Monday, February 28, 2011

He is the very model of the modern advertising man (2011 version)

Hawkeye Pierce is so last millennium.

Back in 2008, I posited that Alan Alda's portrayal on the M*A*S*H series was the idealized image of how creative people in advertising view themselves: witty, irreverent, iconoclastic, hedonistic, slovenly and eccentric, but also capable and confident, dedicated and dependable, principled, tenacious, and when the chips were down, absolutely brilliant.

But really, that was an image taken from an earlier era, when even flawed characters were always primarily defined by their inherent decency. The richer, more complex characters of television today provides an ever better template for those anguished souls battling for creative integrity in ad agencies:

Meet Dr. House:

Yes, another doctor (because don't we all view the creative process as a matter of life and death?) -- but while Hugh Laurie's Dr. House is as undeniably brilliant, intuitive and typically unshaven as Dr. Pierce, the similarities end there.

Dr. Gregory House is impatient, caustic, judgmental, lacking in empathy, argumentative, self-obsessed, and tortured by by his inner demons as well as his outer weaknesses. Yes, he has a brusque charm and moments of humanity, but for the most part, he's unapologetic narcissism and relentless snark. And the best part is, that all of this is excused (usually with difficulty, but always ultimately excused) because of his superior talents. He's a misanthrope who's not just tolerated, but respected, despite his unchecked character flaws -- indeed, everyone around him willingly accepts (again, usually with difficulty) that the price of his greatness is having to put up with his eccentricities and anti-social behavior.

No, not the most flattering portrait of how we see ourselves -- but let's face it, we're all too self-obsessed to notice.

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