Straight in the opening scene, we see different situations at home where Joan, Peggy and Pete are preparing themselves in front of a mirror for Valentine‘s day in the office.
Suddenly and in a rough cut, we see Don at the doctor, who says to him that he has a blood pressure of
160 over 100 which is too high for a boy of his ageand that five drinks and two packages of cigarettes per day are too many.
Don should be more careful, because he is too busy, drinks too much and he is 36 years old and has to take his health seriously – which makes Don think.
These opening scenes already show – and as the title
For Those Who Think Youngimplements – that the new Mad Men season is about age, beauty and health and that Don is facing a heavy midlife crisis.
Later on in this episode, we see Don’s naive secretary who tells Peggy that Don told her that he is in a cinema watching the child animation movie: Pinocchio (1940).
This is of course a lie and a cracker by the cynical Don and expert in lying – like Pinocchio – who doesn‘t care about conventions and always tries to stay young and foolish.
DVD Screencap, ©2008 AMC
In the next scene, we then see Don having lunch and talking to a beatnik or arty intellectual with a shawl at the bar about the book Meditations In An Emergency the stranger is reading.
Don asks the beatnik if the poems by Frank O‘Hara are worth reading, but the stranger replies laconically that these verses are nothing for him.
Don doesn‘t understand this remark, while the attentive viewer understands it instantly by the beatnik’s snidely look – obviously due to Don’s age, smart business look and his comment:
It’s all about getting things done that reveals his conservative career mentality.
It’s obvious that Don doesn’t apprehend the modern generation yet, but that he tries to understand them eagerly while he realizes that he is getting older – the second precursor of his midlife crisis in this episode.
Furthermore, the poem title seems like a motif for the whole season two because the final episode has the same title:
Meditations In An Emergency.
Back in the office, when Don joins the important creative meeting for Mohawk Airlines he sees himself surrounded by tired and aged colleagues from the creative department and is not pleased with the jobs they’ve done.
Later in the evening, we see Don and Betty festively dressed – because it’s Valentine’s Day – at a ball and afterwards in a hotel room where they try to have sex.
The drama continues, when Don fails to perform sex with Betty and orders another drink instead – which is the third precursor of this midlife crisis in this episode.
DVD Screencap, ©2008 AMC
It looks like an immediate result of these three incidences, that we see in the next cut how Don is reading Frank O‘Hara poem collection while sitting alone in his office.
At the end of the episode, while Don is back at home still reading the poems, we hear his voice from the off reciting the poem
Mayakovsky with the lines:
Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting and modern.…
The verse continues from afar while he puts the book in an envelope with the personal hand written note:
It make me think of you – D. and takes it – walking alone through the night – to the mailbox.
This verse that the viewers hear reveals a lot about his fate until episode 12, when we’ll finally find out, whom he sent it to and why it says so much about his past and inner state.
Also, the words
modern in the verse seem to be important, because juvenileness is what Don tries to achieve while he unconsciously fears, that his age, the lying and secret identity will keeping him away from these traits that made him once so successful.
Another reason, why Frank O’Hara’s poems in
Meditations In An Emergency are so meaningful for Don is, that they are mainly about crisis in life, lack of communication in modern society and finding your own identity.
All these issues are not only an important part of Frank O’Hara’s own biography – because he moved to New York, was gay and had to hide his real personality during the conservative 50s in the USA – but the verses describe also Don’s secret past life and his actual inner quarrel.
As a result, Frank O’Hara’s poem collection perfectly characterizes Don’s problems with his own identity – especially when considering the Mad Men series final.
Also, his ‘impotence’ as a successful alpha male might be a metaphor for his inability to reveal his real emotions which lead to his communication problems with his wife Betty, Roger, Peggy and many others of his office team and are literally depict in O’Hara’s poems.
Of course, it’s not documented, if Mad Men creator, Mathew Weiner, and his team had all this – and in particular, Don Draper’s final scene in episode seven – in mind when choosing this particular book title.
However, it looks like an interesting theory an reasonable assumption.
Further interesting readings:
- Mad Men's' Season 2 finale: 'Meditations in an Emergency, by thepookahmcphelimy
- On Frank O’Hara’s ‘Meditations in an Emergency’, by Maureen Ryan
- What Frank O’Hara Tells Us About Don Draper, by fisherprof
- Mediations on Emergent Occasions Mad Men, Donald Draper and Frank O’Hara, by Kate Lilley, University of Sydney
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Don Draper in an Emergency Starts a Meditation in Mad Men
The real story behind Don Draper’s book “Meditations In An Emergency” (1957) by Frank O‘Hara in the Mad Men episode “For Those Who Think Young” (S02E01). To understand the full meaning of the little gray book, it’s impo…