Friday, April 12, 2013

Falling Man

by Drew Martin
The opening credits of Mad Men is of a suited man falling past glassy skyscrapers as billboards. By the sixth season of the show this falling man image has culturally usurped the specific reference, Robert Longo’s 1980s' series Men in the Cities, for which he photographed, projected, and then trace-drew sharply dressed friends in contorted and collapsing positions, which commented on the corporate decadence of the 80s. When Mary Harron adapted Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, starring Christian Bale, she made the focus of this cocaine-snorting Wall Street banker’s swanky flat a couple of oversized prints from Men in the Cities.  It was perfect décor for this button-down character who we later see chasing a hooker around his apartment building with a chainsaw while wearing only a pair of white tube-socks. Longo’s images took on a very different meaning on 9/11 by zooming us in on the many traders who jumped to their deaths from the burning Twin Towers. The casualties of Longo’s black-suited men moved from personal and moral conflicts to victims of terrorist acts. The opening credits of Mad Men combine the 9/11 reference with Longo’s imagery to comment, and perhaps predict, the decadence and moral fall of Don Draper and his colleagues as an updated fall of Icarus.