Thursday, November 20, 2008

Basket of Kisses: Q&A with 'Mad Men' Fan Site's Blogging Sisters

I first discovered the Lipp sisters' intelligent and incredibly dedicated blog, Basket of Kisses, when I started writing about Mad Men here on Suburban Mom. After my first visit to their site, I became a "Basketcase" (BoK fan), as I was hooked on the witty analysis. And seeing as though I've been in serious Mad Men withdrawal since the finale, I decided to e-mail the New York/New Jersey-based bloggers -- Roberta Lipp and Deborah Lipp -- a handful of questions about their site and about our favorite TV show. Below is an edited version of our Q&A:

Meredith O'Brien, Suburban Mom: Why did you two start this blog? Was there something specific that prompted you to create it? Your work on it is so detailed-oriented, it must take a lot of time to maintain.

Roberta Lipp, Basket of Kisses: We started watching the show independent of each other -- I don't remember if we consulted on it prior . . . or if we found out right after the pilot. We couldn't stop talking about it, especially after the second and third episodes. (The pilot is perfect, but it could have been downhill from there.) We'd e-mail or get on the phone about it. I had just lost a job and had a lot of time to spare that summer, so I would watch each episode numerous times.

Deb and I both write. (Deborah is a published author and has two blogs) and I'd been blogging for a few years. Toward the end of the first season I suggested that we start a blog devoted to Mad Men . . . We set it up, without a planned start date, and then I posted right after the season finale, talking about the surprise arrival of Peggy's baby.

Honestly, I had no idea how much work it would be. Deborah did; her blogs, particularly her James Bond blog, take the same kind of devotion, whereas mine has a very loose structure.

Deborah Lipp, BoK: I kind of thought, "Maybe Mom wouldn't yell at us not to talk about TV so much if we blogged about it instead." It sort of worked. We still talk about about TV just as much; blogging doesn't get it out of our system, it just excites us, but now that we're seeing success with the blog, she is proud of us and doesn't mind as much.

. . . I'm better at sitting down and writing, and I know the technical side better (not that I'm high-tech, but Roberta is extraordinarily low-tech). I definitely write more than Roberta does, but she is the one who can put together a game plan. The Bible [BoK's primer on Mad Men characters and miscellaneous info], for example, was entirely her idea. So we've got some very complimentary skills, which makes the workload manageable. From time to time, we actually have "staff meetings:" the two of us with laptops. My son was astonished at how much time we can sit there going over item by item and really focusing. He figured we'd be hanging out and gossiping the first time there was a meeting at our house, but we really focus well.

Meredith: What's your all-time favorite episode of Mad Men?

Roberta: I'm not a second season expert yet, and there are many, many stunning episodes, but I think [season one's] "Marriage of Figaro" remains my favorite. I've written a lot about it; we both have. At the time it stood out because the show was new . . . and it was the first real insight into how unpredictable [show runner/creator Matthew] Weiner was willing to be. To that point, the show seemed to take place in the office of Sterling Cooper, with a few scenes in other locations. In this episode, the first half follows that structure, and then there is a scene at the Drapers' home on the weekend. And I kept waiting for that scene to end and go back to the office on Monday morning. Only there just kept being more scenes of the day at the Drapers'. It went on and on and it was slow and uncomfortable. That was when I knew this show was really different. And looking back at the episode, it does not lose its shine.

Deborah: I don't know if I can pick an episode. The first time around with season one, I'd have said "5G" or "Babylon." Now I might say "Hobo Code" or "Shoot." I remember when "Hobo Code" was nominated for best single episode by the Writers Guild, I was like, "Really?" So I re-watched it, and then it was, "Really!" It's actually stunning in the intelligence of its construction, in the emotional payoff of its various scenes, and the way it ties together the various plot elements.

Anna Draper may be the single most appealing and satisfying character to appear on Mad Men, and so for season two, I would have to cite "The Mountain King" as my favorite. I just love watching her so much. Plus it has the Tarot reading.

Meredith: Betty Draper: Victim, emblematic of young mothers of her era, or narcissistic and spoiled?

Roberta: Well, both. She is well educated, and now she is full-time devoted to making her house look sparkling and meals on the table. And I think that Don having a secret identity expands the metaphor of a young woman involved with a closed off man who feels like a stranger. But yes, she is spoiled and narcissistic. She has been taught that looks are a woman's only value, and she looks like she looks. She has some character traits that I'm not a fan of. But I very much feel Betty's pain.

Deborah: What she said.

Meredith: Explain why you think so many woman are fans of the Don Draper character, despite the cad-like things he's done, everything from the string of affairs to the incident with Bobbie Barrett in the restaurant.

Roberta: He really is the ultimate bad boy syndrome for us. There's that brooding guy that you know that if you could only get through to him, he's a really good guy. Deep inside (Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life) Don Draper is that to the extreme, because we, the viewers, see his past, see why he's suffering. We also see that he has ethics. We saw in the pilot the way he defended Peggy against Pete, and then turned down Peggy's awkward come-on. We see that he is a good guy at his core, despite so many rotten things. Plus, y'know, he's gorgeous and brilliant and charming. He's easy for us to love, but thank goodness we're not dealing with him in real life -- we'd all let him ruin our lives!

Deborah: I was reading a feminist blogger recently who pointed out that that frequency with which this question is asked is sexist. Or at least a product of the patriarchy. We don't ask why men are attracted to sexy bad girls, to Xenia Onatopp or the femmes fatale of the 1940s or evil aliens in metal bikinis or whatever. Men are allowed to have sexual desire without wanting to take the desired woman home to mother.

Women don't get that same kind of permission. If we desire Don Draper (and I do!), we are somehow expected to actually want to marry him or have an affair with him in real life. That's a gendered expectation. So my answer is: It's fiction. He's hotter than, um hot things, he's got a beautiful, rolling voice (a big turn-on for me), he's smart, articulate, compassionate and mysterious. And he does the naughty. What's not to like?

Meredith: Your predictions for season three for these characters: Don Draper, Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway?

Roberta: Oh, I have no idea. I really don't. Joan will be married (or if she's lucky, widowed). Peggy needs to start dating. I'm bad at predictions.

Deborah: Matt [Weiner] is good at confounding our predictions. I think Don will still be playing out the same pattern (distancing, longing for love and finding his moral compass). I think Joan will be unhappy and hide it, and Peggy will be happier than anyone, except possibly Ken [Cosgrove]. But I don't know how or why.

Image credit: Basket of Kisses.


Anonymous said...

Mad Men is my favorite show ever! At 30, that isn't saying as much as it might for some others, but still...I love it! The Lipp Sisters have the most awesome blog and I'm glad you did an interview.

I am going through Mad Men withdrawals too! I wrote my friend a very serious email last weekend that said I was feeling very sad that I no longer had Mad Men to make my weekend better. It really has encapsulated my life and I can't wait for next summer!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for interviewing the Lippsters! I do not exaggerate when I say that MM would be a much shallower experience without their blog, their insights--as well as those of the legions of BasketCasers!

Well done, ladies!

Juanita's Journal said...

The reason why so many women are drooling and cheering over the character of Don Draper is because the series is basically from his point of view and he is portrayed by a very handsome actor.

In other words . . . good old fashioned shallowness.

Anonymous said...

"I think Joan will be unhappy and hide it, and Peggy will be happier than anyone, except possibly Ken [Cosgrove]. But I don't know how or why."

What is the point in allowing Peggy to remain a major character, if she is going to spend the next season being happy?

Juanita's Journal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juanita's Journal said...

I do not desire Don Draper. Perhaps if I had been a lot younger, I would. But I think I'm too old to really embrace him as someone I find attractive. Despite his pain, I find it hard to like him sometimes. He strikes me as a self-involved person who seemed to make a pretense of being otherwise. But I must admit that I find him very interesting as a character.