In a predictable piece of contrarianism, n+1 manboy Mark Greif completely misses the point of Mad Men. Calling the famed television show “an unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better,” Greif dismisses the idea that television should depict unpleasant human realities such as sexism, racism, and other assorted human weaknesses. Greif has neither the balls nor the acumen to understand that Don Draper likewise possesses a throwback masculinity that is the key to his apparent success and his command at the ad agency. Jon Hamm plays his character with a certain insecurity because the show is about, among other things, the loss of confidence and individualism in American society, and the overlooked qualities which sustained this. While it is true that one can appreciate Mad Men from the more civilized comforts of the present age — parsing it as a depiction of uncivilized human behavior run amuck — the show’s more intriguing thematic involves how Draper’s masculinity is the key to how he, and American society, operates.
Greif appears more enamored with Mad Men‘s handsome production design and is more interested in quibbling over needless details than he is with the show’s more interesting depiction of human behavior, and this says more about Greif’s inability to comprehend a television show that goes out of its way to depict uncomfortable truths. Decades ago, women were stifled (and still remain so to a lesser degree today). Men were expected to keep the household together with steely fortitude. But despite these atavistic realities, this is, nevertheless, what made America such an innovative nation. Mad Men works, because it does not present us with a dichotomy. It gives us the troublingly cohesive whole. If you were a smart and successful woman during that time, you had few options and were inclined to give into this patriarchal bullshit. But the patriarchal bullshit, as abject as it was, did galvanize people to make active decisions. This is a daring and much needed representation in our age of schlumpy protagonists in Judd Apatow films and Worst Week. Mad Men doesn’t just ask us to revisit this human quality. It asks us to consider the good things that we may have lost with the ugliness.
Mad Men is indeed a “smart” show. But then you have to have an interest in people in order to fully appreciate it.
© 2008, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.