Layne Price, Tom Sawyer and the polarity of Mad Men and nostalgia

Standing in a hospital waiting room, Lane Pryce is talking with Don Draper after learning that he is staying in America because his replacement had his foot run over by a riding lawn mower.

It is S3E06, and the perfectly titled “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency.”

Ha. Classic.

Guy Mackendrick (Jamie Thomas King) is the ad man from London who gets aforementioned foot mangled and has his career ended. No golf, no sales. So it goes.

Back to the books.

Lane says to Don that he’s been reading a lot of American literature and that he is thinking of Tom Sawyer.

“I feel like I just attended my own funeral. I didn’t like the eulogy.”

Lane Pryce, S3E06 (Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency)

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an established American Lit classic, and tells the story of young rapscallion Tom and his adventures, sometimes with his buddy Huckleberry Finn. I won’t go into the whole plot, but, they live in the south, Tom cons a bunch of kids to paint a fence, there’s a murder, tons of racism and at one point the boys watch their own funeral as everyone is convinced they drowned in the river.

Oh, and, yes I am very proud that I got to use the word rapscallion. Simple pleasures.

Sawyer gets mentioned again in S7E01 (Time Zones) and is ideally placed in the series.

Pryce being British in the capital “B” sense of the word and from an ordered, efficient and by the rules world is of course drawn to the child Tom who breaks all the rules, lives a free and, in Lane’s eyes, romantic life.

Tom and Huck also would appeal to Don. We’ve seen him hearken back to his childhood with a sense of dread, but almost nostalgia at times, he’s dragged back to the farm but he kind of wants to go there anyway, so he’ll stay for a bit.

The mad men themselves have some of the rapscallion in them (yep. Now that I’ve started I can’t stop). They are constantly breaking the rules, breaking things, breaking hearts and trying to get away with it.

The riding lawn mower catastrophe seems like it is plucked straight from Tom Sawyer.

Twain wrote the book in 1876 (apparently it was one of the first books ever written on a typewriter). It is a symbol of nostalgia in Mad Men.

Without getting too meta here, I’ll compare it to the success of Mad Men itself.

We look back at the style, music, swagger and swirling bourbon ice cubes of the ’50s and ’60s and have a nostalgia for that time. Of course, the show is so damn depressing at times, it’s hard to envy the people living through the plots, but it’s no coincidence that their suits, drink glasses, dresses and choice in liquor became very popular along with the show.

“Man. Remember when everyone was stylish like that?”

The show’s characters, in turn, look back to that past that has whisked by. Not the immediate past that they can recall too well (Second World War, Korean War), but to the time just a bit out of their reach. They want what they never had and never could have.

It is part of the polarity of Mad Men. Some look to the future, and are excited with what’s coming and some stare back and yearn in nostalgic naivete. Some do both.

As a side note, Lane’s character is about to become one of the best in the show. Jared Harris is an outstanding actor, and really breaks out in Mad Men. He will later be seen in about a million shows and movies.

Chernobyl is amazing.

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