April 05, 2012

Angry Cleaning in Lingerie

Welcome to another installment of Scene Study, where we break down dramatic scenes in recent popular entertainment as they might play out in DramaSystem.

In the Mad Men season opener [stop reading here if you don’t want to know], Don Draper and his new wife Megan find themselves at odds after she embarrasses him with a surprise party, at which she performs a suggestive yeh yeh number. The next day, discovering that she’s left work, Don heads to their new apartment to have it out with her. Megan puts him on the defensive with a bizarre tactic—lashing out in anger while simultaneously shucking her house coat to clean up the still-trashed apartment clad only in sexy lingerie. Taken aback, and then finally overcome with desire, Don jumps on her. Cut to: post-coital reconciliation.

In DramaSystem terms, Don is the petitioner—he’s the one whose desire for an emotional concession from Megan kicks off the scene. Megan proves an aggressive granter, throwing Don off by presenting him with bold emotional demands of her own.

Were I playing Don Draper, I’d score the result as refusal of the petition, earning me a drama token. I wanted to get my power back from my surprisingly formidable young bride, and instead established her power over me. Another player might score it as a granting of the petition, earning Megan’s player a drama token. In this view, Don wanted to reconnect with Megan, and she let him, in a way that saved face for both of them. Given the apparent direction of the new season, which might be sub-titled “Don Gets Old”, both Matthew Weiner and I might disagree with you. But in DramaSystem, the petitioner’s player is always free to specify that his petition was granted, whether the GM and the rest of the group agree or not.

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