Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Attempting to figure out my degree of disgust

My dear wife and I are working through season two of Mad Men. It took her a little longer to get hooked than I did. I think the writing on the show constitutes true story telling, at least the way I was taught. A story involves change in a character. The twists and turns in Don Drapers life and the changes he endures makes the story fascinating, regardless of his skewed moral compass. Peggy is also an interesting character in that sense.

Fine storytelling aside, there are some aspects to the stories in Mad Men that are challenging to watch. Some reflect "old-fashioned values," other values reflected:

+ Blatant sexism--though it is a heroic storyline to watch what Peggy encounters as she makes her way through the advertising world.
+ Smoking cigarettes wherever you darn well please without consideration for others.
+ For all the talk about the lack of social graces in today's world, the objectification of women is startling, it only happens in different ways and places today that is certainly not "social grace".
+ No social stigma for marital infidelity for a man (Draper is known as a "connoisseur" of women).
+ Alcohol consumption during work hours was no big deal.

I could go on and on, but I was most disgusted by another "old-fashioned value" in episode four of season 2, when the Draper family shares a picnic, and they actively leave their garbage in the middle of the park. I'm not sure why this scene troubled me the most, but for all of the things I could have screamed at the television related to Mad Men--the litter was the most disgusting. For that action of litter I could come up with no sympathy. What was more interesting is justifying that action with the question of daughter Sally to her parents. "Are we rich?" Soon after that statement, the garbage went flying.

Mad Men constantly makes me wonder what our children will find utterly foolish about our social conventions and values. Some of them truly are foolish, and we will be exposed. I think that is part of the intent of the show--and I find this writing and storytelling more provocative and effective cultural analysis of the 50s and 60s than films like "Welcome To Pleasantville." The characters in Mad Men are much more interesting and the story lines still connect viewers to current societal themes.

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