This week’s episode of Mad Men is titled “The Monolith”, which immediately brings to mind the iconic black monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. And while the episode includes multiple allusions to 2001, it also contains a lot of allusions to Kubrick’s other work, particularly The Shining.
Let’s start off with some of the obvious 2001 references, because they are a bit heavy handed. (Which in not a bad thing, because this serves to mask the more subtle allusions to Kubrick’s work.)
2001: A Space Odyssey
As Don looks up, the elevator doors open, and the first thing he sees:
Now this is an obvious replication of the photo below.
This shot is framed at the end of the episode with the inverse, Don all in black, has become The Monolith himself.
As Don gets off the elevator, he encounters the HAL 9000 of SC&P. However, the framing uses the computer as the Monolith.
Which mirrors this scene kind of perfectly.
Also, in the beginning of the episode, Don walks into a seemingly abandoned SC&P.
This shot, and the eeriness it invokes, immediately made me feel like Don was here:
As you can see, Don and Dave have almost the same exact stance. Also the ceiling of SC&P mimics the floor of The Room, perfectly.
There is a ton of talk about “Cosmic disturbances” and “The footprint of the machine” in this episode to kind of wink and remind the viewer that all of the characters are dealing with the dawn of the computer age. The problem with this symbolism is that it doesn’t apply at all to Don, who seems completely unaffected by the computer’s presence. However, the story of Jack Torrence almost mirrors Don’s present situation perfectly.
The episode triggers a connection to Kubrick’s The Shining very early on. After a meeting, Roger exits and heads towards his office, where screams can be heard.
Is that you Shelley?
Both Shelley Duval and Roger’s secretary are running like dummies; they are also both wearing the same color.
Have you ever seen this kid before?
That’s Roger’s grandson, who just happens to look exactly like the creepiest kid I’ve ever known:
Then Don meets the man in charge of installing IBM’s HAL 9000… He just happens to share the name of everyone’s favorite bartender from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. Lloyd.
Now, I know names are not enough to draw a symbolic connection, but Don emphasizes Lloyd’s name later when he says to him “I know your name… You go by many names.” Don is also in an alcoholic stupor while this is happening… which doesn’t bode well for Lloyd the bartender.
To which Lloyd replies: “Has anyone seen my eyebrows?”
So Don, pays a visit to good ole’ motivational speaker Bert Cooper, who drops this line on him: “[You are a partner] Along with a dead man whose office you currently inhabit.” The use of the word inhabit, instead of say, “work in”, is striking in that it draws a direct correlation between Don and Jack. They both inhabit the offices of dead men, the are both struggling alcoholics, and they are both on the brink of insanity while pretending to do work they aren’t actually doing.
The episode closes with a shot that reminds us:
All work and no play makes Don a dull boy.