Reading Onion TV Club's recap this morning lead me to think about the following observation from the great British Marxist art critic John Berger (Ways of Seeing (pictured):
Publicity is never a celebration of a pleasure-in-itself. Publicity is always about the future buyer. It offers him an image of himself made glamorous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. . . . The happiness of being envied is glamour. . . .
The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. She is meant to imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify her loving herself. One could put this another way: the publicity image steals her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product.
Mad Men takes place in a world where this economy is being established as America's (as the world's) ruling principle, and Berger, in turn, identifies the source of the Mad Menverse's pervasive sense of dissatisfaction.