Critiquing Mad Men

In recent article published in New York Review of Books titled “The Mad Men Account," Daniel Mendelsohn criticizes the amount of praise and accolades given to Mad Men when it is really just a glorified soap opera. He claims that the show has been viewed in too bright of a light and does not deserve to be compared to shows such as The Wire and The Sopranos, both on HBO.

Mendelsohn cites weak writing, a chaotic and oftentimes unbelievable plot, and what he calls a “glib” attitude towards 1960’s culture that positions current attitudes and culture far too superior to it. Instead of creating an in-depth look at the problems of the times, ranging from misogyny to racism, Mendelsohn claims that the writers of Mad Men instead present an unrealistic look into an imagined American society. Similar to Latoya Peterson’s argument in “Why Mad Men Is Afraid of Race," Mendelsohn says that instead of Mad Men briefly introducing a topic such a racism and then ignoring it, the writers of the show should expound more upon this aspect of society. He cleverly calls this the writers “advertising” an issues rather than dramatizing it. In addition to criticizing the work of the shows creators, he also writes that the acting is almost always bland and uncreative, with the actors more focused on playing stereotypes then real people.

Even after showing the flaws of the show, Mendelsohn says that he has watched every episode and will continue to watch. He says the reason for this, and what he assumes is the reason for many other children of the 1960’s, is that is offers them a chance to see the world that their parents would have lived in. They view the world in the ways that Sally Draper and Glenn Bishop would have witnessed it, and Mad Men offers a glimpse into what society could have been.

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