Almost finished re-watching Season One of Mad Men. It really rewards a second viewing, which makes me all the more excited about the upcoming new season. But right now, I want to talk again about Blu-ray.
There are times when these discs look so wonderful that it is distracting. Tonight I was watching the episode "Long Weekend," in which several crucial plot occurrences take place, giving many of the fine actors on the show a chance to shine even more than usual. John Slattery in particular has a couple of scenes that extend his character in ways we haven't encountered until that point. But when he is in close-up, I can't help but look at the details in his face. Slattery is one of those people who is younger than you might think ... he has grey hair, has for a long time, I think ... but he's only 45. His face doesn't look that old. But, like most of us who haven't gone under the plastic surgeon's scalpel, Slattery has an un-perfect look. He's a good-looking guy, and I'm not trying to say he's got blotchy skin or anything ... in fact, that's the point, Slattery looks just fine, but Blu-ray is so good that the smallest imperfections are visible. And since I'm not used to that, I stare at it and forget to pay attention to what really matters.
What is also interesting is what my beloved Christina Hendricks pulls off in that episode. She spends most of it in yet another astonishing dress that shows off her remarkable bosom. Yet, late in the episode, when she is confronted with some bad news and she has to mostly submerge her emotions, Hendricks offers up some subtle and very effective acting. And one reason I know this is because even though a goodly portion of my befuddled brain wants to gaze at those Blu-ray breasts, I can't, because I don't want to miss what's going on in Hendricks' eyes. The quality of the picture threatens to distract me, but the intensity of the acting draws my attention anyway. And, for that matter, Blu-ray helps Hendricks with her acting, or at least my response to it, because I can "really see" her as she emotes.
I could even take this a step further, and note that her character, Joan, works on a level similar to what Blu-ray does in a technological sense. Joan displays her body both as a means of getting attention and as a means of distracting men from the "real" Joan. This paradoxically allows Joan a place of privacy ... while men are slobbering over her body, the "real" Joan is in a safe place. Similarly, the visual brilliance of the Blu-ray experience gets our attention, but also distracts us from the "real" by directing our focus to the surface rather than to what's underneath. But great acting trumps all ... when that occurs, Blu-ray doesn't distract, but rather enhances.
It's also important to note a non-Blu-ray matter: that Joan is destined to be ultimately frustrated, because she is always going to be perceived as the body rather than the "real" Joan the body disguises. She'll never break out of that shell. Meanwhile, Peggy, the secretary with creative skills, actually has a chance to rise above the social expectations of the time. Her contributions to an advertising campaign force men to look past her body to the person underneath. That most of the men don't get it, and continue to objectify her, is another one of the many stories Mad Men is telling. Those men are in for a shock when the world changes and they don't have a clue.