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The accidental theme

May 27, 2013

I got turned on to Mad Men when fellow blogger Mary Ann de Stefano linked on Facebook to a story about foreshadowing in the show’s fifth season. There are a number of images, actions, and pieces of dialog that foreshadow the suicide death of a major character. And it was on Netflix and has won every award it can in the last five years, so I figured I’d watch it.

And this year, Don Draper, the promiscuous main character with the dark past seems similarly obsessed with death. He’s so obsessed with it, that he proposes an ad campaign that evokes images of suicide and doesn’t even realize it. The ad is of clothes strewn by the edge of the beach and footprints entering into the water.

don's hawaii ad

Don’s also disturbed by his wife Megan while he’s sleeping and his pose…well, look for yourself.


It appears that Matthew Weiner, who runs the show just keeps coming back to that death theme, among others.

For us, themes are a key piece of the work we produce. Some are purposefully added, with intent and forethought. Some just sort of appear there. For instance, my current work-in-progress has a few themes I put there on purpose:

  • Loss and feeling alone in its wake
  • The food fight we call politics these days, both on a national level and how we interact personally
  • The double standard between men and women in the media concerning appearance.

These things are important enough to me that I included them with a purpose, and worked hard to write to them. But a couple other themes have appeared in this piece, along with a few other pieces I’ve written lately. I haven’t tried to include them, they just wound up being there, but they’ve appeared in more than once:

  • Reaching your fifties and finding yourself without a job, which is a scary prospect right now.
  • The importance of family, when measured by the sense of loss a person has when family is lost, removed, or just hasn’t been there.
  • A sense that the world is starting to slowly, but noticeably pass you buy.

At least two of these themes are related to age, or to projections of what it must feel like at that age. And though I didn’t set out to write about them, I keep doing it. It’s possible these themes are more important than the ones I tried to write about. Maybe I should try to write about them in the future.

What about you? What accidental themes show up in your work?



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