Mad Men Jam
As a communication student, specifically, public relations and advertising, I enjoy the cable television program on AMC, Mad Men. This series is about an advertising agency in the 1960’s, with the explosion of advertising and mass media. This show also exploressome of the social and cultural norms that were practiced at the time, especially women’s roles.
The main male character is Don Draper, an account executive at the firm, Sterling Cooper. Most of the show portrays him as a talented ad man, yet secretive and fails at managing relationships with his friends and family. The main female characters on the show include Joan, Peggy, and Betty. Joan is an office manager at Sterling Cooper, the advertising firm, and is mostly in charge of all the secretaries. Peggy starts out as Don Draper’s secretary, but surprisingly advances in the firm to become a copyrighter. She is the only female in the office who does not do secretarial work, which causes tension between her male peers as well as her female peers. Betty is Don Draper’s wife, who is the typical dissatisfied housewife. This video remix titled “Set Me Free” focuses on the women of the show, and tries to connect each one to each other.
The author of this video remix, Elisa Kreisinger, also known as the Pop Culture Pirate, remixes pop culture videos with feminism and gay/lesbian/queer awareness (Koa). Kreisinger did not have any background in film or remix before taking a course at Cambridge Community Television in Massachusetts (Koa) . She has also remixed Sex and the City and the Real Housewives of NYC to promote awareness.
This video remix falls between iconic and realistic on McCloud’s triangle. This work is iconic because it captures elements from the show that defined women in the 1960’s. For example, throughout the remix, you see the typical 1960’s style from the women’s hair and makeup. They wear dresses and have the iconic style of that era. However, the remix is also realistic because it uses scenes and clips from the show, and there is no distortion in the images. It is very realistic and it is easy to see the social issues that the video is trying to portray with these women.
The word- picture relationship in this video remix is picture specific. In the remix, there isn’t any text, just video clips with the women saying the words to create the lyrics of the Motown song “You Just Keep Me Hanging On” from 1966. This seems to be effective if a person has seen Mad Men or kept up with the show because then they know each character’s story that is featured on the remix. Otherwise, it is hard for a viewer to understand the meaning behind the song lyrics and the characters that are being portrayed because they will not have the background storyline of these ladies.
The closure used in this remix is a mix between scene-to-scene and subject-to-subject. If the viewer has kept up with the seasons of Mad Men, they would find that this remix jumps between different episodes. There are various conflicts, plot lines, and ideas being portrayed one after another. There is a significant amount of time and space between many of these clips. However, if a person has not watched Mad Men, the closure would seem to be subject-to-subject. The clips jump from one woman to the next, and this viewer might not realize that this is not from one season or even just one episode. Thus, the images might seem to appear to stay within the same scene or idea.
Key Elements of Video Remix
The pace of editing in this remix is mostly medium paced cuts. Split screens are used, varying from two to three screens, and are a mix between fast cuts, but the more meaningful ones are medium paced. The author of the remix, Elisa Kreisinger, explained why she chose split screens, stating that “by framing the female characters from Mad Men in a series of boxes, we wanted to illustrate how the show, and by extension, society isolates and marginalizes womens’ voices through pop culture narrative”. The pace of editing heavily relies on the audio because the clips used are ones that make up the lyrics of the song, “Keep Me Hanging On“. Therefore, if there are more words in a scene that correlate with the song, that cut will be medium paced.
The audio and video in this remix is interdependent. The clips are the main focus on the remix, but the clips make up the lyrics of the song, so they rely on each other heavily to portray the message. The relationship between audio-visual is also primarily literal illustrations because the clips make up the actual lyrics of the song. There is no manipulation of the words used, they all come from specific scenes and episodes of the show. The song, “Keep Me Hanging On” was a meaningful choice because in the show Man Men, these women’s lives are mostly influenced by men. Whether it be a husband, boss, or client, these women are figuratively left “hanging on” because it seems they do not have full control of what happens.
This remix is in the culture jamming tradition. The way this video was set up, with the videos making up the lyrics of “Keep Me Hanging On” was reminiscent of video remixer Jonathan McIntosh. This video really played on today’s hit television show about an ad agency in the 1960’s, with an actual 1960’s song, with social issues that women faced then, and even still face today. All these combined shows a jam of cultures between the 1960’s and today.
There are countless samples in this remix that all come from the same source, Mad Men. However, I did not see any fair use paragraph or creative commons license on the original website Kreisinger posted the remix. Therefore there are some copyright issues with this video. Since Kreisinger did not make any of these clips herself, she does not own the material in the video. The creators of Mad Men actually own this, therefore, they could sue for the rights to the video, if they desired.
The samples in this remix are kept as original and mashed together. They have not been manipulated or transformed in any way. However, the audio has been transformed radically by using the words and voices of the characters in the samples, to create the lyrics of “Keep Me Hanging On”. The clash between the originality of the samples, and the radical audio transformation make this video interesting to watch and analyze. This correlates to McCloud’s triangle as well because there are the realistic samples, mixed with the slightly abstract transformation of the audio.
This remix is easy to understand and comprehend if you have seen Mad Men. Otherwise it would be very confusing and less meaningful if the viewer did not understand at least the very basic plot of each character. I loved this remix because I watch the show, and keep up with the seasons. I could pinpoint almost every clip and what happened in that particular episode.
In relation to visual communication, remixes are the most powerful way to convey a message visually. This video portrays pop culture and feminism in a way that an essay would fail miserably. The mash-up between today and the 1960’s is unique and portrays issues that women face, even today. For example, Peggy is shown in one clip, where in that episode she asks for equal pay as her male counterpart in copy editing. She is denied this pay. This is still an issue today, with women making 70 cents to every male dollar.
This video remix is powerful through the combination of visual and audio. With McCloud’s analysis, we recognize the iconic and realistic elements of the remix, as well as how the lyrics and video relate to one another to make the message. Through elements of remix, we see why the video was made with split screens and how the audio was created to enhance this. Lastly, we see how idioms, samples, and transformations affect the power of the message, and the potential copyright infringements that are involved.