The Mad Men Mania Poll - Episode 3
The two classic lines from the film, "The Graduate" which are "Plastics," and "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" have been flashing through my mind lately as I've been watching the Mad Men AMC-TV series on Thursday nights!
One could imagine that Ben Braddock, the character played by Dustin Hoffman grew up in a similar type of Draper family household, only he was born in 1945 versus 1955. We now know that the babyboom kids in Mad Men became dead set against living out the same lifestyle of their parents.
Does it seem unusual then that the late 1950's and early 1960's societal repression morphed into an alternative interpretation of "the good life", which was sex, drugs and rock 'n roll? Yet, is there all that much difference? You decide.
Most of the comments to date about Mad Men have been around the sophomoric behavior, the cultural stereotypes and the sexist attitude between men and women. Are those issues very different today? Yes and No.
- Yes, they look different. Business attire has changed!
- No, the tension between the genders is as intense now as it was then.
That will never change, the thanks/blame for that goes it "Mother Nature". And that's the whole point.
It's unrealistic for women and men to work side-by-side in a collegial "Leave it to Beaver" manner without the inevitable mini-passion plays that sprout up inside and out of the office. Even robots, as illustrated by GM's robot suicide ad this year, in the Super Bowl shows that machines have feelings too!
There's not a TV show or movie about a company, neighborhood or galaxy that doesn't have a romantic angle. We even saw it in space. In every just about every galaxy Captain Kirk always had something to snuggle up to. He used to tease Spock about it until one episode, even Leonard Nimoy found himself smitten with an asteroid or something!
Other than Wal-Mart, as evidenced by their handling of Julie Roehm, everybody understands that men and women are attracted to each other.
Today most of us also understand that thankfully, the lines are not as rigid as they once were. Some men like men and some women like women inside and out of the office. It's no big deal.
That's one clear breakthrough as compared to Draper, Robinson and Bunker's era. All three of these characters are shown confronting society's individual and social pressures and the hypocrisy and loneliness in each. What is different of course between then and now is that both sexes are protected from many kinds of unwelcome overtones in most situations.
Is office romance is not relevant in TV soaps someone should tell the networks to consider programming their afternoon daytime TV around news.
Today who doesn't want to know what other people's claustrophobia looks and feels like. Oprah or Dr. Phil or YouTube. "I'll program you mine if you program me yours".
Last night we saw Don Draper seem to contemplate driving his car in front of a speeding train. For a guy who's told by everyone in every quarter how lucky he is to "have it all", it's apparent to viewers this is this not the case. Sounds like Madison Avenue to me sometimes. Only it's more about getting run down than hitting the 9:00PM to Greenwich.
With 3 episodes seen to date, there are clearly a number of Barbie and G.I Joe-level stick figures who have lead paint running through their veins.
- Unhappy housewives stuck in the suburbs bored of washing dishes and changing diapers.
- The divorcee - Divorcees were once a major threat to married women and were therefore shunned
- The corporate career woman - Women who chose careers over marriage and kids were odd
- Office newbie and/or the head secretary, working their assets to their advantage
- The liberated mistress - Bucking convention, "sexual revolution here I come!"
- Male "colleagues" - competitive animals in power plays at work
- Backstabbers who will stop at nothing to get their way, even if it means hurting the company they work for
- Prejudicial resentments running rampant for one particular ethnic group or another
- Who did we miss? The kids? We'll let alone for now.
Questions to Mr. Weiner, where's the music? Who's your music producer? Can't they do a deep dive on Rolling Stones-type "She runs to the shelter of her mother's little helper" and/or Simon & Garfunkel's "Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever" kinds of songs of that era that hit home the obvious themes your show is trying to produce? On suggestion, didn't Fabian sing ones like that or Connie Francis?
Kurt, for all their plastic cliche-like poses, in my opinion the characters in Mad Men are dead on and are completely believable. Written in the 1960s, John Updike's "Rabbit Run" was a harsh commentary on the choke-hold society had on men and women of the earlier era.
Or how about Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique," a searing commentary based on the false premise that women find identity and meaning in their lives solely through their husbands and children?
We can't forget how the repression of women in Mad Men-like environments set the stage for Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying," written in the 70's about liberating women's sexuality.
It's all in the family with all these films and programs.
- Is there any one person who is more of a throwback to the Mad Men era that Dingbat's husband? What made Lear's show so funny was that Archie was still living in the Mad Men past.
- Lines right out of Mad Men could fit easily into Norman Lear's breakthrough show.
- "What do women want? Who cares!"
- The gynecologist who lectures the office newbie about taking the Pill: "If I see you're turning into the town tramp, I'll take them back"
- The psychiatrist telling the husband about this wife's conversations?
- Edith, would you go stifle yourself?
Mad Men is only peripherally about what Madison Avenue was like then. However, for all the Mary Wells-types, there were literally hundreds across the business laboring in the steno pool. Who do you think typed all her brilliant memos?
The last three episodes of Mad Men are less about advertising and more about society, just as "All In the Family's" Archie Bunker & Meathead or Mrs. Robinson were. They all make us laugh at their absurdity as well as twitch when we see a little of ourselves in the roles they play.
What made The Graduate so popular is that it reversed these roles, "Mrs. Robinson, do you want a wood or a metal hanger?"
The toilet flush may not flush at the beginning of Mad Men like it did in the Bunker show, yet anything is possible. Sterling is after all working on a laxative account!