Like millions of others, I couldn’t wait for the seventh and final season of Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men on AMC.
This last season of Mad Men is dredging up old stuff I hadn’t thought about – or have been pissed off about – for roughly 45 years.
A new marketing lead at an existing client company meets Joan Harris, not one of the male partners of advertising agency Sterling Cooper, and is clearly disappointed. Over a coke at the bar he starts lecturing Joan like she never worked at an advertising agency much less is a partner of one. It made my blood boil.
A senior executive refers to a black woman and some white men as “Gladys Knight and the Pips” as they enter a work meeting. OMG this hit my buttons.
Don Draper hits on another woman while on a plane from LA (and his time with his wife Megan living the LA life) back to New York. If I see Don with that sympathetic and lustful face looking at one more different woman while she shares her woe (this one a widow) I am going to scream.
Mad Men is terrific entertainment, not reality. 1969 is LONG over. While it may be troubling to recall the professional travails back then; getting angry all over again wastes energy that could be spent on real current problems — like continuing gender bias in the workplace.
What I realize as I watch Mad Men this season is that it was cutting a little too close to home — and giving me an opportunity to reflect on some buried issues as well as current ones. This is a good thing: fresh opportunities for personal reflection and renewed growth – and this I recommend.
The accurate costumes make one wince and are without doubt triggers for memories of our own past. But what has me really exploring raw feelings are the subtle or not so subtle mocking of the ways we experienced our lives back then. It seems to me that how we were experiencing new avenues of sexual freedom, politics, civil rights and patriarchy comes across as a bit too much like a surface set of fads rather than the difficult, thoughtful and challenging opportunities of that era.
It really was not easy to “become liberated”, “be involved in civil rights”, or “want to be taken seriously”. Politics were white hot and challenging and conversations with parents/authority figures were often brutal. Mini skirts, and smoking pot were more than props – they were small attempts to express new ways of thinking in the culture. A culture which we were trying desperately to change — and ultimately did.
I can take Mad Men and its terrific acting and writing as a way of getting into my own history and life explorations; or, I can just let the show continue to annoy me, and remind me of old, relatively minor wounds, and 60’s fashion. Upon reflection, we at least cared about fashion and looking pulled together back then. Seems like anyone today could spend 6 weeks traveling anywhere with black pants, jeans, two tops, a washable universal-looking dress, walking sandals and an average-looking sweater or cheap raincoat. To me, that is not progress. Or maybe, sister boomers, it really is.