Mad Men Jumps the Gefilte Fish
James J. O'Meara
Part Three: The Country of the Blind, Continued
“You’ll hang higher than Haman!”
Today’s Mad Men, though set in the same era as Advise and Consent, portrays a very different world — in fact, an inversion. Mad Men’s sacrificial suicide victim, Lane Pryce, is a re-writing of Harley Hudson, giving him Brig’s secret crime and failed resolution.
Pryce, who first appeared in Season Two as a financial overseer when Sterling Cooper was sold to a British conglomerate, comes to like living in New York rather than London, and especially rather than New Delhi, which is where he’s to be transferred “as a reward” for a job well done. So, in the Season Three finale, he conspires with Bert, Roger, and Don to steal the firm and its clients out from under his old masters. He is rewarded with a name on the door, but this requires him to pay in equity to the firm. Now in Season Five we learn that he did so by selling his British stock portfolio; since the new firm hasn’t prospered as he expected, he faces a ruinous tax assessment. Pryce forges Don’s signature on a company check to give himself a “thirteen day loan” but is tripped up when the Christmas bonuses are delayed. Desperate for the money, he cashes the check anyway. Bert eventually finds the cancelled check while bumbling around the office and informs Don; confronted, Pryce asserts that the money is his anyway since he made the firm possible, for which he’s never been rewarded, but Don demands that Pryce resign. Pryce sets his affairs in order and goes home to read up on suicide. He attempts to asphyxiate himself in the Jaguar his wife bought him in expectation of the bonus, but the notoriously unreliable British car fails to start. Pryce eventually hangs himself on his office door, leaving a pro forma suicide note that reveals his contempt for the partners.
This time, the sin is financial, and its discovery by Bert/Seeb leads not to his elevation to higher office but his hanging in his old office. Rather than triumphing, Pryce will be dragged down from his high position (unlike Harley who strides down in his new estate) and suicided (like Brig).
Such reversals are characteristically Judaic. The Old Testament is a sequence of stories where the “hero” is lauded for overcoming his superior through lying, cheating, and other trickery, from Jacob, whose very name means “supplanter,” to the much lionized David, who comes to prominence by cheating on the field of honor. The impudent, “you got a problem with that” style puts the lie to any notion that “sharp dealing” is an “irrational stereotype.”
What is perhaps uniquely Judaic is not merely the reversal, but also the subsequent gloating, overdone, vulgar, and never ending. Here the locus classicus is the story of Esther, where Haman is not just thwarted, but hanged on the very gallows he had planned for Mordecai; moreover, the Hebrews then embark on another of their “justified” orgies of genocide, and have continued to “celebrate” their “victory’ to this day in the carnivalesque feast of Purim.
In fact, when I said dragged down then suicided, I might better have said dragged down and then hung up, or hanged, as Pryce’s means of suicide is Haman’s mode of execution.
Which is an interesting change: while Brig’s suicide is relatively discreet, in the style of the times — a gun shot heard from his office washroom, oddly resembling the suicide of General Jack Ripper in the next year’s Dr. Strangelove — Lane’s end is given the whole Judaic “c’mon, don’t be hypocritically squeamish” treatment, his body taken down by the three partners and laid out on a sofa in some crass version of Christ’s deposition from the cross, his face ashen, in a sequence that shocked viewers almost as much as the treatment of Joan (though excellently performed by Jared Harris).
I think the change of method is significant. The writers are not just reversing Harley’s character, leaving the WASP with no honorable fate, but even going further: reversing no less than the ur-archetype of the Aryan, Wotan himself.
You may recall that I noted a moment in The Untouchables when Malone frightens a crook into cooperation by holding another crook against the wall — only Malone and Ness know he’s already dead, a corpse — and shooting his head off. I connected this to the shamanic motif, in particular the mythological trope of Wotan and the Runes. Wotan hangs himself for three days to learn the meaning of the Runes; Malone hangs up the corpse to learn the meaning of the code in Capone’s logbooks.
But what is the threat Malone delivers to the corpse?
“You’ll hang higher than Haman!”
I would suggest, then, that Haman and Wotan are symbolic opposites, that rather than Wotan, who acquires knowledge through self-hanging, Haman is the clever plotter, foiled and then “hoist by his own petard” by the trickier Hebrew. And in this episode of Mad Men, not only is Harley’s character reconfigured into a failure and suicide, his attributes of Superior Man or chakravartin are reconfigured as a failed Wotan.
I’ve already identified Harley and Wallace as what Jack Donovan would call “runts” who make up for their size with knowledge — Wallace of the tax code, Harley of parliamentary procedure. Both can thus be further identified specifically with Wotan as well.
Wallace is hanged in the elevator by Frank Nitti, while I would characterized the rostrum of the Senate, from which Harley presides, then steps down from when exiting to take the oath of office, as being similar to the World Tree that Wotan hangs from — like the World Tree, it is the World Center to which all attention is directed, like radii, — from the floor, to the visitors’ gallery, to the public, including the Oval Office, listening intently to the vote on radio — though perhaps not literally located in the middle of the chamber; it is probably made of wood, and like both the Tree and Wallace’s elevator, it is a liminal location where one can move up and down.
As we might expect, Pryce’s Wotan-attributes are largely negative. His rune-lore, in the form of ad agency accounting, is just a bunch of contemptible tricks and schemes, unworthy of a noble, first annoying the American partners when he acts as auditor for the new British owners, then proving his runt-worth by devising a plan for them to steal the firm out from under the limeys.
He confrontation with Pete over the latter’s bungling of a potential client — which we now know Pryce desperately needed to make the firm profitable to hide his embezzlement — unlike Harley’s with Ackerman, involves no intellectual cleverness at all but just fisticuffs — admittedly, seeing Pete “get plastered,” as William F. Buckley threatened to do to Gore Vidal, was rather cathartic for the audience, but still beneath the dignity of a supposed Wotan. And his attempt to cover his mounting debts — caused by his vanity-driven partnership buy-in, as well as his inability to discipline his wife’s spending — by forging a payout from the company becomes, like Brig’s secret, his ruination.
Finally, Pryce’s attempt to read up on suicide methods — acquire knowledge of the runes — becomes a macabre joke. Deciding to asphyxiate himself in the Jaguar whose purchase by his wife was the last straw, the notoriously lousy car fails to start. Here, in his apartment building’s garage — another liminal setting, this time underground — the Wotan motifs are become more obvious, preparing us for the most obvious one of all, the hanging.
Pryce settles in the car and then snaps his spectacles in half. Now, as someone who wears glasses himself, I found this odd; is this a common thing for myopic suicides I asked myself? Online discussions of the scene, which others found odd as well, suggested this was to demonstrate “no turning back.” We, on the other hand, might connect it with the breaking of Wotan’s staff, here a self-inflicted wound, rather than, as in the opera Siegfried, reflecting the triumph of Siegfried over the dead hand of fate (and itself a reversal of Wotan’s action in Die Walküre).
But more importantly, the failure of the car to start forces Pryce to try to decipher the manual — more rune-reading — and to do so fashions a crude monocle. I think the screen shot makes it pretty clear that we are to see him, if only subliminally, or collective- unconsciously, as the one-eyed Wotan.
Since everything is reversing, Pryce moves from his one-eyed state to his hanged state. His corpse’s face, grey, ashen, suggests the World Tree, which is an ash — as the Norns sing, Wotan’s rash act of tearing off a branch to fashion his spear has killed the Tree:
The wound, as time grew old,
wasted the life of the wood;
sere, leafless and stricken, fast faded the tree . . .
In fact, a few seasons back, Pryce confronted, or rather, was confronted by, his own father, a bearded giant of a man who struck him down with . . . his stick. We see that not only is the age of Wotan in the past, but it is a past that Pryce, like Brig, will never be able to overcome, and which will eventually lead to his death.
The final Judaic touch: when Bert reads Pryce’s suicide note, he exclaims in amazement:
“It’s just boilerplate!”
Oy, the WASP with his fancy-schmancy woids and cultcha, he’s ultimately just another Hollow Man. Rather than acquiring knowledge of the runes and gifting it to others, Pryce communicates nothing.
So we see that for our age, Mad Men has fashioned for us a Purim Masquerade, featuring Wotan/Harley, an empty suit stuffed like a Guy Fawkes dummy who, rather than provide an inspiring contrast to Brig, will wind up as not merely as a failure, but a pathetic one. The 1960s world of Aryan men of honor, presented without question even by a Liberal progressive like Otto Preminger, has in Mad Men been replaced, or “unmasked” as the producers would say — though that’s typical Judaic double-talk since it’s really, like Purim, more a deceptive masking than an revelatory unmasking — as a world of money-grubbing chiselers and failures, soon to be replaced by another race that’s better at, and more honest about, the grubbing.
They have, we might say, “revoked the Ninth.”
Twilight of the Mad Men
Finally, let’s round up some stray doubles to illustrate the many levels of synchronicity found between the movie and the later TV show, and the kinds of significance that may emerge as we contemplate them.
As Evola says, although principles are principles, context matters, and the same principle in a different setting will yield different results. In their climactic confrontation in Advise and Consent, where Munson rejects Ackerman’s blackmailing methods and forces him to flee the chamber, we see that Munson/Ackerman/Brig (though already dead) doubles in Mad Men Bert’s rejection of Campbell’s attempt to blackmail Don (who “really” died in Korea), but elsewhere things are otherwise. When the dynamic is Munson versus Cooley, it’s Robert Morse’s Bert that doubles Charles Laughton’s Sen. Seeb Cooley, with his eccentric, old fashioned ways, stout figure and goatee suggesting Cooley’s cornpone Senator.
And Walter Pidgeon’s Majority Leader Munson, slick old silver fox and ladies’ man, will then be Bert’s “junior” partner, Roger Sterling. Sterling represents the Silver Age of the WASP, still on top thanks to Daddy’s clients (the firm was Sterling Cooper because of his father, Bert’s partner) but sinking fast and not knowing just why. His WASP rule is as phony as Don’s identity, both the targets of a pushy, knowing new generation of Judaics.
That sinking away is seen in the opening animation. From day one, fans have speculated that it’s Don, finally jumping out the window; this enabled the producers to distract attention from Pryce turning out to be the suicide in the penultimate episode. Don won’t kill himself, at least not until the very last scene; as the embodiment of Aryan evil, he must be shown to destroy all who come in contact with him — the “real” Don Draper as well as his “real” brother, and Pryce’s wife, we’ll see, will blame Don for his death — thus providing the narrative motor. Like that real life embodiment of Aryan Evil, Hitler, he can’t die until his usefulness is over; hence the “Hitler is alive” rumors and “New Hitler” enemies.
Like Majority Leader Munson, or John McCain, Sterling “represents the majority” but since Mad Men is a later, Judaic version, Sterling’s character fades into the background rather than taking the lead like Munson, played as a man behind the times with his drinking, smoking and adultery, even saddled with a Jewish ex-wife — a typical method of Judaic infiltration — despite all of which he is probably the fans’ favorite.
But who’s Advise and Consent’s equivalent of Don Draper? Although the Homosexual Secret plot was given to Sal, who was exposed and tossed aside, not only by the firm but by the show’s Judaic producers, here it serves as the main plot line, or McGuffin, and that makes handsome Sen. Anderson the designated Don Draper character. Remember, Don has become a Family Man as well this season, like Sen. Anderson.
Just as the partners seem OK with Draper’s “secret” as long as he makes money for them, so the Senators in the supposedly “homophobic” 1950s are OK with Brig — remember, “We don’t want Brig Anderson’s tired old sin made public, whatever it was” — since he is an honorable man. His private life is just that, private. Even the “swinging” is subtle, almost courtly, even with the Kennedy-esque “ladies man” played by Peter Lawford. Aryan Man keeps all things in proportion and proper bounds; they almost resemble the chicks described in American Psycho:
David Van Patten: A good personality consists of a chick with a little hard body, who will satisfy all sexual demands without being too slutty about it.
Ironically, in the days before the Senate became a Millionaire’s Club, a forced life away from home and family means everyone has what Pete Campbell can only dream of: a hotel suite in the City, away from the wife. And further irony: it’s the closeted Brig that, like big phony Don, lives the “ideal” family life with wife and kids (albeit with one divorce and one fake marriage).
Just to tidy things up, Joan on Mad Men is also a double for Brig in Advise and Consent; he’s bisexual, remember? As a woman, she is as much an outsider as the homosexual and (presumably, since he’s from Utah and named “Brigham”) Mormon Brig Anderson. She has her secrets as well, including an affair with Roger, which flared up once after her marriage and produced her child, while her husband was in the Army in Viet Nam, just as Brig’s secret was a single homosexual encounter while serving at Pearl Harbor.
But while the Senators stand behind Brig and his sexual secret, though perhaps too late, against Van Ackerman, the name partners at SCDP themselves conspire with Peter/Van Ackerman against Joan/Brig and force her to become a prostitute, just as Brig’s long lost partner is now a blackmailing escort in, of course, Sal’s New York homosexual underworld. I wonder if he ever meets up with Sal?
But let us leave this sad state of affairs and ask ourselves, finally, Bert Cooper’s earlier question: “Who cares?” So what, if an Aryan culture of honor has been replaced by a swarming mob of hucksters? 
For an answer, let us turn again to Burckhardt, who describes what the men of the Renaissance found to be “the strongest bulwark against evil”:
The highly gifted man of that day thought to find it in the sentiment of honor. This is that enigmatic mixture of conscience and egotism which often survives in the modern man after he has lost, whether by his own fault or not, faith, love, and hope.
The “mixture” is what the Judaic attacks, impudently claiming that conscience is just a cover for, or really is, egotism. By the time of these Mad Men, only egotism is left.
This sense of honor is compatible with much selfishness and great vices, and may be the victim of astonishing illusions;
As in Munson’s speech, quoted in Part One, about all the vices the Senate tolerates in the name of free speech.
yet, nevertheless, all the noble elements that are left in the wreck of a character may gather around it, and from this fountain may draw new strength.
This is where Brig failed the test. But in the real ’60s of the film, we still had the likes of Harley as a model, or even, Seeb Cooley, who confesses his guilt and ascends to take Harley’s place as the Senate’s presiding officer.
It has become, in a far wider sense than is commonly believed, a decisive test of conduct in the minds of the cultivated Europeans of our own day, and many of those who yet hold faithfully by religion and morality are unconsciously guided by this feeling in the gravest decisions of their lives. . . . It is certainly not always easy, in treating of the Italian of this period, to distinguish this sense of honor from the passion for fame, into which, indeed, it easily passes. Yet the two sentiments are essentially different.
Discussing this passage in the context of “a history of the United States in the twentieth century,” John Lukacs adds that in our time:
[T]he difference — indeed, the discrepancy — between fame and honor has become so great that in the character of presidents, and in those of public figures in all kinds of endeavor, the passion for fame has well-nigh obliterated the now remote and ancient sense of honor.
12. Sanctimonious Sunday school stories never inform the ignorant that David and Goliath are supposed to meet in single combat, but David “wins” by cheating — he knocks out Goliath from a distance with his slingshot, then runs up and cuts off his head. A comparison of the scruples and conscience shown by Arjuna on the Field of Duty in the Bhagavad Gita displays all we need to know about how different the moral atmosphere of each race is.
13. Recent archeologists have been forced to conclude that the Judaic invasion of Canaan actually never happened, leading one to speculate about the nature of a people that would ascribe a fictitious genocide to themselves, and then boast about it.
14. Even today, the Judaic Left, so quick to call for “civility” on the part of the Neo-Judaic Right, celebrates its election victory by demanding mass murder:
The Blaze reported Tuesday. “These Tea Bag bas***ds who by the way, I just wish they would all just go away — or, like in Passover, I just wish there was an angel of the Lord that would pass over — instead of killing the first born in all the households of Egypt just wipe out all the Tea Baggers,” he said. Malloy, perhaps securing his place as the most unhinged liberal hatemonger on radio, continued by suggesting the “angel” decapitate everyone in the Tea Party. “Just, you know, the terrible swift sword, just lob their heads off,” he added, while making exaggerated “swishing” sounds. — “Libtalker Mike Malloy calls for beheading of conservatives”
15. Just as we first meet Harley through the conversation of the Ambassadors’ wives, commenting on his apparent irrelevance, now near the end another background conversation gives us a clue about him. As the Secret Service men climb the stairs there’s an odd little bit of business in the background; a tour guide explaining a painting to some tourists notes that when the British surrendered Washington refused to accept Cornwallis’s sword, because it was proffered by an officer below him in rank. One thinks perhaps this is to prepare us for the presidential succession, or to strike the right note of aristocratic politics and rank. But did the British military band not play, on that occasion, a tune called — “The World Turn’d Upside Down”? His stately descent and exit from the Senate, presumably to take up residence in the White House, also suggests Wotan’s “Entrance into Valhalla” from Das Rheingold.
16. We know this is a mean trick, because the British company is headed by the guy who was so nice to über-Judaic Fran Drescher as The Nanny: “Oh, Mr. Sheffieeeeeeeeeeld!”
17. Not to be confused with the Illuminati’s Eye of Horus. For an exhaustive look at the one-eyed motif thrust at us continuously in pop culture, see the website vigilantcitizen.com.
18. In his essay on “The Myth of Punch,” Count Stenbock notes (p. 11) that in Tom Jones Fielding — a Brit, like Pryce — refers to “Punch and his merry wife Joan.” Is this ultimate source for the symbolic linking of Pryce/Punch and the married but decidedly un-merry Joan?
19. In Mann’s Doctor Faustus. The Life of the German composer Adrian Leverkühn, told by a friend (1947) the titular composer, aware that his brain is rotting from syphilis, decides to avenge himself on German, that is, Western Culture by using his twelve-tone musical system to “revoke the Ninth Symphony.” We could say that it is atonalism, a Judaic invention if ever they were one, and their own unique “contribution” to Western music, is indeed musical syphilis.
Arnold Schonberg was so incensed at Leverkühn’s appropriation of “his” methods that he forced Mann to include a note in subsequent additions, admitting the Schonberg’s “ownership” of the method. Of course, as Coomaraswamy often pointed out, no Aryan would ever claim “ownership” of an idea; truth is the property of all, while it is precisely error that is individual and “original.”
Mann’s relation to the Jews is typically hard to pin down; Faustus contains some excoriating portraits of Judaics, from crooked musical promoters to the “polyhistor” Dr. Chaim Breisacher, who delights in confounding his Prussian hosts with a version of true “conservatism” more barbaric than any Soviet (and based, some speculate, on the equally confounding Julius Evola; the Left’s Evola, Herbert Marcuse, quotes Leverkühn’s revocation in his “Essay on Liberation” — with approval, of course. He also explicitly ties it to the music, of “sensuous” and “frightening immediacy” born in “the dark continent” and “deep South,” in that once-fashionable, now cringe-inducing way of the Peter Paul and Mary Liberal).
On the other hand, Mann makes sure, right at the start, to have his narrator apologize for having to mention such distasteful characters, to point out that, literally, some of his best friends are Jews, and to explicitly point out “that I was never able to agree fully with our Fuhrer and his paladins.” His narrator, who loses his job but nevertheless stays in Germany, unlike Mann, is no doubt an attempt to atone for his having spent the war in sunny LA.
20. Sal is the only original Sterling Cooper employee who has never shown up again; I guess he was useful to show up the era’s supposed homophobia — don’t get me started on the absurd idea that no one knew art departments were THE place for homos, just ask Andy Warhol — but ugh, who wants to bring up the faygelehs again, right Matt? Come to think of it, that fey chap Don hired from Season Two seems to have disappeared after outing himself, too; take about exploitation!
21. Alain Daniélou made the controversial statement (a Traditionalist “gaffe” like talking about the truth of the caste system) that the British Raj collapsed because Victorian morality required wives to come out to live with their husbands in the Civil Service, thus destroying the sexually free-wheeling Männerbund.
22. Another of Preminger’s cinematic firsts is the first portrayal of a “gay bar” in an American movie. The opening credits indicate a song is to appear, and it turns out to be one verse of a song specially composed to appear on the jukebox during this scene, in a performance grudgingly contributed by Frank Sinatra — remember when he was a “Hollywood Liberal”? The scene itself is so filled with stereotypes of pudgy old losers and young Four Freshman types in J. Crew pullovers that it makes the gay preppy spy gang in Agent for H.A.R.M. or the “gay high school Secret Service” in Red Zone Cuba look like a grisly killing machine. Preminger, Progressive Film Maker or Pseudo-Highbrow Exploitation Hack? It’s always so hard to tell with the Left.
23. In Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline (New York: Wiley, 2012), Morris Berman insists that America has always been a “nation of hustlers” on the make. From this perhaps deeper perspective, the New England WASP, with his Puritan moralism that never really seemed to conflict with making a buck — one thinks of the Quaker owners of the Pequod in Moby Dick — was always just a crypto-Judaic at heart. Interestingly for an academic leftist, he has kind words for the cavalier culture of the South. He now lives in Mexico. See the interview on Alternet here and especially the review at Second Vermont Republic here. This would be in accord with the general European Right view of America as essentially a Judaic creation in the New World, destined to destroy White homelands.
24. Part Six: Morality and Religion, Chapter 2, “Morality and Immorality,” available here.
25. John Lukacs: Outgrowing Democracy: A History of the United States in the Twentieth Century (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984), p. 288.