Wednesday, July 16

Mad Men

Ben and I just finished watching Season 1 of Mad Men. Set in the early 1960's, the show is set in the fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper. While Buffy will forever and always be my favorite television show (disaster junkie and feminism all in one place..just like my blog!), MM is one the best things I've watched this year, and maybe even ever. While I could rave about the show for ages, I can't help but also comment on the show from a feminist perspective.

From the first episode it is clear that the office of Sterling Cooper are filled with a hazy film of cigarette smoke, racism, and sexism. The show confronts all of these things head on, but sometimes the 'we're sending a message that this is bad' can be a little heavy handed. Honestly though, it's amazing to see how much leeway the creators have been given in showing the attitudes of white upper class men in the 1960s,because it's a far from flattering portrait. Yet, the main characters manage to convey interesting and important things about marriage, adultery, class, and women's health with boozy abandon.

Several of the main characters (Don Draper, Sterling, Pete Campbell) are married; yet they have dalliances with the secretaries, affairs with women they meet in bars and restaurants and a barely contained disdained for their coddled suburban wives. All three men also seem to genuinely feel love and affection for their partners, and the women they believe to be oblivious and satisfied with their lives of house cleaning and shopping are often working just as hard to maintain the illusion of happiness and calm. A few of the men at Sterling Cooper are unmarried, but only one, Sal, is visibly struggling with his homosexuality. In one episode he and a client send clear signals during a meeting, have dinner and then Sal flees the restaurant when the man makes an obvious advance. At the office he audibly oggles the other women, but it seems clear that he does so out of habit and to fit in at the homosocial environment.

One of my other favorite (ie interesting..not necessarily good favorite) parts of the show is the interactions between the secretaries and the ad execs. Joan, the head secretary is supposed to be the shining example of the modern 60s woman: she's carefree, she's sexually independent, and financially secure. Yet despite her seemingly careless affair with one of the partners, Joanie is a husband hunter and her financial security is partially dependent upon her ability to inveigle the men around her. She plays the 'game' like a pro-brazen, in control and sexually confident, yet she can't see beyond a narrow conception of femininity and her role in the office. Joan is on birth control, but she she probably allowed the doctor to make disparaging remarks about her morality and sexuality in order to obtain the pills (she sent Peggy to the same doctor and he made very gross comments).

Anyway..tapped out for now..but more on MM later!