It's a Mad Men World

Mad Men on DVD!
Image by MShades via Flickr

By Nick Secoolish
Staff Writer

Drinking, smoking and scandal on Madison Avenue.

“It’s about standing out, not fitting in” said Don Draper in the A.M.C. Golden Globe winner Mad Men, and those words describe this show perfectly.

Mad Men, created and written by Matthew Weiner, takes place in the early 1960’s at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on New York City’s Madison Avenue. Mad Men depicts the society and culture of the early 1960s, highlighting cigarette smoking, drinking, sexism, and racial bias (for instance, copywriter Paul Kinsey telling his black girlfriend, “Why can’t the civil rights movement in the South wait?”). These show as examples of how that era was so radically different from the present, as indicated by Weiner when questioned about the show’s content.

The show focuses on Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) a top advertising executive at the firm. He has a mysterious past, and his relationships with people inside and outside of the office makes for interesting focus.  He is married to Betty Draper, with two children, but is not satisfied and embarks on several affairs. Draper has a complicated personal life, on which Hamm has commented, “He has a marriage he’s not that involved in, kids he’s not that involved in, a brother he wasn’t involved with at all. He tries to make amends a day late and a dollar short. That’s his great tragedy.”

The show itself is rife with political incorrectness, it isn’t unusual to see any actor with a Lucky Strike in one hand and a drink in the other during office hours, a subject many shows today stay away from, and would surely get one fired today.  Weiner once stated that, “Doing this show without smoking would’ve been a joke. It would’ve been sanitary and it would’ve been phony.”

Weiner is also serious about the props used in each episode, so the prop budget ranges from 2 to 2.5 million insuring that everything used in an episode is historically accurate. Perhaps this attention to detail has made the show a big hit. However, there are things that are blatantly obvious in the show that make for scandal.

The 1960’s view of itemizing women plays a very strong role in the show as well. Take for instance the characters of Peggy Olson, a junior copywriter, and, office manager, Joan Holloway. Joan always is always reminding Peggy that the only way to make it in the office is to always look and dress sexy, so that the men in the office take notice of her because she doesn’t have much in the way of looks. Men in the office also start taking bets to see which one could get at her first when Peggy first started at Sterling Cooper. This type of behavior was typical during the time period, and something that viewers should be mindful of when watching. The show isn’t about being politically correct by today’s standards. It’s about showing how the time period was, how we’ve changed, and what we can learn from it.

The reaction at Entertainment Weekly , pretty well sums up some of the show’s content, noting the period in which Mad Men takes place, “Play is part of work, sexual banter isn’t yet harassment, and America is free of self-doubt, guilt, and countercultural confusion.”

The show has won numerous awards, including two Golden Globes and six Emmys. It is the second cable series to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series and the first basic cable series to do so. The show airs every Sunday Night at 10.p.m on A.M.C.

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