Adultery Then and Now

Adultery is among the many sinful themes depicted on Mad Men. The plot lines follow the love lives of the main married men of the series- Don Draper, Pete Campbell and Roger Sterling- and their philandering ways. Throughout the first season, Don is constantly escaping work and Betty to be with beatnik Midge Daniels, and eventually pursues Rachel Menken, which leads to a short affair. Pete has several liaisons with Peggy Olsen, the first of which leads to a child. Finally, Roger has an ongoing affair with Joan Holloway, as well as with the occasional identical twin.

The constant depiction of adultery on the show is another reminder of how different the 1960s were than times today. Mad Men depicts adultery as something that was silently accepted by everyone. In other words, it was understood that men like Don and Roger had mistresses, even if they were not openly discussed. Usually, everyone except the wives understood that their husbands were allowed mistresses. Cheating was morally considered wrong in the sixties, which is why secrecy was often associated with affairs, especially in Don’s case. And because cheating was wrong, it was normal for wives to get upset should they ever find out.

Though today adultery is still considered morally wrong, it has changed in several ways. It is no longer a silent-but-accepted norm, as present-day Don Drapers are not expected to have mistresses but are instead expected to be faithfully married. If these men do have affairs, they do not discuss them and attempt to keep them secretive instead. This is because today adultery is more frowned upon than it was in the 1960s. As the decades have progressed, it has become even more socially unacceptable to have an affair. Perhaps less frequent affairs can be attributed to how hard it has become to get away with one. Nowadays, it is much more difficult to cover up an affair than it was in the sixties. One main reason is the advance in technology. With the vast means of communication we now have, affairs can be discovered through cellular devices, laptops and other forms of technology, something that Don didn’t have to worry about in the 1960s. An example of how adultery has changed can be shown through comparing President Kennedy to President Obama. President Kennedy was able to cover up affairs as POTUS, some not even surfacing until after his death. If President Obama were to ever attempt adultery, it would have the potential to make national news in moments.

1 comment:

  1. This was another huge theme I noticed as I started watching Mad Men. At first, I couldn't believe it: These women had no self respect to call their husbands out and leave them? But then I remembered that at this stage in time, women were powerless. There weren't treated like a wife, but more of a pet or accessory. As said above, today adultery is less silently accepted. The evolution of women's power and equality has given them a little more of a voice. I also think you make a great point when saying how different it is today due to technology. Anyone will admit it: facebook pictures can be completely lethal to a relationship. They can be interpreted in so many ways and are out there for infinite interpretations. Hence, disaster.