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Mad Men’s Jewish Ad Man

Revisiting copywriter Michael Ginsberg before Sunday’s Season 6 premiere

The Editors
April 05, 2013
Michael Ginsberg.(AMC)
Michael Ginsberg.(AMC)

Mad Men returns this Sunday, and to help prepare you for the Season 7 premiere, our partner site Jewcy shines it’s Network Jews spotlight on Michael Ginsberg, the sole Jewish copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Dov Friedman analyzes the confident, smart-alecky ad man, played by Ben Feldman, and his character’s competitive relationship with Don Draper, with whom he might be more similar than even he realizes:

It is Ginsberg’s skill making the pitch—the very skill that made Don a legend—that puts him in Don’s crosshairs. Even after the first accepted pitch, Mr. Butler called Ginsberg a genius. Don coughs demonstratively. We are watching the rise of a new advertising star at the very moment Don transitions to a more heavily managerial role. For the first time, viewers are asked to entertain the possibility that Don is not peerless—something Don seems keenly aware of as well. For a show that emphasizes the exceptional talents and personal shortcomings of one central character, the role played by Michael Ginsberg is deeply jarring.

Don’s professional brilliance always seemed tied—even obliquely—to his back-story. He was a man without a firm identity, a hobo—drifting and alone. In a startling scene with Peggy and Michael late at night in the office, we learn that Michael is the most unusual of Holocaust survivors: a child born in a concentration camp. “Are there others like you?” Peggy asks. “I don’t know,” Michael replies heavily, his back to the camera and reflection lit up in the window. “I haven’t been able to find any.” Here, too, we are supposed to connect Michael and Don. As with Don, there is a clear, if inexplicable, connection between Michael’s creative brilliance and personal history. Mad Men intends for us to link Don and Michael as singular individuals and talents.

Read the rest here.

From the editors of Tablet Magazine.