May 17, 2015, - 8:31 pm

Saying Good-Bye to “Mad Men”: Will You Be Watching? Leftist Take on Middle Class US

By Debbie Schlussel

madmenlogo

I’ve written a lot here about “Mad Men” (see also here), the AMC series, which ends its run tonight. Will you be watching the series finale?







The show, in case you aren’t aware, is an ensemble series that spanned the late 1950s through the early 1970s through seven seasons, finishing tonight. The show, about an advertising agency, centers around the suave, handsome Don Draper, a Korean War veteran played by Jon Hamm. His real name is Dick Whitman, but to get away from his real life as the son of a prostitute in a brothel, he’s assumed the identity of a dead fellow soldier. Thereafter, he’s fought his way from car salesman into the American middle class and ownership of a major Madison Avenue advertising agency in New York. He’s a serial adulterer and constantly brooding and yearning to be something he knows he really isn’t deep down. The show follows the glamor and social mores of that era, but exaggerates them, such as the amount of adultery and casual hedonism that went on and so forth.

dondraper

I have a love-hate relationship with “Mad Men,” as long time readers know. I’ve noted that it’s largely an anti-male series (as if we need more of that), and you might even say it’s anti-military, since the two most sleazy characters on the show (Don Draper and Roger Sterling) are U.S. military vets. All of the men on the show are jerks. They are serial cheaters, alcoholics, and all-around jerks with no morals. Almost all of the women on the show are sympathetic, even when they do wrong. They are seen as “forced into it” by the times and a lack of job opportunities for women, such as when office manager Joan prostitutes herself and sleeps with a client in exchange for his advertising account and a partnership interest for her. Or when rising female advertising star Peggy has a child who is the product of an affair with a married advertising agency exec and then the child is all but forgotten, being raised by Peggy’s immediate family. Neither of these women are ever looked at as cads or perpetrators but, rather, victims. The men are the cads and the pathetic “bad boys.”

None of this is surprising, though, because the show is written mostly by women and it was created and is led by uber-liberal Matthew Weiner, an opponent of gun ownership who wants more gun control laws.

But what most people don’t get is that the show is also kind of anti-American. Weiner said he wrote the show the way he did because he wanted Americans who long for that era to see that, “You see, America wasn’t that great then, either.” He said exactly that in a magazine interview he gave a year or two ago. He doesn’t want us to long for that nicer, more civilized, non-Kardashian/Obama time in contemporary America. But we should. And, if that was his aim–as he claims–he failed miserably. Recent polls have shown that Americans–particularly American women–long for that era, its glamor, and the role of women then versus the post-feminist now.

The glamor and clothing are what I like most about the show. While I’m a contemporary person and love modern accoutrements, architecture, and clothing, I also love vintage stuff, particularly the design of clothing, jewelry, and some interior design of that era. The show is chock full of that. And it’s cool to look it. Eye candy for someone like me. If I could live in any era other than current times in America, it would be the era of the Wild West in the 1800s or it would be the era of “Mad Men.” So that makes it interesting to me.

Other than that, though, it’s a delicious soap opera that could have taken place in modern times, minus some of the changes in mores and values. It’s also well-written, entertaining, and full of suspense. That kills me because it has a very leftist agenda and is a not-so-veiled attempt at showing modern middle class American life as not so happy and satisfying a la “Revolutionary Road” (read my review). It attacks American life and the capitalist ideal in the same way F. Scott Fitzgerald did it in “The Great Gatsby.” So, if you enjoy watching it, as I do, you have to keep this agenda in the back–no, maybe in the forefront–of your mind.

The show has influenced modern day fashion for both men and women, especially at the beginning of the show’s run. And it has made big names out of virtual unknowns, all of them good actors, but some of them maybe not so deserving. Check out Jon Hamm’s dopey appearance on a dating game show, below, and read about his very sick apparent torture and burning of a frat brother, for which he apparently skated. His non-stop drinking on the show isn’t acting, since he recently did a 30 day stint in rehab for alcoholism.

I haven’t seen any of Season Seven of “Mad Men” yet, as mine is a cable-free household. I wait until each season comes out on DVD and then binge-watch it. But, if you watch tonight, feel free to comment here and leave spoilers. It won’t bother me, as the drama of the show is entertaining, even if you know what’s gonna happen.

So, have you been watching the show? Will you be watching tonight? Why or why not? For better or for worse, it’s a cultural phenomenon in America, or at least a pop culture phenomenon. And tonight’s last episode will be must-see viewing for millions, with many people buzzing about it probably for the next week.

Can’t wait ’til it comes out on DVD. Pour me an “Old Fashioned” in the meantime.

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27 Responses

We don’t have cable either, so will have to buy it from Amazon tomorrow night for $1.99. It really spoiled it for me though when Matthew Weiner took a shot at Mitt Romney’s father (it wasn’t necessary). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/02/romney-mad-men-tagg-romney_n_1397017.html

MomInMinnesota on May 17, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    George Romney was a RINO and his son Mitt followed suit.

    Markus on May 17, 2015 at 9:04 pm

This rarefied world of Big Advertising is one that most of us watching knew nothing about. Those of us watching who grew up in the 60s/70s existed in ordinary middle class households with ordinary parents leading ordinary lives free of scandal or shame. So we view the Mad Men world with a generous bit of detachment. It was the same thing with The Sopranos. We entered their world each week with rapt curiosity and with a thankful sigh of relief that we didn’t have to inhabit those characters’ particular self-imposed hells. I enjoy the fine writing and masterful production and judge it on those merits entirely. Any political agenda Weiner may wish to communicate in the show doesn’t generalize to the rest of society, in my opinion.

Markus on May 17, 2015 at 8:59 pm

As the finale is now only 40 minutes away from airing tonight, I wanted to share that in my few years working in local TV advertising in the 80s, I rapidly tired of the disingenuous nature of the entire enterprise because I could never see myself as a successful pitchman. I had no gift for selling insincere bullshit– which is exactly what advertising is. Don Draper is perfectly suited for the task in the blurred boundary between his professional and personal life. Matthew Weiner apparently harbors no love for the advertising business, either, and has punished in various forms its worst (i.e. most successful) exemplars. I predict Don Draper will either be redeemed or treated punitively for his career of piling up bullshit. We shall see. I promise not to share spoilers in any possible follow-up commentary.

Markus on May 17, 2015 at 9:31 pm

I was only able to tolerate about 5 minutes of one episode a couple of years ago. Haven’t seen any since.

DS_ROCKS! on May 17, 2015 at 10:16 pm

I don’t have cable today, but even when I did I never saw the program. Besides, as far as the behind-the-scenes of the advertising world go, I’ve long leaned more towards a legendary Stan Freberg sketch, “Grey Flannel Hatful of Teenage Werewolves,” from the 13th episode of his CBS Radio show as aired on Oct. 6, 1957. For those familiar with Freberg’s radio show, you’ll know what I mean.

ConcernedPatriot on May 18, 2015 at 12:50 am

No question — values and standards were higher in this country during the early 60s, and even higher during the 1800s.

The decline really started with the end of the Victorian era in the early 1900s, and has been virtually continuous since that time with a brief respite during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The decline has progressed (or regressed) irrespective of the condition of the economy. It took giant steps during the prosperous 1920s with the flappers and loose morals, and continued during the poor economy of the 1930s when the left wing achieved a strength that still haunts us today.

Even with inequalities that existed during those times, our country had the potential of resolving those inequalities and moving forward. In fact it did move forward in resolving those inequalities, but simultaneously, values and standards took a nosedive to the point where this decline now seems irreversible.

Re the 1800s, unfortunately the Left Wing has usurped the memories of that era with Noir Westerns, such as High Noon. Opportunists like Gary Cooper, a nominal right-winger, made movies that John Wayne would never have made.

Books and movies during earlier periods that have challenged this decline are virtually unavailable, and are deleted from virtually all mention in current literature.

Little Al on May 18, 2015 at 7:40 am

Sounds like some of you folks are trying to justify crap tv.

gizmo on May 18, 2015 at 9:29 am

I watch the show! We have it all DirecTV, Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc…
I have no problem with TV for entertainment and suspect many of the “kill your TV” people really do watch it.
Our 30-year old son introduced us to Mad Men, after a few episodes it grew on me. I love the fashion, music and just reminiscing about my childhood seeing the old toaster, telephone or furniture I grew up with.
I cannot think of one character that has any redeeming value, yet I still watch knowing its mindless entertainment.

Linda on May 18, 2015 at 10:42 am

Esalen? F*cking Esalen? Good lord, no wonder I never watched this waste of writers ..

Jack on May 18, 2015 at 11:24 am

I don’t have a TV, and don’t miss it either.

Infidel on May 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

We won’t be watching it. Tired of the Hollywood left and their propaganda.

samantha on May 18, 2015 at 12:20 pm

i have not watched even ONE episode of this tripe
but i am glad its ending…..

why am i glad???? this series had ALOT of angst, anger
and saddness in it…….AND….I REALLY dont care for the
main character as an actor.

my feeling is he will be typecast as a mean, low down character IF he gets more roles.

Why is he so successful in his role??? Its ez for him
since mean and low down IS his basic character while he is
NOT on the show.

With all going on in the world now…..the LAST thing we
need is tv shows that bring us down. Lets use the tv as
it was intended…..to be an escape from all the bad things
we have going on.

IF you wanna be sad watch CNN or Fox News…..lots of angst,
fear, saddness and tumult there.

marshall dicker on May 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    When was it ever said that TV was intended to be “an escape from all the bad things going on”?

    Markus on May 18, 2015 at 4:20 pm

I have been a Mad Men fiend from the beginning. The final episode was a huge let down for me. Peggy’s sudden realization that she loved Stan was so contrived. Don’s breakdown at Esalen with the hippies and spaced out gurus was barely interesting. Fifty minutes in, I was still waiting for some kind, ANY kind of action. Of course, Roger never disappoints. He is always the highlight. And Betty still sucking on a cig while in the final stages of lung cancer was true to form. The end was an “ok, I think I get it moment,” but it didn’t knock my scuffies off. However, having said all of this, I appreciate now why Don alway said, “Life goes on and you have to move on.” The lives on the show will go on pretty much as they have for the past 7 years. Only we won’t be privy to it anymore. That is, until the first reunion show in about 3 years.

SomeDame on May 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm

I meant to bring this up about January Jones who played Betty on “Mad Men.” Long before she was even born, let alone became famous, there was another January Jones who actually lived and worked in the era depicted in “Mad Men,” who was a minor-league actress and singer who made a few records and frequently appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” from the mid-1960’s until the early ’70’s. Listed in IMDb as “January Jones (II),” her credits range from 1964 to 1975.

Needless to say, the “Mad Men” actress was not named directly after this earlier actress of the same name, but rather from a character in “Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough.”

ConcernedPatriot on May 18, 2015 at 3:38 pm

There is a little silver lining in all of the criticism levied here at this program.

The penultimate episode, already viewed, so no spoiler alert, seems to bring Pete and Don to their senses. Pete’s angst is revealed in a soliloquy that questions his incessant and unceasing search “for something better”. He returns to his family and his wife, and, as he leaves, at the door, he turns to Trudy and tells her that they will have dinner Thursday and will be just like it was.

There ya go Tom Wolfe, we can go home again.

I think Betty’s cancer is feminism. Her quest for graduation from college and home life, kills her. Betty’s daughter cries not for her mother, but the path she is now forced to take into a world so different from the one she is growing up in.

Don reads the Godfather in a motel. Mario Puzo’s Gofather character insisted, again and again, that family was the most important thing. Don’s confession at the VFW is a continuation of the deconstruction of the character he has chosen to play after he realizes, that there are so many “Dons” out there while in a sales meeting. When Don gives away the Cadillac, it is the last vestige of that failed solipsistic, self absorbed, Sisyphean quest for “something better”. Pete goes home to Trudy, Don returns to his truth, who he really wants to be.

Home to Tara baby, the red Earth of Tara, or a reasonable facsimile.

I have not seen the last episode, but, I hope it kills.

chuck on May 18, 2015 at 4:16 pm

What I most appreciated about the David Chase (The Sopranos) school of dramatic television alumni’s Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire) and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men) is their disregard for audience expectations. All of the aforementioned shows eschewed that trap, which is why they’ll be more memorable. Quality work always lasts. Crap is what’s forgettable.

Markus on May 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Is anything that doesn’t depict happy people living happy lives automatically anti-American? That’s just silly. Art is social criticism. Was Dickens anti-British? Was Ibsen anti-Norwegian?

Vic on May 18, 2015 at 5:47 pm

I guess I’m late on this post I do not know that the last episode aired last night. I never watched one episode so I guess I didn’t miss a thing.I will not watch Letterman’s last show either. Believe or not, life will continue.
I do like the period shows that highlight 1960’s style cars, architecture etc.

Thanks for tip on Wiener concerning gun control.

Peter on May 18, 2015 at 6:43 pm

The show is a cultural phenom due to the media critics, who universally have orgasms over it. The show attracts a very, very small audience. Last week, it was rated #23 of all cable shows with 1.8 million viewers. Compare that to the 15 million or more that watch The Walking Dead. Yet, which show gets more press. It’s precisely because of its tone that critics love it.

JeffT on May 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm

The Walking Dead is as deep as a puddle and appeals to a less sophisticated audience enamored with car chases, stuff blowing up, and cheesy blood and gore shock value.

Markus on May 18, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    Couldn’t agree more! I wonder what’s gonna happen this week on Walking dead? More zombies getting gored in the head. What a shocker!

    MRobs on May 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Well, I just watched the last episode.

I’m corny, I loved the violins, Don’s emotional catharsis which girded him for more ad wars in the marketplace and even Peggy’s contrived romance with Stan.

Betty, still sucking on the coffin nails and Sally at the sink.
It was great.

It didn’t turn out like I thought, but hell, for the most part, happy endings.

chuck lowe on May 18, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Mad Men is over rated and boring. I think the writing sucks.

MRobs on May 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Testing

Hesperado on May 19, 2015 at 7:37 pm

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