The decline and fall of empire, mad men and the hollow men

We are in season three, and after looking at Rand-esque super heroes, destruction of such hollow creations and a deep dive into the soul of the catastrophe of personality and its beauty, we come to the decline of Britain, the Vietnam war, patriarchy’s end and a whole shwack of things we can pull out of Mad Men because, well, why not?

It is S3E03 (My Old Kentucky Home), and Sally is reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I to her grandpa Gene.

The section is about the licentiousness of the Greeks.

“Just wait. All hell’s going to break loose,” says Gene.

Gene dies in the next episode (The Arrangements). The episode also features a brief TV news segment about Mahayana Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation in Saigon on June 11, 1963 in protest of Ngô Đình Diệm’s Vietmamese Roman Catholic government’s prosecution of Buddhists.

Suggestion of the decline of America’s empire is pretty tasty here, but the decline of empire begins where last season ended and season three starts.

The first episode of season 3 introduces Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe, the British company that bought Sterling Cooper. With the purchase comes the cuts. Burt Peterson is shown the door with the perfect outburst for us trying to draw the parallels between book and series.

You’re the dying empire! We’re the future!

Burt Peterson, S3E01 “Out of Town”


Let’s get a brief Wiki-summary of Edward Gibbon’s six-volume The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire published between 1776 and 1789:

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire[a] is a six-volume work by the English historian Edward Gibbon. It traces Western civilization (as well as the Islamic and Mongolian conquests) from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium. Volume I was published in 1776 and went through six printings.[1] Volumes II and III were published in 1781;[2][3] volumes IV, V, and VI in 1788–1789.[4][5][6][b]

The six volumes cover the history, from 98 to 1590, of the Roman Empire, the history of early Christianity and then of the Roman State Church, and the history of Europe, and discusses the decline of the Roman Empire among other things.

Thank you Wikipedia. I promise, I’ll give you money once I’m loaded.

The six volumes are actually still pretty readable. I, nerd that I am, read the entire series.

There are many declines and falls throughout this series. Characters, the city around them, the country, the world is changing and with that something must fall.

Britain, naturally, comes to mind and season 3 introduces one of the series’ finest character: Layne Price (played by the amazing Jared Harris. How many of my favourite series will you be in). Richard Harris (rest in peace) is his dad. Fun.

As Britain declines, America rises, but, as we see in Vietnam, there are the inevitable historic examples of the frailty of empire. No nation is invincible.

There are also the other nods to the epoch we’re looking at. We see things disappear, as new things are put in their place.

In S3E02 (Love Among the Ruins), Don convinces a client how to destroy the historic Penn Station.

New York City is in decay, but Madison Square Garden is the beginning of a new city on a hill.

Don, S3E02 “Love Among the Ruins”

Paul Kinsey does not miss the importance of this lamenting the destruction of history in the face of progress, and he says how the best Roman ruins are in Greece or Spain as the Romans destroyed and rebuilt.

Oh right. Then there’s Don. The season starts with him usurping his father-in-law’s place as the most important male in Betty’s life, and then losing that place to Henry Francis later in the season.

Side note: Roger Sterling in black face singing a minstrel song to Jane is perhaps the most cringe-inducing part of the series.

One more literary reference from S3E03.

Pretentious Paul Kinsey (character in decline if there is one) drops a little T.S. Eliot while high.

He, naturally, is quotes “The Hollow Men.”

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper. 

T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
The Hollow Men, as read by author T.S. Eliot

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