Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mad Men Season 4 Episode 5 and Antichrist

Subtract the evil talking forest beasties and a number of other horrible provocations, and the story of Betty and Sally as told in the most recent episode of Mad Men is the same story as told in Lars von Triers' Antichrist: both are the story of women grappling with and eventually succumbing to the stereotypes and limitations into which they were born.

Both stories ask -- albeit with differing levels of urgency -- whether we can break free of these kinds of strictures and blinders, even if, as in the case of the unnamed woman character from Antichrist, we have undertaken a protracted, detailed, and highly conscious study of those very same strictures and blinders. The woman is an expert in the literature in which women have, over the centuries, been cast as witches, deviants, and corrupters, especially by wielding their sexuality as a form of power.

For Sally and perhaps for Betty, there is still time enough to learn, grow, and break out of the limitations. The example of the woman from Antichrist gives little hope for this, but then again, Lars von Trier is nothing if not a destroyer of hopes, especially when it comes to the situation of women in modern society.

That said, I prefer to take von Triers's desperate pessimism as a nod and a wink at the audience -- as an invitation to consider the questions he is so loudly declaring closed on the darkest of terms. Maybe if we look closely and carefully, we will find a crack of light peering through.


Brad said...

Antichrist is one of the more disturbing films I've seen in quite a while. I don't recall how or where I heard about it but was pleasantly surprised to see it show up on Netflix Watch Instantly several months ago... pleased until I watched the film. It took several days for some of the more graphic images to fade from my short-term memory.

Dale said...

Brad, I agree completely --- a very difficult film to watch.