An Inaccurate Portrayal: Homosexuality in Advertising

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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.

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