Mad Men, Style, and the Shattering of Cultural Illusions

22 Oct

Carolyn, over at The Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, recently brought up the topic of Mad Men. I’m so glad she did, because I have a few things to say about this show. Since I couldn’t say it all in a blog comment box, and since I have my own blog in which to spew my pig-headed opinions, here goes.

First of all, if you haven’t watched this show for the clothes alone, you’re in for a treat.  It is 60’s retro on steroids.  The period clothing is well researched (as is everything else in this show) so you can look at the clothing knowing that this is what city folks were wearing at that time. Here are a few pictures:

Not only is the clothing amazing, but the photography is stunning!  They only shoot about 8 episodes a year, so it looks like they spare no expense on those episodes.

Now for the meat.  This show is a culturally accurate depiction of  the era that begins before the civil rights movement (actually, the movement is taking place in the background), the feminist movement, the anti-war movement,  and any other of the huge social and political movements that began in the very late 50’s and continued into the 60’s and beyond.

Pay attention, get past the gorgeous clothes and the pristine photography, and what you will get is a cultural history lesson, my friends.  Life in the USA was not always as it is now. . . a good thing to remember.  What you will see are depictions of male/female relationships and office politics before the feminist movement, gender identity issues before it was possible to “come out”, racial attitudes that will make you hang your head in shame.  And it’s all accurate.  This is the way we were.

As I commented on Carolyn’s blog, I sometimes have to remind friends my age who are living in a nostalgia vortex, that those were not the good old days. If people who actually lived through it can’t remember how bad it was, then it occurs to me that people who didn’t live through it might be taking what we have for granted.  And judging from some of the things happening in our political system right now, I think that’s exactly where we find ourselves. We’ve come far, not far enough, but far.  The point is, we don’t ever want to return to those attitudes, so a little reminder can’t hurt.

So, look at those gorgeous clothes, marvel at the beautiful cinematography, but pay close attention the message, because Mad Men is more than a soap opera. . . much more.

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4 Responses to “Mad Men, Style, and the Shattering of Cultural Illusions”

  1. didyoumakethat October 23, 2010 at 1:24 AM #

    I agree with everything you’ve said, though I’d add that it wasn’t just America that was rife with prejudice. Personally, I’ve found it fascinating to see everyone drinking and smoking up a storm. Wow, was it really like that? I guess so.

    • Janis October 23, 2010 at 7:39 AM #

      DH tells the story of interviewing for a job in banking in downtown LA (men had to wear hats to the office). After the interview, the interviewer offered him a scotch on the rocks. 🙂

  2. Leslie Bonner October 22, 2010 at 4:16 PM #

    Janis,
    You are spot on. I graduated from High School in San Francisco in the early 60s. Somehow I missed that whole “summer of love” while working and attending college. However, I certainly recognize elements of the 60s in Mad Men which makes me realize how far we’ve come. I love reading Project Rungay’s analysis each week.
    Leslie

  3. NancyDaQ October 22, 2010 at 3:52 PM #

    Amen, sister!

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