Typing at Sterling Cooper

The technology seen around the office in Mad Men is pretty basic compared to the appliances employees working at Sterling Cooper would encounter if they were working there today. That’s why it is so funny to the audience of Mad Men when Joan remarks that the typewriter looks intimidating and advanced. The typewriter; in reality, was a pretty simple device that helped drive offices like Sterling Cooper’s for a good part of the 20th century.

Christopher Sholes invented the modern typewriter in 1866. The modern typewriter was the first typewriter with a universal keyboard. Shortly after this invention hit the marker, one of Sholes associates changed the keyboard to the modern QWERTY design, which caused the keys to jam less. The typewriter was a tough gadget to market at first, for a wide variety of reasons: the unwillingness of businesses to move on from handwriting, the economic stagnation of the time and the price, which was around 100 dollars (http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/scitech/carbons/typewriters.html).  With a price like that, the typewriter was worth more than most modern computers, with prices adjusted for inflation. Typewriters were also tough to use, because if a typist made more than a few mistake they would have to trash their current document and start all over with a new one.

Around the time the first season of Mad Men takes place, (1960s), (http://www.mit.edu/~jcb/Dvorak/history.html) the first electronic typewriters were being introduced to the market. Sterling Cooper doesn’t use these in the first season, but they would have been one of the companies that would have adopted them to their offices.

Without the typewriter, offices like the one in Mad Men would have had a much harder time producing documents, and offices would have been a lot less productive. Despite the cro-magnon-like appearance that the audience takes away from the device today, it was definitely useful for the era.

Diet Craze

Americans searching for a quick and easy fix to lose weight wasn’t anything new in the 1960’s, as there is evidence of diet fads dating all the way back to the 1820s. However, the 1960’s was a period where the ideal body image of a woman was rapidly changing. The full-figured ideal of the Victorian era was long out of the picture and the thin, voluptuous image led by Marilyn Monroe  of the 1950’s was being phased out with the introduction of extreme slenderness headed by Twiggy of the 1960’s.


In the episode “Indian Summer” of Mad Men, the ad men are discussing how to market a new weight-loss belt and enlist Peggy to try it out and give them a first-hand testimonial. When Peggy asks the men why they picked her, Don replies that it’s simply because she’s a woman. When Peggy comes back to the men with her presentation, the situation is very awkward for her as the device turns out to serve more sexual purposes than anything practical. After the presentation is over, the men condescendingly give Peggy a pat on the back as they leave the conference room. The views of the men on how women need to watch their figure is very objectifying and degrading. Meanwhile, one of the most popular diets for men was called “The Drinking Man’s Diet” which was published by Robert Cameron in 1964. The name describes the gist of the diet, which involved lots of protein, low carbs and, of course, lots of alcohol. The contrast between how ridiculous women’s dieting was and how lighthearted men’s dieting was accentuates the varying roles in the male-dominant society of the 1960’s.
Image credit: http://static6.businessinsider.com/image/4fbbb5b76bb3f7e35a000004-400-300/1950s-vibrating-belts.jpg
Links referenced: Rutherford, Diane. "A Bizarre History of Diet Fads in America." Suite101.com. Burda Digital Ventures, 25 Mar. 2009. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. <http://suite101.com/article/a-bizarre-history-of-diet-fads-in-america-a104774>.


The Masculinity of War

War has a history of masculinity. Post-traumatic stress disorder, family history, and the death of friends are things that must be forgotten if one hopes to be a soldier. In a soldier’s eyes these things were viewed as weaknesses and only recently have issues like these had the right to surface. As a result, Don Draper is forced to forget the death of his lieutenant and alter ego. By shutting out his psychological problems, Don Draper regains his masculinity. Thus, Don Draper can’t understand why his wife Betty can’t do the same.

Image credit: http://mivida2010.webs.com/Uncle-Sam-and-PTSD.jpg

“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as an anxiety disorder which stems from a particular incident evoking significant stress” (Bentley). PTSD has existed in some form throughout history, ever since man has waged war. It has taken many names:  nostalgia, shell shock, and war neurosis. There are several stages of PTSD, but the final stage of frustration and depression is the one that can be the most harming to a man’s masculinity. Not being able to control one’s own feelings is the ultimate loss of composure, especially considering that Don is undoubtedly the most composed character in the series.  Don Draper hints at his experience with PTSD when he says, “nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound.” Don’s wounded masculinity offers an insight into his yearning for extra-marital affairs and can we really blame him? But as Don Draper notes in the final episode of season one, “who knows why people do what they do?”

Links referenced: Bentley, Steve. "The VVA Veteran--A Short History of PTSD." The VVA Veteran--A Short History of PTSD. Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc., Jan. 1991. Web. 24 Sept. 2012.
"Veterans and PTSD." MI VIDA: A Story of Faith Hope and Love. N.p., 2010. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. 


If You Got It, Flaunt It

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Helen Gurley Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl and former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, recently died at the age of 90, leaving behind a long legacy of emboldening “a generation of women with her controversial views about female sexuality, and laid the groundwork for today’s sexualized fashion and celebrity culture.” In August 2012, Booth Moore wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times entitled “Helen Gurley Brown Leaves Behind Lusty,Busty Legacy." In this article, Brown is portrayed as a feminist trailblazer and the inspiration for characters like Carrie Bradshaw and of course, Mad Men’s Joan Holloway.

Moore briefly elaborates on Brown’s early professional life as an executive assistant at the Los Angeles based advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding, where she eventually became a copywriter (similar to the future career path of Joan). No information is given on how she became the editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, but Moore does describe how Brown adamantly supported the use of scantily clad women on the cover of Cosmo to both bolster sales and promote the concept that women should own their sexuality.  

Quotes from Brown’s peers make up the majority of the article, and while these quotes further illuminate Brown’s modern views on sexuality, Moore does not connect them to the social implications of Brown’s actions. Moore does mention in passing that the new Cosmo covers sparked an interest in “Miracle bras”, but what about the reception of the covers. A more in depth analysis on Moore’s part would shed light on the various social implications of a woman embracing her body. This in turn would strengthen his argument about the connection between Brown and Joan by demonstrating how they let go of society’s traditional views surrounding women and endured society’s critiques in the pursuit of independence. Moore’s article fails at portraying how difficult it was for women to define themselves and not let a man’s perception of her define her.

Moore’s article is effective in that it adds more depth to a seemingly one-dimensional character by equating Joan to an early champion of women’s rights. In Season One of Mad Men, Joan is portrayed as the femme fatale of the office. Feminist is the last thing that comes to mind while we watch her purposefully ignite the passions of the men prying for her attention at Sterling Cooper (remember the Belle Jolie scene?). Moore’s article casts Joan in a different light. Suddenly her flirtatious smile and curve hugging dresses are not things for women viewers to envy, but something we should all be proud of, a woman in control of her sexuality.


Things Go Better With Coke

It’s always exciting to watch Mad Men and recognize a product that the men of Sterling Cooper are advertising. Such was the case when Coca-Cola showed up in the episode “Shoot." Though Don and his cohorts weren’t the ones thinking of witty slogans for this bubbly beverage, Betty did get to model for the company posing as the happy housewife that she is. 

Coca-Cola has been a prevalent company since the 19th century and the 1960s were no exception. Coca-Cola was a growing enterprise and had just introduced canned coke in 1955. Advertising was working on expanding Coke’s markets by adding new drinks like Fanta, Sprite, and Fresca as well as purchasing The Minute Maid Company. Many of their advertisements showed happy women, families, and young people enjoying their life moments with a signature Coke bottle in hand. The popular slogan for the decade was “Things Go Better With Coke."

Advertising agencies' marketing methods progressed along with the American television-watching society. While photo ads were still important, television commercials were becoming popular. Coke's new television spots were light, up beat, and showed how easily the beverage could make a person happy.  

Coca-Cola advertising became an American symbol and could be found everywhere. In 1961, the comedy film, “One, Two, Three” premiered starring Jimmy Cagney in a Coca-Cola bottling facility during the Cold War; the film was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Coke also sponsored the first animated TV special for the cartoon “Peanuts” in the 1965 holiday season. Beyond the television market, Coke was still prevalent in radio in the mid-sixties. A radio campaign featured various artists singing Coca-Cola jingles aimed toward the young American audience. Some artists recorded were Jay and the Americans, Roy Orbison, and Petula Clark.

Today, Coca-Cola may use different methods to target audiences, but the company is still known for the happiness it brings to its customers. 
Links referenced:


Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!!

The negative opinions that some individuals possess towards the protagonist in the series, Mad Men, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), are preposterous.  Yes, most of us are aware of his philandering with various women besides his wife, Betty Draper (January Jones).  However, there have been “Dons” in society dating back to the Eighteenth Century, and this is not referring to The Sopranos or The Godfather Trilogy people!

In actuality, The Figaro Trilogy was written in the late 1770’s by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais.  This trilogy consisted of the comical plays including The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Guilty Mother.  The most well-known third of this saga is the second of the three parts.  Ironically, although Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro to fulfill the request proposed by Louis François, Prince of Conti, the play was banned by the ruling authorities in France.  With the French Revolution right around the corner and tempers between societal classes erupting, Beaumarchais’s masterpiece served no place in the highly unstable culture of France.  Beaumarchais austerely highlighted the restrictions in which the different societal class ranks possessed.  It wasn’t for almost a decade until Mozart remastered Beaumarchais’s play into his own version of The Marriage of Figaro, the comical opera.

After viewing the third episode of the first season titled “The Marriage of Figaro” it seemed that there were definite connections with the opera composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  As practically any viewer of this season would know, Don Draper is married to Betty.  In this episode, Don is seen on the rooftop of Rachel Menken’s (Maggie Siff) department store with Rachel herself.  Throughout the scene, Don leans in and the two start kissing each other.  Later in the episode, Don is seen full of depression and lacking fulfillment in his life while he is of attendance at his own daughter’s (Kiernan Shipka) birthday party.

Since the basis of the plot has been established, the parallels of the episode with the opera can be discussed.  In this opera, the characters that should be acknowledged are the Count, his wife Rosine, Figaro, and his fiancée Suzanne.  After three years, the Count grows uninterested in his wife and their marriage.  Just like Don, the Count grows miserable with his seemingly ideal life.  The Count actually desires to pursue Figaro’s fiancée.  The connection to make here would be that in a sense Rachel Menken represents Suzanne.  All throughout the first season, practically all of the viewers notice and comprehend the idea that most of the men in the show are not obedient to their wives.  Personally, the opera, The Marriage of Figaro, was just the original version of the series, Mad Men, dating back to the Eighteenth Century.

On a side note, let it be known that the popular line “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!” is not actually in the opera, The Marriage of Figaro.  However, it is in the prequel, The Barber of Seville, in which this phrase was coined. 

To think that I always thought Figaro was just the cute kitten created by the Walt Disney Company! 

Links referenced:


An Inaccurate Portrayal: Homosexuality in Advertising

Image credit: afterelton.com

In May of 2012, David Leddick wrote an article for the Huffington Post entitled, “Being Gay in the World of Mad, Mad Men: What It Was Really Like." Leddick’s article contests the idea that Salvatore Romano (Bryan Batt) is an anomaly in the advertising business because of his homosexuality. He contests also, the anti-gay opinion of the advertising world of Mad Men. As Leddick was an openly gay, junior writer in the 1960’s, he seems well qualified to make these assertions. However, Leddick’s generalizations about gay men and advertising take away from his point. Both David Leddick, and Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men, however, seem to be at least, partially right in their differing portrayals of gay men in advertising.

Throughout the article, Reddick recounts his many successes in advertising, notably with Revlon. In reference to clients of his, “they didn't have time to care about what other people did in bed. They only cared about what you did in the office." Leddick substantiates these claims with his high salaries and examples of his achievement that continued to rise despite his sexuality. His article is refreshingly uplifting compared to Mad Men. His article exudes a feeling of freedom, at one point stating, “If you can do it, you can be it." Leddick also describes the openly gay environment at a particular agency in which he worked, stating that, “all the art directors were gay” and that “the gay men on staff knew everything there was to know at the time about clothes, interior décor, you name it."

It is these generalizations, which continue to occur throughout the article, that ruin Leddick’s point. If Weiner was close minded to the reality of openly gay men in advertising, then Leddick is equally close minded to the possibility of there being closeted gay men in advertising, or even New York City for that matter, stating, “If you were gay in New York, you didn't need to run around hiding it." And even Leddick concedes that “stuffy, old-line agencies […] the big ones” discriminated based on homosexuality. Though Sterling Cooper is not among these companies, it is not completely out of question to believe that intolerance existed in this world as well. Though Matthew Weiner may be naïve to the possibility of openly gay men in advertising, his goal is not to represent strictly the Madison Avenue advertisers and their lives. Weiner uses Mad Men as an outlet to represent the unrest and injustice of the sixties as a whole. Through this Weiner is able to stress sense of sin and hostility toward homosexuality, feelings which were not uncommon during the time period. After all, it was considered an illness until 1973.

Ultimately, though Leddick provides an uplifting and direct account of gay advertising in the sixties, he shows us only one glimpse into a world which involved thousands of individuals, as well as remaining unmindful of the purpose of Mad Men as a show.