From the title sequence with the falling avatar, to the chimney stack chuckle heads that litter this masterpiece, Mad Men has resolutely entertained, edified and fascinated viewers for years now.
The morbidity of a look at the long dead and forgotten age that is 1960’s America has caused us to revisit a less innocent, less evolved period in US history. For some this has been a geek fantasy driven by the ever present opportunities to undress the writer’s attempts at accurately depicting the past. Others, myself included, sometimes sit pensively, waiting for someone to drop the N-word, crack an insensitive joke and otherwise condemn all the lepers who missed out on the distinction of being born rich, white and male.
This is the age when rifts were formed in America during the civil rights movement. In a sense Mad Men has given us a look at the less illuminated aspect of this time period. We usually only hear about the marches, and the dogs and the racism in the south when this period is discussed. It was quite refreshing to see some easily relatable characters struggling with everyday problems of less epic magnitude than racial integration. The characters explored in this series have failings just like all of us. Their smoking habits are so rampant and ubiquitous that they draw parallels with the obesity epidemic which the world faces today.
Its hard to believe that there was ever such a shameless extent of sexism in the workplace, as that depicted in Mad Men episodes. The visuals of this bizarre behavior is striking and its depiction adequately conveys the point of the significance of different historical ages. Each time period is truly unique. Even though history is often reduced to mere dates and events, it’s innards are composed of cultures far removed from our global, politically correct village. In the details is where the real history happens. Like how we often convince ourselves that the true “savages” beloved to ages long past when in fact it is our own which allows billions of people to go hungry as millions of us waste precious food and water daily.
Back to Mad Men though, it has also enlightened me to the perspective the individuals alive at that time had with regards to their news consumption. I had previously been under the impression that those people in history books were in a sense one with their news. I never before thought that it was once new to them.
Like they were all characters in his coherent narrative where everyone was in perfect step with the causes and effects. I have lately realized that this was due to the approach of some of the historical texts I’ve read. These depict history as a constant narrative without attempting to sift these abstract causes and effects from the people who happen to live in the time period.
It is works of creative historical fiction like Mad Men that have truly figured out the less concrete, but arguably more important type of history which is woven using the twine of individual narrative.
This approach usually has the advantage of keeping the audience involved and interested and ultimately better positioned to receive the more concrete type of history. The narrative is the key.