4.19.2011

Slate takes on Sterling Cooper, Hilarity Ensues

In the course of one business day, it is not uncommon to see Don and the rest of the gang at Sterling Cooper consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Whether it be Sterling mixing Smirnoff vodka with his morning milk, the pitcher of bloody Mary’s in the ad pitch or the celebratory glass of rye whiskey. To the these mad men, alcohol has become just another part of the day. It is present in the boardroom, in the individual offices and even in the surprisingly long lunch “hours” frequently taken by these big shot Madison Ave employees. It is present all day because to these men alcohol does not diminish the work they do. They are able to function while under the influence of alcohol, and so there is no problem with a little bit of Canadian to get the creative
blood flowing.

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid271557392?bctid=42484739001

For the staff of Slate magazines Double X, the situation is not quite the same. The women that run this feminist section of the magazine are big fans of the television series Mad Men. For this reason, they decided it would be an interesting experience to try to behave as the characters in the AMC television series do during their respective work days. That is, the women working in this department decided they were going to start drinking as early and as often as the characters on the show. They wanted to know how it truly felt to be well just like Don Draper.

The ladies started out the morning by bringing bloody Mary’s to the 11:15 meeting. At first the presence of alcohol did not seem to have an adverse effect on the behavior, except that simply people felt looser and more willing to share their ideas. The major difference noticed was that they felt no desire to end the meeting, as was usually
not the case.

This meeting was then followed by an anything but dry lunch for the ladies. They each had an estimated 3 martinis during their longer than usual lunch break, and to be perfectly honest, things started to take a turn. The ladies of Double X began to come up with completely off-the-wall ideas for the magazine that everyone seemed to think were brilliant. This was mixed in with a lot of unrelated gossip and loads of giggling. However, lunch could not last forever and so eventually the ladies were forced to return to the office.

Once back in the office, the ladies were meant to enter another meeting with one of the more senior members of Slate. They decided this was a perfect time to introduce the whiskey into the equation. At this point I think it fair to say that all hope was lost for the day. The ladies of the magazine were simply spewing nonsense ideas, and as the only sober person in the room noted “talking extremely loudly.” By the time this meeting was over, it became clear little was going to be done the rest of the day. Simple questions addressed to people often took minutes to get a response because people became easily distracted. And the answers that would be given often were incoherent or simply nonsensical. Productivity was at an all time low.

It should go without saying that the decision to drink during the work day did not go according to plan. The ladies of the magazine simply went about their day believing they were functioning as usual, and upon looking back, they realized everything they decided upon during the day was a load of rubbish. The experiment was definitely one that was interesting and one that will likely never be repeated. It is also hard
to say whether the alcohol had a greater effect on them because they a)rarely drink or b)are lightweight females as opposed to the men on the show. Either way, it is clear the effect on these staffers as Slate was far greater than the men of Sterling Cooper. And after their one day of drinking, it becomes clear that the drinking should be left in the hands of the professionals.

4.12.2011

Don Draper is a confident, strong and mysterious man. In the first episode of the first season, by the final credits, the audience is left confused as to the life he leads and who he truly is. As episodes pass, it is revealed that he isn’t truly the man he claims to be. Rather than being Don Draper, ex-lieutenant of the Korean War who earned a purple heart, he is Dick Whitman, a lowly young man raised in a rural, poor house that stole his lieutenant’s identity upon his death.



Image credit: Basket of Kisses

Although a great plot twist for the television series, it is extremely far fetched. Immediately I wondered how he could have possibly lead the rest of his entire life with never having been questioned. He is married, implying he would have to have a marriage license; he has a secure and reputable job, implying he would have to give proof of identity. At no point in time do these obvious conflicts pose Don Draper a problem. Most importantly, does he have a social security number? A social security number is assigned to every citizen, permanent and temporary resident of the United States. In today’s society, it is necessary to have your social security number in order to complete most forms whether it be for a job or even at a doctors. It would seem as though since the show is set in the sixties that maybe Social Security hadn’t been developed; however, in 1936 numbers began being issued, starting at the age of 14 (since it was only used for income taxes).



Image credit: http://www.immihelp.com/

I think this is a major flaw within the show. It is too unrealistic to accept that he is able to leave this life without every being caught.

Links referenced: http://www.ssa.gov/history

3.29.2011

The Pill

In the first episode of Mad Men, titled “Smoke Gets in Yout Eyes,” Joan sends Peggy to a gynecologist to receive a prescription for The Pill. During the appointment, one of the first doctor’s first comments was to question Peggy’s desire, as a single woman, to take the pill. Through the entire scene, he makes comments that judge Peggy, and other women, for their use of contraception. If these attitudes were so prevalent in the time period, why was the pill invented, why did it become so popular?

Development of the birth control pill began in the early 1950s at the urging of early birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. The activist believed that because of unreliable or inaccessible birth control many women and families were burdened with children that they could not possible take care of. Because of many retrictive laws, Sanger was unable to distribute a great deal of useful information on the topic. Despite delays in development, large scale clinical trials of the pill began in 1957. While earlier small trials had occurred in the United States, laws against birth control forced the developers to hold trials in Puerto Rico. Later that year, The Pill, called Enovid, was given FDA approval for the treatment of menstrual disorders. Three years later, it became the first drug approved for use by a healthy person when it was released as birth control. Within two years 1.2 million women were being prescribed The Pill and other companies are beginning to break in to the market.



Image credit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/timeline/timeline2.html

One problem with the early birth control pills was that they carried the risk of deadly side effects. These side effects, such as depression, blood clots and strokes, were often ignored by the drug company, the FDA and the prescribing doctors. Often, they were viewed as relating to outside causes and sufferers were referred to specialists. It took the publication of a criticizing book in the late 1960s before an investigation finally occurred. Despite these side effects, the number of women choosing to take the pill continued to increase: in 1973, 10 million women were taking the pill, and by the mid-1990s the number reached 80 million worldwide.



Image credit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/pill/timeline/timeline2.html

This Pill’s main result was giving women more control over their bodies. They were able to decide when to have children and whether or not they wanted a career. This allowed women to remain in the workforce longer and develop a career. This is one reason that, by the 1980s, 60% of women of reproductive age were employed in the United States. It also meant women could be more spontaneous in their personal lives. The doctor clearly objected to that aspect.

Links referenced: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/secure/aboutms/index.html

http://www-scf.usc.edu/~nicoleg/history.htm

3.24.2011

Mad Men and Environmentalism

Don Draper has done some things that are pretty shocking to a modern audience - the smoking, the drinking, the philandering, but littering? Unfortunately, Don’s actions were more or less the norm for the time period. America, along with most of the world, was a polluted mess in the early 1960s; there was widespread littering, polluting, burning of fossil fuels (Don’s Coup De Ville got about 8 MPGs city), and most importantly almost no regulation to prevent these things from happening. The air was thick with smog, and the highways were littered with trash.

However, in 1963, one lady decided to try and stop all this. Her name was Lady Bird Johnson, and her goal was to make America just a little bit prettier. Although she was not an environmentalist, per se, she did want to give the Don Drapers of the world a nicer place to have a picnic. Most of her efforts involved the cleaning up of highways. She helped to reduce the number of billboards and junkyards along interstates and planted wild flowers in the medians. She then joined an organization called Keep America Beautiful, who were the first to fight against littering (they also coined the term “litterbug”). Although they certainly would not have liked Don’s littering, they may have enlisted the help of Sterling Cooper. These guys loved advertising and had some of the most famous PSAs of all time. Like this one:



Image credit: http://www.keepvirginiabeautiful.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/litterbug.jpg

Or this really famous one: http://www.youtube.com/embed/m4ozVMxzNAA.

It is thanks to the efforts of the First Lady that the idea of littering is so foreign today. Honestly, there just was not a concept of environment back then. People were stuck in their little 1950s bubble of naivety and, like Don, did not take a lot of time to contemplate the consequences of their actions.

Links referenced: http://www.kab.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kab_history


http://www.pbs.org/ladybird/shattereddreams/shattereddreams_report.html

3.21.2011

Suburban Housewives

In Mad Men’s first season there is no doubt that Betty Draper is one of the main characters; however her daily life is mostly left up to the viewer's imagination. Besides the moments when something important to the plot is happening at the Drapers' house, Betty’s role as a ‘housewife’ is seldom shown. While the plot of the first season does not focus solely on Betty’s activities as a housewife, the viewer becomes keenly aware of her function through subtle cues. For example Betty is always dressed impeccably and keeps a good face no matter how bad the situation is; food is always ready for Don when he gets home, and in another 1960’s stereotype Betty drinks heavily. There are several poignant moments throughout the season where I found it interesting to contrast Mad Men’s perception of housewives in the 60’s to the perception of housewives today.



Image credit: http://www.vintagelingerieblog.com/vintage-lingerie/how-does-betty-drapers-dress-flare-out

In one of the greatest examples of Mad Men's dry, subtle humor, Betty and her fellow housewives grill Helen Bishop on why she would walk aimlessly around the neighborhood. Helen responds that she does it because it clears the mind and its good exercise - which leaves the housewives stunned. The interaction is one of many which demonstrates that the perception of women in the 60’s, even of themselves, was that their place was in the home; Betty is never shown shopping (besides for groceries), eating lunch or being out of the house with any of her friends. In today’s culture, housewives are perceived as being constantly out of the household. In fact one of the main stereotypes of an affluent housewife today is the exact opposite - that she is rarely actually at the house. Perfect housewives are more often showcased in pop culture as constantly ‘doing lunch,' shopping and gossiping with their fellow housewives. As the perception of a woman’s place has changed, one of the only factors that has remained consistent in pop culture is a housewife’s love of gossip. Betty and her female neighbors take pleasure in constantly gossiping about Helen Bishop and tearing her down. The central plotlines of many shows, like Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise and sitcoms such as Desperate Housewives and the 80’s Dynasty, revolve around gossiping housewives.



Image credit: http://missericasblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-recent-guilty-pleasure.html

As I was watching the portrayal of Betty throughout the entire season and the portrayal of suburban life in general in the 1960’s, there was one massive difference to today’s culture that stood out to me. In today’s suburbia, the “American Dream” is no longer to have a white picket fence in a perfectly manicured lawn, with an apple pie in the window of a Colonial style house with central hallway and four bedrooms. The “Dream” has completely shifted to one that has created the material culture today. It is perceived today that the ideal of every housewife is to own an SUV which you can park outside your McMansion and occasionally drive to the necessary Botox or ‘glass of wine’ sessions with your girlfriends - all while the nanny’s watch your kids of course. Upon my realization that the perception and culture of Housewives has changed so drastically, all I could do was ask myself: Why?

And then I suddenly understood it all. In The Feminine Mystique the author Betty Friedan describes what she calls “the problem with no name." Basically, Friedan suggests that housewives in the 1960’s had a lingering dissatisfaction with their lives as creatures of the home, and they constantly wondered if it was all their was to life. Many believe that the problem has gone away become of changing gender roles and equality in the workplace. The rise of women leaders and business people however has not stopped the existence of housewives. Today’s housewives bury their ‘problem with no name’ under piles of credit card bills, tummy tucks and the word ‘cougar’- but it still exists; the same problem forces them to pressure their husbands into having American Express Black Cards and 10,000 square foot homes. So basically if you’re still looking for someone to blame that pesky little recession on don’t take it out on Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, blame it on Claire Wellington from down the street.

3.09.2011

In August of 2007 Anna McCarthy wrote a piece for The Nation titled, “Mad Men’s Retro Charm.” The author aptly describes Mad Men as the combination of a soap opera and a history lesson but does not seem to really grasp the content of the show as she delves deeper. McCarthy puzzles over the portrayal of smoking and drinking. The assertion that she makes regarding the prominence of smoking and drinking (especially among pregnant women) is that the show is about a time when “fatal, dirty habits were considered fun.” However, the characters clearly know little about the long-term health risks of smoking and drinking, and the author’s interpretation seems to be based more on her own knowledge of the substances than anything from the show.

McCarthy briefly seems to understand the show when she discusses “conformist WASP culture,” anti-Semitism, and a lack of racially diverse main characters. She posits that the representation of these issues may shed more light on the perspectives of contemporary writers than it does on the state of the advertising world in the 1960s.

Immediately after this moment of insight however, the author asserts that the part of the show that is the most telling about its “relationship to the era it claims to document is the animation accompanying the opening credits.” McCarthy concludes that this depiction of businessmen falling past the skyscrapers of Manhattan hints at a nostalgia for a time when American consumer culture was an icon of greatness and not resented by the world as a symbol of American egoism and ignorance. She unnecessarily politicizes the show by mentioning connections to propaganda in the “war on terror.” Ignoring the actual substance of the show in favor of an analysis of the opening sequence is the greatest mistake that the author makes. If not for this complete disregard for the show’s content, the reader might be able to forgive her for her mistake in repeatedly referring to one of the shows most polarizing and well-known characters, Betty Draper, as “Betsy.”

The author ultimately gets turned around and around when trying to analyze a modern show about the past. It is her modern interpretation of the show that reveals truths about the present, not necessarily the show itself.

3.07.2011

George Lewis Hates Mad Men

In an interview on the website Big Think George Louis, a famous ad man of the 60s recalls his early years from his graduation from the High School of Music and Arts, his time at Pratt University, where he met his future wife on his first day. Although he disliked his time at Pratt, he stayed to be with his future wife. He was told by one of his teachers that he didn’t need anymore schooling and was given the name of a woman who would give him his first job. After being drafted during the Korean War he joined CBS only to leave some time later. He went on to work at many unsuccessful advertising jobs before working with advertising greats such as Doyle Dane Bernbach and Bill Bernbach. He then left Doyle Dane Bernbach to start the second creative advertising agency.



The interview proceeds with the question of how accurate Mad Men is to the atmosphere in the 60s. Louis talks about a call he received from one of the producers of Mad Men who called him because his named had come up many times while they were interviewing the original mad men of the 60s. Louis, angered by the producers lack of knowledge of him or what he had done in the 60s tells him to look for his book Be Careful George which illustrates his growing up in New York to his founding of the second creative agency. Louis is later called back by the producer who, after reading the book, is astonished about all it contains saying “Oh, Jesus, wow, we could have done the show on that!"
 
In the interview George Louis gives a good summary of his early life as a budding designer and ad man in New York. Although the article gives a first hand account of the 60s from one of the founders of New York creative agencies, his hate for the show Mad Men seems more placed on the fact that he was offended the producers did not know who he was or come to him first. Whether or not the show is an accurate portrayal of the advertising firms of the 60s, it is a drama, not a History Channel documentary. At the end of the day, accurate or not, the show does what it’s meant to do, entertain.

3.04.2011



Although you cannot read this tourism advertisement, the images are quite clear. In the first picture, under the title "the La Costa Idea...," there is a woman laying out in the sun with a palm tree in the background. The picture to its right is a man with a fish, most likely caught by him, that is twice the man's size. Underneath him is a woman in the middle of playing tennis. To the left of her is a man possibly surfing. On the next page there are two people riding horses; it seems as if one is a man and one is a woman. Underneath is a couple going sailing. Below that are a group of men golfing, and finally, there is a picture of a specific hotel or cabin that this advertisement is sponsoring. 
       
This advertisement is quite straightforward. Although it is not an advertisement for California in a general manner, it is still a representation of the way it is portrayed. For example, the first image that is viewed on this ad is the woman laying down in a bikini, in the sun, and with a palm tree behind her. It is interesting because it seems as if it is trying to make California seem like a getaway. There are many places to go on vacation, but California is one of the only places where people go to sit in the sun and, as some would say, "chill." Not only that, but they put the woman at the threshold of the image and the palm tree and any form of land in the background to show that, when in California, one's surroundings do no matter, nothing matters. It is a carefree place. In all the other pictures, there is a similar idea shown. For example, the fish that the man obviously caught would rarely ever be caught by any fisherman, but it is trying to send the overpowering and always sought out idea of freedom and endless possibilities. Although there are images of people alone and relaxed, there are very few images of couples together; this idea can be tied back to Don Draper because whenever he goes to California he is not with his wife. Although he is with Anna Draper a lot of the time in future episodes, it is generally a place of escape for him. For example, when he goes to California with Peter Campbell, he ends up leaving him and going to stay with an unknown and "sketchy" family for a while. This California venture is a symbol of the way that all characters in the film and actual people in the time generalized it as; many characters talk about California like it is a different country to vacate to, and that's what people made of it. 

Links referenced: "Vintage Travel and Tourism Ads of the 1960s (Page 26)." Vintage Ad Browser. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.

3.03.2011

Don and Betty Are Mirror Images

From watching the first season of Mad Men, some people refer to Betty as the demon while others describe Don as pathetic. Many people argue and might consider one character to be better than the other. Though both of these may stand to be true, in my opinion, I see these characters to be similar to one another, and one character cannot survive without the other. We can see that there are many problems in their marriage, and I can only say that both are responsible for the demise of their marriage. They are both emotionless and are unavailable to their children. They seem to use their children as an excuse to maintain their marriage and relationship. I think Don wouldn’t be the man of who he is without Betty, and Betty wouldn’t be the character she is without Don.

Don without Betty is pathetic. Though in front of everyone at Sterling Cooper, Don seems to gain a lot of respect and is offered money and promotions from here and there. However, he is not different from any other man. He simply goes after other women and is called pathetic behind his back. When his relationship with Midge fails, he goes after Rachael Menken and builds another similar relationship. Don gets the respect he does in his office because of Betty’s physical appearance. Without her beauty, Don wouldn’t be able to save his reputation. Not only that, but he wouldn’t be able to escape from his past without Betty.

Betty without Don is simply a normal housewife. Without Don, Betty is no different from Francine. Although she was a model before, she is no longer the same young lady that can defeat the models of the younger generation. Don is the one who’s supporting the family, and without his support, Betty wouldn’t be living in such a stable condition as she is now. She also wouldn’t be viewed as the pretty and elegant character without her husband’s title of a creative director of Sterling Cooper.

3.02.2011

The Roots of Counterculture: The Beat Movement in Mad Men

“Nobody knows whether we were catalysts or invented something, or just the froth riding on a wave of its own. We were all three, I suppose.”
-Allen Ginsberg




Image credit: http://vintagescientist.blogspot.com/2010/03/mad-men-beatnik-style.html

The “Beat Generation” was a term first coined by Jack Kerouac in On the Road in the late 1940’s to describe the ever-disillusioned youth who had been worn down by the confines of society. Along with Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gary Snyder started the Beat literary movement that would later turn into a large anti-conformist undercurrent of American culture in the 50’s. With a longing for freedom and self-expression, they were adamantly opposed to the increasing emphasis on consumerism as well as society’s mainstream, one-way conveyor belt.



As this movement grew, New York’s Greenwich Village and San Francisco became the epicenters of beatnik culture. These groups advocated for self-isolation from society and soon became associated with breaking social norms, like experimentation with music, drugs and sex. This underground culture, which was meant to serve as a critique of the stereotypical American Dream, quickly became a counterbalance to suburban life.

The character of Midge is exemplary of the beatnik ideal. Independent-spirited and unattached, she exists in stark opposition to Betty, whose perfect housewife veneer is indicative of the idyllic 50’s “white picket fence” image encouraged by society. The smoke-filled scenes in underground coffee shops and in Midge’s bohemian studio apartment serve to contrast Don’s seemingly structured and picture-perfect life as well as to highlight his isolation even within this alienated and self-segregated subset of society. In addition to this, the Beat Movement’s appearance, although brief, shows the building pressure and beginning stages of counter-culture movements in 1960’s society. As Bob Dylan so famously sung to epitomize the zeitgeist of the decade – “The times they are a changin’.”

Links referenced: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/57467/Beat-movement and
http://home.clara.net/heureka/art/beat-generation.htm

3.01.2011

After re-watching Mad Men’s first season (and almost all of the other seasons), I have come to a conclusion: I have a severe disdain for Betty Draper. From her cold, distant gaze to her ridiculously childish personality, Betty is by far one of my most hated characters on the show, which actually says a lot because I think that Glenn Bishop is the strangest, creepiest character ever. Ken Levine’s blog, “… by Ken Levine,” gave her a perfect name - “the Wicked Witch of Westchester County” - and I cannot agree more.

I started out the series feeling bad for Betty, sympathizing with her because of Don’s womanizing habits. I felt terrible that she would be waiting for him to come home at night, alone with the children not knowing that Don wasn’t actually at the office but off in some Manhattan apartment doing inappropriate things with inappropriate people. My heart would hurt as I watched her sit around her kitchen, lighting a cigarette all made up in a fantastic dress with nowhere to go. But as the series progressed, my sympathy for her declined, and quickly. The audience began to see how she treated her children (“Go bang your head against the wall” from season three’s “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency”), how she allowed herself to be treated by Don, and her clueless actions (giving Glenn Bishop a lock of her hair). While it could be argued (and rightfully so) that Betty is this way because her mother was mean and judgmental towards her, Don cheated on her all of the time, and she was so depressed with her life, my problem with Betty is that it takes her so long to actually do something about her situation. Up until season three, Betty rarely stood up for herself, like she had no backbone. And by the time Betty actually did leave Don (after she took him back), my opinion of her was already formed and solidified. Also, when she left Don, she didn’t change. I was hoping for some sort of transformation from stone cold housewife to happy, loving, strong mother and woman that would have perhaps allowed myself to hate her a little less. Unfortunately, that moment never really came. As of the conclusion of season four, she is still and terrible mother and seems unsatisfied with her life. She still relies on her husband for everything, especially reassurance that she has a purpose in the world. Forbidding the creepy Glenn Bishop to see Sally just reinforced her childish nature and she rarely leaves her house, still. Hopefully season five will bring a new Betty Francis, but I am not getting my hopes up.

2.28.2011

What' On Your Playlist, Don Draper?



After a long and hard day at work, Don Draper needs to relax. He boards his train on the way home and finds an open seat. What is the best way to quickly relieve stress? Listening to music! Draper reaches into his pocket and pulls out his shiny brand new iPod, nestles his headphones in his ears, closes his eyes, and hits play. What is he listening to?

Although this scenario would never actually occur in Mad Men, we can now know what Don Draper and the other characters of the show would be listening to on their iPods if they were around today. The creators and producers of the show have teamed up with iTunes to provide a mini playlist for some of the major characters. Each playlist includes five songs that the characters would have been listening to. Let’s take a look at Don’s playlist, along with an excerpt from each song that connects to his character:

1. "Misery," Barrett Strong

My eyes swell up, it’s such a shame
I lost my girl and I’m the one to blame


If the finale of Season 1 were to last a couple minutes longer, I could just imagine Don getting up off the stairs and throwing some Barrett Strong in the record player. He is upset that Betty and the kids are gone, and he realizes that he deserves the blame for not being a good family man.

2. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," The Platters

They said someday you'll find
All who love are blind
Oh, when your heart's on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes


The title of the very first episode of Mad Men shares its name with this song. While the song’s overt meaning is about love, perhaps the creators of the show chose it based on a secondary interpretation. When watching a new show for the first time, it is natural to “fall in love” with the protagonist. At first, Don appears to be a model businessman. This song could serve as a reminder that your first impression of someone could be distorted.

3. "Late Freight," Dave Hamilton

This song doesn’t have any lyrics, but the tone of the bells matches Don’s personality perfectly. Just listening to it makes you think of a mysterious man, well-dressed in a suit and matching hat.

4. "The Big Wheel," Howard Crockett

You were born a poor man then you got to be a rich man then you wound up a poor
man again
Now they’re rollin’ you back across that track big wheel
The lights are gonna shine across that track tonight


This song seems to tie into the scene where Don sits by the railroad track watching the trains go by. The first line outlines his life; he becomes a rich man only to realize he doesn’t really have much in terms of happiness. The track could be a metaphor for the divide between rich and poor. The lights are always shining across the track – in other words, people assume being prosperous and having a family is all you can ask for, but when you get there you realize “this is it.”

5. "More," Kai Winding & Claus Ogerman

Here is another song with no lyrics, but it still says something about Don. The tune is a sad one, and we can gather some meaning from the title. The previous song communicated Don’s discontent with his current place in life. He is searching for something more. We don’t really know what it is that he wants, and I don’t think he knows either. All he knows is that there has to be something more to life than this.

Analyzing the songs chosen for Don’s playlist shows that the creators put some thought into their selections. They did a good job coming up with songs that portray his character through music.

To view the Mad Men playlists on iTunes, click here: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewRoom?fcId=337755403&id=14344

2.27.2011

Don Draper Lives



Image credit: http://www.someecards.com/confession-cards/im-like-don-draper-on-mad-men

It is almost impossible to avoid our most endeared and abhorred cultural icons on the internet. Facebook, Twitters, blogs, articles, and fan generated websites create alternate realities where characters live and act in the everyday. Idolization and adoration are no longer limited to the 40 minutes in which a television show is aired; now it exists via mere google search. Don Draper epitomizes this expansion of character, with his life, style, sayings, charisma, sex appeal and emotional distress reaching not only a cult like adoration but also are qualities to be emulated by any man looking to attain his suave. Through a constant stream of social media, parody YouTube Videos, and newspaper articles, Don Draper is just as alive as any real influential celebrity for his persona is even more accessible and relatable.

Wait, What?



Askmen.com honored Don Draper as the most influential man of 2009 noting that even though he is a fictional character, his “male identity…is enduringly captivating.” They assert that while he is valued for being “values driven and thoroughly masculine” but his “human flaws” allow his character to seem relatable and relevant in the modern world. On the internet Don exercises his ability to reflect old school and the modern world. He exists through his fictional 1960s world through 2010 tweets directed at Connie Hilton and other characters. His old school style influences how the modern man hair styles his hair and how the modern worker bee presents themselves through Draper inspired career tips such as “Play your position” and “Keep your mouth shut.” Don has also managed to pitch ‘pick up’ tactics, so that all men may revel in while attempting to attain his unattainable charm on Saturday Night Live. He is not limited to joyful parody; in fact, there is a tumblr solely devoted to “Sad Don Draper” with photographs even Don couldn’t create a sufficient tagline for. Take this gem…



Image credit: http://saddondraper.tumblr.com/

Don is truly a Renaissance man, with his hand in every media, projecting his image like the advertising agent he is, or at least is on the show. All this Don Draper mania, attention and idolization makes me wonder what the actual character, the real Don Draper would make of it, seeing as he did not even enjoy talking to the newspaper reporter at the start of season 4 in “Public Relations." Then again, the “What Would Don Draper Do?” (WWDDD?) tumblr provides some insight:

91. Dear Don Draper, Do you have any views on men using Facebook?

Yes, the same ones I have of men wearing brassieres.

2.25.2011

Betty Draper: Why Doesn't She Leave Don Sooner?

This question has been circling around discussion for quite some time now. All of the lonely nights when Don should’ve come home and eaten dinner with his family, he instead was having multiple affairs. He was never working late at the office, like he so often told his wife. The funny thing is, Betty knew what Don was truly doing the whole time. As viewers, we would see the looks that Betty gave Don when he would come in late hours of the night, but Don didn’t see them.  Betty is keeping all of her frustration towards Don’s unfaithfulness bottled up inside and it is driving her mad.

Why does she do this? She does it for two reasons. One reason is because of her children. She and Don have two children together who are too young to grasp the concept of why their parents don’t live together anymore. She needs to stay with Don for their children’s sake, and she doesn’t want to mess up their “perfect little lives” which is living the American dream - husband, wife, children, dog and a beautiful house. She also stays with Don because she doesn’t want to be judged by her friends.

Betty is looked at as the ideal wife in her circle of friends. She cooks, cleans, and takes care of the kids while her husband is off working and making all of the money. To them, Betty has no real issues because Betty never discusses her real problems with them. Her friends come to her with their problems because they know that she has all of the answers and can help, but Betty doesn’t practice what she preaches. She goes to see her psychiatrist, and at the end of season 1, she finally tells her shrink that she knows Don is cheating. For her, she must keep this image of the “perfect woman” but deep down she has many insecurities and issues. Don never puts his family first, but she continuously supports Don and “fakes the funk," meaning, she plays dumb but really knows the truth. How long will she keep this up? What will cause her to actually leave Don and move on? Something’s got to give and her leaving before Don got home in the last episode of Season 1 may be an indication of her making a step in the right direction.

2.24.2011

The traditional idea of success and happiness was rooted in to the conservative ideal of the American family structure of the “Breadwinning father, stay-at-home mother and children.” By the 1960s, this was beginning to change. An article written by Anne McLeer about two pop culture 1960s movies The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins discusses how these films attempt to restore these conservative ideals. Both films reinforce the conservative American family structure through the nanny figure. The nanny represents one side of the contemporary facet of women hood, while the counterpart relies on traditional ideals by searching for a husband. The nannies in these films bring balance into their households and remind women that their most satisfying role is in their homes.



Image Credit: http://www.broadwaymusicalnut.com/marypoppinsbroadway.php

In AMC’s Mad Men, Peggy is analogous to this nanny figure because it is her duty as Don Draper’s secretary to maintain order in his life. In the second episode of the first season, Peggy is forced to entertain Don’s wife Betty and their children while reassuring them that Don will return shortly for the family portrait. It’s Peggy’s job to instill balance in the Draper household while her independent role reminds Betty the importance of being married to a man with status like Don. Ultimately, Peggy serves as a “mentor” to Betty and reminds her of the “purity and simplicity of womanhood.”



Image credit: http://www.iadorestyle.com/2009/10/recreate-don-betty-draper%E2%80%99s-50s-mad-men-kitchen/

Both films also bring to light the role of the father in the household. The paternal characters are seen as the disciplinarians before the nannies arrive. In Mary Poppins, George Banks believes he has everything under control in his personal and professional life, despite his rocky relationship with his wife. His patriarchal role is atrophied by his spouse’s feminism and his children’s rejection of disciplinary values. Similar to George’s situation, Don falsely believes he has everything under control in his household. Betty struggles with her anxiety attacks and can hardly care for her two children. Betty capriciously acts out in an attempt to lure her husband back into her life. She tells her therapist that she knows her husband is cheating on her in order to get Don’s attention. Betty acts like a child in order to get any type of attention from her husband.



Image credit: http://www.fromscripttodvd.com/mary_poppins_dvd_review.htm



Image credit: http://www.alarmingnews.com/archives/2008_09.html

By 1960, it was a widely circulated belief that a man’s position in his household as the main provider was being eroded by women’s employment. Fathers in pop culture also tried to reestablish their role in their houses that the male is the provider and tried to ensure their children emotional security. An example of this is when Don wakes his young son Bobby up at the middle of the night and tells Bobby that he can always know that he is being truthful to him.

Even though conservative perspective dominated the films' messages, both movies portray Mary Poppins and Maria from The Sound of Music as liberated because both are opinionated, independent and are willing to defend their values, even if it means defying their male employer. Peggy is similar to these women because while she does not defy Don, she decries the social order of the era by working and living autonomously in the city. Peggy works for herself and soon attains a prestigious job as the first female copy right for Sterling Cooper.



Image credit: http://madmen.wikia.com/wiki/Top_10_list:Why_We_Love_Peggy_Olson

The purpose of these films was to address the rapidly changing gender roles of the 1960s and the changes the male centric attempts to make in an effort to reassert his traditional role in the family.

Sources referenced: McLeer, Anne. "Practical Perfection? The Nanny Negotiates Gender, Class, and Family Contradictions in 1960s Popular Culture." NWSA Journal 14.3 (2002): 80-101.

2.22.2011

On the Psychology of Madison Avenue

In Adam Curtis’s “EXPERIMENTS IN THE LABORATORY OF CONSUMERISM 1959-67”, we are given a brief account of the two warring camps on Madison Avenue and the individuals pivotal to this era in mass market consumerism. Particularly, we are given some of the major figureheads which some Mad Men characters are based on. For instance, one warring camp called the “USP” or “unique selling point” had the perspective that an advertisement should have one particular trait that “penetrated” the masses and created a sense of brand loyalty. By doing so, this product would, according to this philosophy, stand out the most. This was an idea enumerated by Rosser Reever who coined the term “It’s toasted” for Lucky Strike and serves as inspiration for Donald Draper. On the other hand, there is an account of the “Motivational Research” which was rooted in psychology. One such example was the “empathy” technique which elicited feelings of connection with the consumer and the product. This field was particularly influenced by the post Viennese generation of Freudians who came to the USA. One, Dr. Herzog, stands as the most important, and she was later parodied by the doctor in the first episode. Then there comes the inspiration for Peggy Olsen which was based off a girl a young and rising copy writer who wrote numerous ads for women’s products. Finally there is a brief discussion of Bill Bernach and his brand of “anti-advertising” which was a satire of the consumerism at the time and strove to link public mistrust with advertisements. For example, the “lemon” Volkswagen Beetle that Don does not like uses this technique. It employs the distaste of a used car and reverses the expectations of the consumer as it captures their attention.



I knew of Curtis’s research on consumerism after I watched his documentary called A Century of the Self which outlined the various psychological theories in the advertising world after Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, started to work and incorporate his Uncle’s ideas of the unconscious and animalistic drives into mass media. Though the article contains a wealth of information and useful images of products to further explicate the point of this past history, it does sometime lose its focus within the thesis on the Madison Avenue individuals. Throughout the article, one notices that the author sometimes loses his focus as he tries to bring in more and more people to talk about. One notices that there are references to modern TV shows and other advertisement agencies which have no correlation to Madison Avenue. For some reason, the author chose to even reference an actor who plays a role in the TV vampire drama, Buffy the Vampire Slayer because he uses the phrase “ka-ching” in a television ad. In this case, it is evident that Curtis brings superfluous evidence to this article.

Still, the article is strong as it stands as a useful foundation for new viewers of this show. One is able to understand and appreciate the parallels that Matthew Wiener incorporated within this drama. Moreover, understanding the subtle psychological and selling techniques that maybe lost to a new viewer provides for a deeper and richer experience.

Sources referenced: "EXPERIMENTS IN THE LABORATORY OF CONSUMERISM 1959-67." Web log post. The Medium and the Message. Ed. Adam Curtis. BBC, 20 Aug. 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2011.

2.21.2011

Mother of the Year?



http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/07/mad_mens_betty_drapers_guide_t.html

We all know Betty Draper is not the ideal mother. Danny Miller’s article "June Cleaver vs. Betty Draper," triggered by the death of actress Barbra Billingsley who played famous TV mother June Cleaver, points this out by analyzing the similarities and differences between Betty Draper and June Cleaver. This article discusses June Cleaver and her image as the ideal 1960’s mother juxtaposed with Betty Draper who, as Miller describes, is a representation of mothers of the 1960’s through a “savagely realistic lens.” Although the two TV mothers may appear physically similar, there are many differences between the personalities of the two women. Miller points out that although June seems like the typical submissive wife she is no pushover. This conviction is exactly what is missing from Betty that makes her such a weak character. Although Miller accepts the fact that Betty Draper is not a good mother to her children, he also explains why he can’t help but sympathize with Betty. He describes Betty as a “tragic figure” who is “trapped in life circumstances.” The article then goes on to discuss the actress who played June Cleaver and how she was just as graceful as her character. Finally the article concludes by saying that Betty Draper would greatly benefit from the opportunity to meet with June Cleaver.



Image credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danny-miller/june-cleaver-vs-betty-dra_b_767067.html

I also find myself feeling bad for Betty Draper and cannot bring myself to completely hate her. Although I have only seen the first season and know that I will be seeing many worse actions from Betty in the future that may sway my opinion, I do not blame her completely for her actions. It is difficult to imagine a life in which we feel we are stuck with absolutely no way out. Although Betty may seem to be a very dramatic representation of the 1960’s mother, her situation was much more common than most people would like to believe. One thing Miller’s article references, that many people seem to forget, is that Don is no perfect father either. We do not criticize Don’s interactions with his kids because we rarely get to see him actually spending time with them. At least Betty occasionally makes an effort to know her children. Although Don often calls Betty childish, Don could be seen as just another child to Betty. She is responsible for cooking for Don and doing his laundry, just as she does for Sally and Bobby, and receives very little parenting help from him in return. It would be very difficult to argue that Betty is even relatively good at being a mother, but it is only fair to understand the background behind her character before judging her for her shortcomings.

Source Referenced:
Miller, Danny. "June Cleaver vs. Betty Draper." The Huffington Post. 18 Oct. 2010. Web.

2.19.2011

A Guide To Drinking at Sterling Cooper

In an early episode of AMC’s Mad Men Sal Romano asks Don Draper an important question that establishes a doctrine that rings true throughout the series. Before a morning meeting with a prospective client Sal asks, “Should drink before the meeting or after?” The correct answer obviously being both. The level of drinking that regularly occurs in the offices of Sterling Cooper is usually reserved for early 20th century dockworkers. This begs the question, what are they drinking? Robert Simonson, of The New York Times, wrote an article discussing this very topic on August 11th, 2009. He interviewed both creative staff from the show and bartenders and ad men of the 1960’s.

Obviously, like actual people, each character has different tastes and drinks varying spirits. For example, as Joan informs Peggy when she first comes to work at Sterling Cooper, “Mr. Draper likes rye.” Close observers can note that Don’s brand of choice is Canadian Club. In the article, David Wondrich, cocktail historian, describes both the drink and brand as a very accurate choice for a man like Draper. Wondrich explains the historical accuracy saying, “We’d had years of destruction of the American whiskey industry up until then. So the Canadian stuff was viewed as being pretty good.” While scotch was probably the most popular whiskey of the time, Don is drinking rye. Rye, like the character of Don Draper, is of the same general group as the average or common but is just a little different.



Image credit: http://www.movieline.com/2010/10/movieline-presents-the-mad-men-season-finale-drinking-game.php

Another top drinker on Mad Men is without question Roger Sterling, a man who lives every day like he is still in the Navy and on perpetual shore-leave. Sterling’s drink of choice is proven to be vodka, usually in the form of a martini. In Simonson’s article, he interviews Brian Rea, who was a bartender in the 1950’s at a popular Midtown restaurant. Mr. Rea comments on Roger Sterling’s martini habit saying, “Martinis were the big thing in those days. Vodka was just beginning to come on strong.” While in season’s 1 and 2 he is seen drinking Smirnoff, in season 3 he acquires some of the much coveted and exceedingly rare, Soviet vodka, Stolichnaya. Vodka is an appropriate selection for Roger because vodka in the 1960’s was new and trendy. Traditional martinis were made with gin, so to drink one made with vodka was hip. This is fitting for Roger’s character because he is an older man who spends the lion’s share of his time around younger men, trying to keep up. By drinking vodka he is showing younger men, like Don that he is not, in anyway, an old traditionalist.



Image credit: http://byronic.tumblr.com/post/232960930/s01-e07-mad-men-roger-sterling-yes-im

Finally, unlike the population of Sterling Cooper’s offices, Betty Draper is not usually seen drinking heavily throughout the day; however she is seen drinking a variety of interesting, bygone cocktails. Aside from wine and champagne, Betty will frequently order a Tom Collins or a vodka gimlet. Both Mr. Rea and Mr. Wondrich agree these beverage choices are “spot on.” Like many things in Betty’s life she likely chooses these drinks because they are the drinks she is supposed to like. They are, like her, decadent and trendy.



Image credit: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2010/08/03/american-drinking-at-25-year-high-gallup/

Judging by the regularity with which character’s on Mad Men consume alcohol, it seems important, or at least relevant, to examine what they are drinking, whether it is historically accurate, and why their character might choose such a drink.

Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/12/dining/12don.html

2.18.2011

While Mad Men captivates intellectuals, historians, and UW 20 students, it surprisingly attracts a number of high-end fashion designers with its array of fabulous costumes. In his article “A Style – Setting Show” from The Wall Street Journal, Ray Smith discusses the large number of fashion designers who diligently watch Mad Men for creative ideas for their fashion lines. They often watch the show twice; once for the fashion, and once for the plot.

The women of Mad Men have two distinct styles. The career women tend to wear tight pencil skirts, fitted sweaters, and sheath dresses, which more than likely are worn to attract attention from the men in the office. The suburban housewives wear motherly pouf – style dresses in public. The men wore slim suits, slim – fitting white shirts, skinny ties, and pocket squares.



Image credits: Dolce & Gabbana Fall '08 from Style.com



Image credit: http://bbright.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

Both Mr. Som and Michael Kors have based runway collection on Mad Men. Michael Kors said, “The wardrobes are exquisite and the attention to detail is beyond forensic.” It is surprising how the style of the 1960’s is coming back into fashion. The love of Mad Men fashion has trickled down from high - end fashion lines to stores where the average American would shop. Banana Republic had Mad Men themed displays for its stores and even offered a lucky fan a walk on role on the show. Mad Men has revolutionized how we look at 60’s fashion. It has brought the look of the 60s back to the forefront of fashion. There is evidence of 60’s fashion everywhere you look. In magazines, runway shows, and billboards. Tory Burch and her design team have utilized Mad Men for inspiration for her highly popular silk tunics, dresses, and other products. It was a huge surprise to Mad Men’s costume designer, Ms. Bryant that the show’s fashion would take off like it has. I may just go out and buy myself some Mad Men inspired clothes.

Citation: Smith, Ray A. "A Style-Setting Show." The Wall Street Journal. 7 Aug. 2009. Web. 13 Feb. 2011.

2.17.2011

Don Draper: A Randian Hero?

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” - Ayn Rand 

The simplest summarization of the philosophy of Objectivism could strike someone as the implicit ideology of Don Draper.  The ethics of a rational man, according to Ayn Rand, author of the acclaimed novel Atlas Shrugged, determine the course of his life, through reasoning and his own objective observation and rejecting the notions of altruism and self-sacrifice.  Furthermore, happiness is only achievable to a rational man acting in accordance with these principles.  

Bert Cooper first makes reference to the similarities between Don Draper and Ayn Rand’s idealized rational man in the episode “The Hobo Code.”  “You are a productive and reasonable man, and in the end, completely self interested." But Don’s egoism is first presented to the audience in episode one, “Smoke Gets in your Eyes.”  By definition, the affair with Midge, once revealed as extramarital by the end of the episode, is an act of carnal and psychological selfishness.  Rand would argue that such an affair, if in accordance with one’s own morality, is a rational act, in addition to being an expression of positive self-esteem.  Once his life story is gradually revealed, Don’s rational egoism is further affirmed by his creating a new life for himself for his own selfish purpose.  He did so not at the expense of the real Don and Anna Draper, but as he eventually explains, he had to remove himself from his traumatic past, and he had to get out of Korea.  The only way to do so was to leave Dick Whitman behind.  

Don particularly resembles one character from Atlas Shrugged, Hank Rearden, an ambitious steel executive whose business is derailed by excessive government regulation.  Both men play the part of a solid provider, even when they receive little to no personal satisfaction from doing so.  Both men find the tenets of post-materialism to be illogical, such as when Don dismisses Midge’s friends’ criticism of his lifestyle in “The Hobo Code.”  Lastly, both men pursue intellectual and sexual relationships with independent businesswomen as a means of escaping the seemingly vacuous relationships they have with their wives.  It is because of these similarities that I believe the writers of Mad Men intended to have some basic axioms of Objectivism be prevalent in Don Draper’s life.  

In an attempt to avoid oversimplifying Don’s philosophical motivation, it should be fully recognized that he does not solely see through an Objectivist lens.  The whole notion of evading reality is asserted by his abandonment of his true identity.  Rand would argue that man should not act without knowing the purpose of his actions, which one could argue, that Don has never truly been cognizant of his immediate nor long-term future.  But there is something to be said for his individuality, his commitment to success, and his apparent rational egoism, even if it operates at the expense of Betty and his children.  Don is driven to make money for himself, not for others.  He strives to be the best ad man at Sterling Cooper, which makes his relationship with the aspiring Pete Campbell more contentious.  His mind operates within his definition of a sound business model, that which is the client is to adopt his idea. He uses his own objective, reasonable mind to govern his life and rarely accepts that which is fed to him by Roger, Betty, or Pete.  Rand writes in Atlas Shrugged that “Man's mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not” (1012).  There is no doubt that Don chose to live by this assertion when his life spun out of control; he chose to repair it through volition.  

2.15.2011

Dr. Wayne Has No Ethics



Image credit: http://blogs.amctv.com/mad-men/dr%20wayne%20mad%20men%20resized.jpg 

When I watch Mad Men I am constantly reminded of the stark contrast between the world we live in today and the world that existed in the 1960s. Although the stories of Don Draper and the Madison Avenue advertising agency are certainly fictional and highly exaggerated, there are aspects present in the show which constantly remind me how different modern day society is when compared to that of the 1960s. Some of the most obvious differences lie in the change of fashion over time and how much less people smoke and drink in social situations today. But something I noticed which truly shocked me was the lack of respect men had for women at the time. This lack of respect spread so deep that not only would women be treated as second class citizens but were not even granted their basic ethical rights when visiting a medical doctor! Mad Men portrays Betty’s psychiatrist Dr. Wayne as breaking his Hippocratic oath and disclosing Betty’s confidential medical information with her husband Don. Seeing this kind of complete disregard for Betty’s confidentiality – a basic ethical right which should be granted to all patients, truly enraged me as a viewer. 



Image credit: http://static.tvguide.com/MediaBin/Galleries/Shows/M_R/Ma_Mh/MadMen/season1/mad-men14.jpg

The concept of “doctor-patient confidentiality” derives from English Common Law – something conceptualized around the 12th or 13th century. Although it is technically based on ethics and not law, this concept can be traced as far back as the Roman Hippocratic Oath! What is even more interesting is that the Hippocratic Oath is still taken by all physicians out of medical school to this day. An important part of the oath is:

“Whatever in connection with my profession [as a doctor]...I will not divulge as reckoning that all such should be kept a secret...and that those things which are sacred, are to be imparted only to [other doctors]; it is not lawful to impart them to [non-doctors].”

After reviewing this Oath, I could not simply dismiss Dr. Wayne’s lack of ethics as a result of the fact that “things were different in the ‘60s”. I could not believe that the lack of respect for women had infiltrated so far into society that even doctors did not hold their confidential information as sacred. I figured that there had to be some law somewhere which made this violation in ethical behavior illegal. 



Image credit: http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/twn_up_fls/Senator-Ted-Kennedy.jpg

After some research, I was surprised to find out that there hadn’t been a law in the 1960s that made the doctor-patient relationship a legally binding concept. In fact, it wasn’t until 1996 that Senator Kennedy sponsored HIPAA in congress, which was a bill which basically said that unless a patient signed a waiver saying otherwise, a doctor couldn’t mention anything you say to a parent, friend or spouse unless it had to to with personal safety or someone else’s safety. Although the bill was passed in 1996, it took until April 14th 2003 for the “Privacy Rule” amendment to pass which said that “an individual who believes that the doctor-patient confidentiality rule is not being upheld, can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights”. 

It is certainly common knowledge that the doctor-patient relationship is central to the foundations of contemporary medical practice. Especially to a viewer who has grown up in the age of this rule being enforced, it is understandable that Dr. Wayne’s actions were disturbing to modern day viewers. But even though there was no law at the time which deemed Dr. Wayne and Don’s conversations illegal, they were still unethical, and I feel that Betty deserved better. Medicine is and has always been a sacred profession, and Dr. Wayne and Don’s lack of respect for Betty doesn’t only bring shame on the medical field but brings shame on the male gender as well. 

Election Returns: Nixon vs. Kennedy

"Nixon vs. Kennedy" is a unique episode in that throughout the episode the audience gets to re-live the Election Day coverage from the perspective of the characters. The episode is littered with instances where the audience gets to see authentic footage on the characters black and white televisions allowing to track the progress of the election returns. There are a number of clips from this episode relating to election controversies that are briefly mentioned that warrant more analysis.

22 to 1?
Perhaps the most shocking clip of authentic election coverage came at the beginning of the episode when the NBC broadcast boldly stated, “With early returns just coming in, our NBC computer is putting Senator Kennedy’s odds at a grim sounding 22 to 1.” This news-bite comes to the approval of all those working at Sterling Cooper who were Nixon supporters. The reason this clip is so alarming is because the audience knows that the polls leading up to Election Day were incredibly close and that the difference in the popular vote was only about .1%. It turns out that as soon as the same NBC computers predicted unfavorable results for the Nixon campaign their legitimacy was completely dismissed by the Nixon Campaign Manager Len Hall. He adamantly proclaimed, “We should put all those electronic computers in the junk pile.” While it is clear that computer predictions of election winners today is not as significantly flawed as they were in in 1960, they still can be somewhat unreliable today.

What is the Electoral College?

“I don’t think that's a conversation appropriate for children.” This is the response to Sally’s seemingly simple question, and Don's lack of an answer can be somewhat puzzling. It is a wonder why he simply didn’t remark somewhere along the lines that, “The people of the United States vote for the electors who then vote for the President." The audience can only speculate why he failed to explain this, but I was able to come up with three possible theories. It could have just been a way to cover up not knowing what it was. He may have not wanted to explain the concepts of electoral votes to his young daughter who may not have understood it anyway. A final possible theory of why it may not have been “appropriate” may have something to do with the uniqueness of the electoral college system. The United States functions on a two party system which makes it incredibly difficult for anybody but the Republican candidate (Nixon) or the Democratic Party (Kennedy) to win any electoral votes. 1960 was interesting in that an unpledged Democratic candidate, Harry Flood Byrd, wound up winning 15 electoral votes. One of Byrd’s most noteworthy political stances was his advocation of segregation in public schools which is a quality that perhaps may not be “appropriate” and could have possibly tarnished Sally’s innocence.

“I’ve read three different newspapers with three different results.”

The election in many cases was too close to when Nixon refused to concede and went to bed instead at around 4:00 A.M. This did not prevent the press from printing the election results anyway. One of the most interesting stories documented about a newspaper running the presses proclaiming a winner while the election was still close to call was The New York Times. As the night continued and the results were becoming closer, Times Managing Editor Turner Catledge admitted to becoming increasingly nervous that he would be embarrassed in a similar fashion The Chicago Tribune was embarrassed when they printed “Dewey Defeats Truman.”


Image credit: http://www.myptsmail.com/hotdog256/blog/?p=2272

Sources referenced:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A36425-2000Nov16?language=printer
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,826750,00.html
http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?f=0&year=1960

2.11.2011

Misinterpretation



A Clockwork Orange is one of the greatest novels of all time. It has been listed on countless top one hundred books lists and inspired a cult classic movie that launched the career of arguably the greatest director of all time. Yet its author has repeatedly made it clear that he wishes it had never been written. The book was a nuanced critique on crime fighting techniques and the modern perception of humanity. Yet to many it was merely scene as an inspirational depiction of violence and rape. Ultimately copy-cat crimes stolen from the novel’s pages were being committed across the world.

Despite any great work’s intent or quality, it will always be misinterpreted by many. In some cases, this misinterpretation can be detrimental to society. This problem of perception is all too relevant to Mad Men. Its nuanced feminist messages and critique of modern societal norms seem to be largely lost to the internet. Here most recaps seem to only view it as a show about sex, smoking, and drinking. While many of these views are tongue in cheek homages, a similar and less self aware perception is taking hold across America. As Mad Men seeps further into the American social consciousness, it seems to be turning into a parody of itself. Its condemnation of the 60s is somehow being turned into a nationwide adoration of it. The Mad Men Barbie Line curiously does not include a Peggy figure, the most admirable female figure on the show. Banana Republic’s Mad Men line seems to emphasize domestic Betty looks over the wardrobes of ambitious characters such as Rachel or Peggy. Even breast implant demand is increasing due to desire to look like Joan.

In fact, this growing base of misinformed viewers seems to be turning into the target demographic for AMC. This would explain it’s take over of the Playboy website to promote the Mad Men season premiere. It would also explain why Clorox would fish out this controversial sexist ad from its past for a Mad Men time spot. Unfortunately for Matthew Wiener’s vision for the show, feminist intellectuals aren’t the most profitable demographic. While Mad Men remains great, this quality is lost on many of its fans. If AMC continues to embrace these viewers it could be remembered as a fond remembrance of misogyny and overindulgence, the antithesis of its actual message. Mad Men may not bring about a string of musical rapists, but as bloggers cheer on a rape scene as “thrilling," one must wonder whether this is much better.

Additional Source: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/mad-men-i-love-you-but-your-fans-are-freaking-me-out

2.10.2011

In Danny Miller’s article “In Defense of Betty Draper,” he describes how hearing harsh criticism of Betty makes him defensive due to her parallels with his mother. He, and like many other viewers of Mad Men, see the Draper family’s struggles and hardships as memories from their childhood in the 1960s. Like Miller, my own mother and grandmother identify with the characters on the show: my mother with Sally and grandmother with Betty. In Betty, my grandma sees herself waiting up for her (now ex) husband to come home to Short Hills from his job at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Like Don and many other men of the time, my grandfather was unfaithful, and eventually my grandmother left him. My mom sees herself in Sally when she excitedly receives the horseback-riding boots from Betty as a present to distract her from her missing father in the season two episode “The Mountain King.” In Don’s confident work attitude they see my grandpa and his friends. They see the show and feel like they are watching home movies; everyone had a girl like Carla, all the housewives smoke, drank and gossiped, and many the men “worked” late.

The fact that so many people can relate this well to the show illustrates just how good of a job the writers are doing at depicting the time period. One episode that proves this point is season three’s “The Grown-Ups”. This episode depicts the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath. It shows the shock and sadness that swept through the country as Walter Cronkite reported the incident moments after it occurred, and it shows the devastation of the American people when Kennedy was officially pronounced dead.



Image credit: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2754/4071248743_fd83e1aa48.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1257251717247%22%20%5Ct%20%22_blank

One of the things that stands out most in my mother's mind is how Sally and Bobby were glued to the television, just as she and her younger sister Jane were at the time. The wedding of Margaret, Roger’s daughter, trying to continue on the day after the assassination despite more than half the guests missing depicts just how difficult a time it was for the nation. Even those in attendance at the wedding would slip away to catch the news updates. Not only were many guests not in attendance, but waiters also did not show up and guests had to help themselves to the food. The next morning when Lee Harvey Oswald is shot on live television we see the shock and outrage of the American people through the reactions of Betty and Pete. The episode continues to follow the characters through Monday November 25th, the day of JFK’s funeral. Peggy and Don are the only ones to come into the office: Peggy because she cannot bear the sadness from being around her roommate and family and Don because he cannot stay at home and all the bars are closed. The whole country stood in mourning that Monday, everyone in their own way, and Mad Men is able to capture that feeling and share it with its viewers.


Image credit: http://thisrecording.com/storage/IMG_2131.jpg?

2.09.2011

Adultry Is Everyone's Problem

The first time I watched Mad Men one of the main flaws I found in almost all of the adult characters was infidelity. No matter how much I wanted to relate to the cast, and to view Don Draper as my protagonist, this one major flaw slapped me in the face. From as long as I can remember adultery has been in the headlines. From my parents’ discussion of the Clinton scandal dominating the room, to last week my roommates' critical examination of the broken marriages of Tiger Woods, Sandra Bullock, and Jenifer Aniston (just to name a few). Adultery has never been spoken of as anything less than a sin growing up, and there is no reason why I or anyone else with my upbringing would consider it the same thing. Yet, if you turn on the television or surf the web you are guaranteed to find images of adultery are clear. The 1960s and last week are no different when it comes to the appropriateness or existence or adultery.

Mad Men does not shy away from showing their audience their leading men and women straying from or participating in the act of adultery. This is not shown because “sex sells” but because adultery was common place during this period, especially in the higher classes of American society. Don Draper and Roger Sterling are merely products of their time. Women were in on it too. In 1962, one of the bestselling women’s books was Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown, the editor and chief of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965-1997. Gurley Brown instructs young women how to work the system in which they were restrained by. She taught them many lessons that she learned during her 30+ years of being a single girl in the city from how to be financially sound and choose the best roommate, to how to chase a married man. This book was controversial at the time mainly because she voiced what was already being done behind closed doors. Joan Holloway is a great example of a woman who is sexually independent and allows men of every marital status to help her get the things she wants in life without toiling with the idea of marriage. Society is aware that adultery is a sin, and grounds for divorce even, but this does not hinder most people from straying. Gurley Brown in I’m Wild Again published in 1999 wrote a section about adultery. She asked one of the married men she had an affair with why he felt he “needed” to stray. The response was shocking; it was not selfish or deflecting the issue, he merely said “It just felt civilized."

I feel it is important for Mad Men’s audience to keep this in mind as they watch the series - to see it more as a cultural norm or rather something that was expected of them. People of that time married for different reasons, went to college for different reasons, and loved for different reasons. To compare them to today’s cultural standards is unfair and from my personal experience can build biases in your mind toward the show. Even though the reasons to turn to adultery may be different for today’s married couple, the rate of which marriages are ended due to marital infidelity seem to mirror the past. Today there are even dating websites devoted to adultery. These sites such as AshleyMadison.com, are providing an easier way for married people to stray. No longer are men confined to finding a woman on a train or taking off their wedding ring when entering a bar, but they are able to openly advertise for what exactly they are looking for. Are we today still as na├»ve about the severity and vastness of adultery as were the people of the 1960s? Or are we just as equally blinded by denial and refuse to consider that not everyone plays by the same rules taught to us? Or even that we ignore the rules when it comes to our own lives?

Sources referenced: Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America by Natasha Vargas-Cooper