Today at The Toast, I write about Paper Moon, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and The Heiress, three films that acknowledge the power of father-daughter relationships but refuse to mythologize or sentimentalize them.
”It’s a common trope: the father as a teller of tall tales, spinner of stories, a larger-than-life figure who molds our ambitions and relationships. Whether he’s cast as a fiercely loving stalwart, a scornful critic, or a straight-up flim-flam man, in these three films a father is the beacon lighting a girl’s path. A father’s presence – and, crucially, his absence – shapes a daughter’s sense of the world, and of her place in it.”
Your Experimental Father’s Day Movie Marathon”
How detailed is Mad Men‘s art direction? This detailed.
Take a closer look at the wrapping paper on the Barbie doll Pete brought “all the way from California” in “The Strategy” (S7, episode 6) — the Barbie chosen by the separated but still married man’s girlfriend, Bonnie*.
The pattern on that paper is a carousel, a reference to the first season finale in which Don Draper mourned the slow dissolution of his marriage, and turned that grief into a trademark pitch to Kodak.
This isn’t an isolated reference to Don’s carousel pitch. In “Field Trip” (S7 episode 3), during Don’s long, humiliating wait in the bull pen upon his return to SC&P, Ken Cosgrove detours from his meeting long enough to welcome him back, and to proudly show off snapshots of little Eddie Cosgrove on the Central Park carousel, a family outing that “always makes me think of you.”
The very next episode,”Monolith” (S7 episode 4), ends with a frustrated Don trying to clean up, buckle down, and — in the words of Freddie Rumsen — “do the work.” As he sits down and starts to type notes for Peggy’s Burger Chef campaign (on the typewriter he very nearly smashed through the window and down into the street in front of the Time-Life building), the strains of The Hollies’ “On A Carousel” begin to play: “Riding on a carousel, trying to catch up to you.”
*The outfit Bonnie’s chosen for their visit to the New York office is pure Malibu Barbie: pale blue chiffon, pale rounded sunglasses pushed up in her long blonde hair. The doll didn’t debut until the early ’70s, but if you didn’t know better, wouldn’t you bet a shiny nickel the doll inside that carousel wrapping paper is a Malibu Barbie?
“Movies about mothers – mothers’ relationship with their children, children’s relationship with their mothers – can trade in easy sentiment or melodrama. But motherhood isn’t all swaddling and coddling and comfortable archetypes. In the rough terrain where a woman becomes a mother, she can feel she’s been corralled, her personality, her persona, her entire independent self suddenly defined largely by her actual or idealized connection to a child. These three thrillers tap into the poignancy and pressures that many mothers face, digging into the complicated web of social expectations in a world that both mythologizes and devalues motherhood, while translating the everyday tensions of caregiving into the language of the fantastic and the grotesque.”