Woodstock’s 40th anniversary is being celebrated as well — with new books, a new documentary, a new Ang Lee movie and the inevitable remastered DVDs and CDs. But it’s “Mad Men” that has the pulse of our moment. Though the show unfolds in an earlier America than Woodstock, it seems of far more recent vintage, for better and for worse. As many boomers have noted, Woodstock’s nirvana was a one-of-a-kind, one-weekend wonder anyway, not the utopia of subsequent myth. It wasn’t even meant to be free; in the chaos, the crowds overwhelmed and overran the ticket sellers. That concept of “free” — known to some adults as “theft” — persists today in the downloading of “free” music, which has decimated the recording industry far more effectively than brown acid ever did. Even in Woodstock’s immediate aftermath, there was no consensus on its meaning. A Times editorial titled “Nightmare in the Catskills” saw “a nightmare of mud and stagnation” and asked rhetorically, “What kind of culture is it that can produce so colossal a mess?” Time magazine, surprisingly, was more sympathetic. “It is an open question,” the writer intoned, “whether some as yet unknown politician could exploit the deep emotions of today’s youth to build a politics of ecstasy.” Actually, both proved wrong. Woodstock was no apocalypse, but neither was it a political turning point. Nixon would be re-elected in 1972, and the only politician with a touch of ecstasy, Robert Kennedy, had already been murdered.
more from Frank Rich at the NYT here.