Tuesday, March 20, 2012

things I learned from Mad Men

I spent the day sick on the sofa watching the first two seasons of Mad Men and learned quite alot about the way things were in the early 1960s:
  • Everybody smoked all the time, especially doctors when they were seeing patients.
  • Everybody drank all the time - especially pregnant women.
  • Everybody cheated on everybody all the time.
  • Everybody was anti-Semitic
  • Women were sexually harassed in the office constantly.
  • Friends let friends drive drunk all the time.
  • Nobody tells anybody anything important unless they absolutely have to.
  • All men are complete scum.
Now nobody has to tell me that the early 1960s was a bad time for Jews, Blacks and women but even I have a hard time believing that people engaged in such bad behavior so relentlessly. I will say though that I enjoyed Don Draper's scenes of marital infidelity because Jon Hamm is an extremely attractive man and you're much more likely to see lots of him during his adulteries than during his marital sex. So even though it makes me dislike his character, I do look forward to his endless cheating.

The biggest charm of Mad Men is the production values which take great care to get the period details right and gives you the impression of being a fly on the wall during that time period, and being aghast at the self-destructive and careless behaviors of people back then. One of the most shocking and effective moments is when one little girl is running around with the plastic that is used to cover dry cleaning over her head and her mother yells at her - and you think she's about to say "take that plastic bag off your head" but what she says is "if I find the dry cleaning that came with that bag on the floor..." But on the down side, that aspect grows old after a while and the surprise and let's face it, the smug superiority of being a Person From The Superior Future wears off. The story lines become repetitive and the charm of watching men in business meetings is pretty low to begin with.

Since it's an ad agency in the 1960s, Mad Men occasionally reminds of Bewitched - Samantha's husband Darren being an advertising copywriter. But then I miss all the magic stuff and of course the shamelessly self-serving Larry Tate. Although speaking of self-serving, the head of Don Draper's ad agency is a huge fan of Ayn Rand and at one point says he'll introduce Don Draper to Ayn Rand. I don't think they're actually going to portray that in the show which is such a shame - it would be so incredible. Now that I've seen some Mad Men, I can really appreciate this Sesame Street parody: