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Monday, January 18, 2010

"Mad Men": Or, Meh Men...


For a few years every I know had been going bat-shit insane over Mad Men. I should say that the people that I know that have been raving about this show are people that I know in the advertising world. I've worked in the ad industry for about 13 years, and have had every job you can think of on the creative side of things, from Production Artist to Designer to Art Director to Multimedia Director.   So from what I had heard, the idea of the show seemed interesting-- the ad industry from a 1960s point of view. And apparently, the agency in the show was based on the last big agency I worked for (and was laid off from in December of 2008-- I worked there for 2 years). So there was some curiosity there, but to be honest, I didn't think that I had the time to invest in another show. But recently, I saw the first two episodes on DVD. And...meh...

I mean look...it's clever. It's very very stylish. Everyone is dressed really well, and everyone is smoking and looks cool, and all that junk. The aesthetic is definitely there-- the art direction is great, the clothes are outstanding. And the little indicators to let you know you're looking at the '60s...cute. There was one scene in the second episode where two women are in a kitchen talking and smoking cigarettes. Then one woman calls for the kids. She stands up and we see that she's pregnant (and smoking). One of the kids, a little girl, has a thin plastic dry cleaning bag over her head that she has been playing with (child safety hazard). The mother only tells them to behave, and lets them run off. They return to their conversation. There are also scenes with Black characters as servants, maids, etc., and they always have some sarcastic aside about the white folks around them.  It plays out like a parody of the era. Like I said before, clever, cute, stylish...but not enough to be engaging.

As for the ad agency insider stuff...it's pretty relevant to this day. Aside from the heavy drinking, and the stereotypes within each department (account management, creative, etc) the most honest portrayal is the treatment of women. There are scenes with women in the bathroom sobbing because of the sexual advances and abusive behavior they've had to put up with from the various "pigs" in the office. That's very real. I've seen it; guys saying crazy shit, or trying to force a kiss (or more). I've talked to women about the disgusting advances and passes from men that they HAD to work with. And I've also seen women not say anything when these things happened. It made me sick. Now granted, if this show took place in the modern era, there'd be a few Asian women in the cast...and they'd probably get it worse. Men with girlfriends, married men, I've seen them all do it. Granted, not every guy is a piece of sh*t...but I was surprised by not only the frequency, but the people themselves-- guys that I thought would never act that way...they were.

So basically, these are assholes that I've been used to seeing on a regular basis for over a decade. Do I really want to watch a show devoted to them on my days or nights off? Nope...

Two episodes in, and I was bored. And I think I'm done. My girlfriend (also bored with the show) read up on the spoilers and filled me in. Yeah, I mean, some interesting stuff happens. I know that Don Drappers' past is in question; he never talks about it. Interesting, yes. And hearing that, I remembered in the first episode how he takes out that Purple Heart, with his "name" on the box. Is that how he assumed his new name and identity? I mean, he's in advertising...his job is to come up with interesting stories to sell whatever product his clients need sold...so is he just nothing but a living-breathing advertisement of an idealised American male of the 1960s? But instead of selling to consumers, he's almost an interactive ad-- and whoever he is, he's selling "Don Drapper". That is pretty interesting...but the show itself is not interesting enough to sustain my interest.

So...sorry, everyone. Not a fan.

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