Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mad Men: The Way it Was and the Way it is...

I've been watching season 3 of Mad Men. I'm also taking a pop lit./teaching cultural studies class and we're currently on the topic of media and technology. So I'd like to take a moment to critically examine.

If you've never seen the show it's set in the early 60s and is about a group of advertisers and all their drama in and outside of work. There is a lot of philandering, an excessive amount of cigarette smoking, drinking drinking and more drinking.

Because it's set in the past they get away with an over indulgent amount of misogyny--that, let's face it, the show can always run back to and claim--well that's just the way it was. Same with the racism and homophobia. Showing "how it was" would be fine, except that their is so much glamour and allure to the show; setting it in the 60s gives it this nostalgia that makes me want to go back there--so I can smoke and drink excessively and wear interesting dresses. The glamour overrides the actual craptastic way most people minus white middle class privileged men lived.

Even though most forms of media set up this idea that monogamy is best, all of the married men and many of the women cheat, some cheat constantly. The characters are so complex that even when you hate one thing they do--you can't help but sort-of, deep down still like them. Even Pete who is a complete twit. And Don, who, show by show, is turning into a mega-asshole. The creators are still able to humanize them.

Yet what does that humanizing do for the audience, an audience watching the show more as consumers, soaking it all in, eating it all up. One of the articles I read talks about the masses looking to film and television as a means for distraction, not concentration. That film and television give no room for the imagination, they fill everything in for you and you never have to think about what you're being told. So, people see image after image of philandering, excessive drinking, white men treating the rest of the world like their toilet and what do the masses actually do with this information? They just absorb it-- they allow it to be the way it was without giving it any more thought, without going, well why the fuck was it like that, how much of that bullshit is still happening today, and what can I do about it?

It's called critically thinking and it would be wonderful if the masses were taught at a young age how to do it, but parents love creating a hierarchy so they can boss their tykes around until the tykes are old enough to go out into the world alone and become complete fuck-ups who eat McDonalds and think The Bachelor is a great show. And thus the oppressions continue because very few people want to take the time and effort to look beyond what is handed to them.

I like Mad Men, don't get me wrong, but I understand some of the ways the show shapes our perceptions of the past, the present and the future. And I don't want to get stuck in the trap of accepting anything for the way it was, the way it is or the way it could be.

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