS 29 WHEN SHE PLAYED 16-YEAR-OLD ANDIE.


Getty Images

Meredith Monroe, who played Andie McPhee, was nine years older than Katie Holmes and 10 years older than Michelle Williams. But her on-screen brother, Kerr Smith, was also a little old for high school. He was 27 when he was cast.

13. HALFWAY THROUGH THE SERIES, A HURRICANE WREAKED HAVOC ON THE SET.

One of the downsides to filming on the Wilmington, North Carolina coastline was the possibility of hurricanes. In fact, one took down the pier outside the Leerys' home. It was only halfway through the series and the crew had to rebuild the pier because it had already become a beloved part of the show.

14. VAN DER BEEK'S MEME-WORTHY CRY WAS AN AD LIB.

Years after Dawson cried on a pier in the first season finale, his cry-face became a meme. Van Der Beek had a good sense of humor about it and even admitted that his tears were organic. “It wasn’t scripted, I don’t think,” he said. “You know, it was just high drama; you've been living with this character for a while and a scene like that just kind of drops in your lap and you just lose it.”

15. JACKSON USED TO MOON PEOPLE TO EASE TENSION BEFORE FILMING SCENES.

In an interview on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Holmes said, “I think he really thinks he’s doing a service to everyone ... It doesn’t even faze us anymore. We have different directors every week that come in and he’ll do it and some people will give a chuckle. The rest of us are like, ‘Oh,’ you know. The directors get a kick out of it.”

16. MICHELLE WILLIAMS WAS OFTEN INSECURE ABOUT NOT GETTING ENOUGH SCREEN TIME.

Michelle Williams and James Van Der Beek in 'Dawson's Creek'
The WB

“The show was primarily a love triangle between Dawson, Pacey, and Joey," Michelle Williams later explained. "For the most part. At times I felt, ‘What’s not good enough about me? Am I doing something wrong?’ Flipping through the script you’re only in three pages, ‘Oh, boy. Okay.’ And maybe I had questions about why that was.” Van Der Beek helped her through these times by reminding her that her career would be easier because she would be the least associated with the show in the future. (Given the fact that she has been nominated for four Oscars—and counting—since her Dawson's days, Van Der Beek was clearly onto something.)

17. THE CAST MODELED IN A J. CREW CATALOG.

In a beautiful cross-marketing moment, Holmes, Jackson, Van Der Beek, and Williams did a photo shoot for J. Crew in 1998. You can find pictures online, but if you’d like a copy of your own, they usually sell for over $100 on eBay.

18. SOME OF BUSY PHILIPPS'S SCENES HAD TO BE REWRITTEN AFTER A WILD NIGHT OUT.

In an interview with Wendy Williams, Busy Philipps confessed that she liked to party during her Dawson’s Creek days. One drunken night out resulted in an emergency room visit and a dislocated knee. This was an inconvenience for the writing staff who, according to Philipps, “had to rewrite the show so that I was laying down and sitting down for two weeks.”

19. THE SHOW HAD SIX HEAD WRITERS, ONE FOR EACH SEASON.

After the second season, even Williamson went off to focus on other projects. During a Reddit AMA, someone asked Van Der Beek why there were so many writer shifts over the course of the series. He responded, “I think it was more a function of our writers being in such high demand that they were eventually wooed with offers [to do] their own shows, or just a matter of someone coming into an already established show with a very specific voice and everyone realizing a few steps down the road that it just wasn't quite the right fit.”

20. JOHN WESLEY SHIPP'S CHARACTER WAS KILLED OFF BECAUSE HE DIDN'T LIKE WHERE THE SHOW WAS GOING.

John Wesley Shipp
Diane Freed, Getty Images

John Wesley Shipp, who played Dawson’s dad, grew disappointed with the show, especially after Williamson left. He didn’t like how small the roles of the parents were becoming. “At the end of the four seasons and the kids were going to be going to college, I saw the handwriting on the wall,” Shipp explained. “We would be standing in the background with Lily and waving at Parents Day and I really had no interest in doing that. So when they wanted to renegotiate our contact, I set my price really high.” Executive producer Paul Stupin asked if he would return to do the death storyline and Shipp agreed.

21. WILLIAMS DIDN'T WANT JEN TO DIE.

According to Williamson, “Michelle was a little scared and nervous. She goes, ‘Well, what if we do a reunion show? What if we do a movie or something?’ I’m like, ‘Well, then you’ll be a ghost.’” He noted that Jen’s death “was that last bit of growth that pushed [the characters] into adulthood.”

22. ANDIE WAS CUT FROM THE FINALE.

The cast of 'Dawson's Creek'
Getty Images

Meredith Monroe did return for the finale, but her scenes were not aired. Andie was a medical resident in Boston, who came back to Capeside to say goodbye to Jen. She also had a sentimental scene in the hospital cafeteria with ex-boyfriend Pacey. Her scenes can be found on the Dawson’s Creek DVDs.

In 2015, Williamson and several members of the Dawson's Creek team reunited for a panel discussion about the show in which it was revealed that the panel's moderator, Julie Plec—a longtime friend and collaborator of Williamson's who was also a writer on Dawson's Creek—was the one who wanted Andie to appear in the finale. "She felt it was incredibly important for Pacey and his first love Andie to have some sort of a resolution," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios