Embracing Don Draper: can feminists love Mad Men?

18 / 10 / 2012

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Despite 17 nominations, Mad Men went home empty handed at the Emmy Awards recently. A vastly popular show, it also causes us to reflect on what has changed since the drama was set in the ’60s. Emily Lee-Ack takes on Culture Club this month with her analysis of the series.

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Mad Men, a critically acclaimed US television series set in a Madison Avenue Advertising agency in the 1960s, has triggered a 21st century binge on all things ’60s.  From the resurgence of hats and demure frocks to sharp dressing for men to clever reinterpretations of original advertising, it has generated a buzz which, even if you haven’t seen the show, seems to be everywhere.

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The phenomenon hasn’t been without its detractors, many of whom are sharply opposed to the zeal with which popular culture has embraced Don Draper and his company.  Tom Scocca, writing for Slate, is particularly vicious – less about the show itself than the way society has weaved its 1960s narrative around it:  “Did you not know, before Don Draper told you, that there was a time when women faced open, blatant sexism in the workplace? Why does anyone need Don’s blessing to bring up this basic, commonplace fact?”  To be fair, and addressing that question purely on its merits, in a society where people ask questions like “Is Wimbledon held in London every year?” and “WhoTF is Paul McCartney?” perhaps this isn’t entirely problematic – film and television at their best have always helped us to understand our history.

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Daniel Mendelsohn, writing in the New York Times Review of Books, laments:  “For a drama (or book, or whatever) to invite an audience to feel superior to a less enlightened era even as it teases the regressive urges behind the behaviours associated with that era strikes me as the worst possible offense that can be committed in a creative work set in the past: it’s simultaneously contemptuous and pandering”.  But does Mad Men really invite us to feel that superior?  Even as we watch it, don’t we worry that while we’ve lost the workplace drinking at breakfast-time and the smoking (everywhere), some of the behaviours and attitudes are not actually that far from our own?

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Buy Tastylia Online No Prescription Needed Which brings us to Mad Men’s reading of women.  For some feminist commentators , a television show which goes close to deifying a philandering protagonist whose approach to women is at best unthinking and at worst, cruel, is deeply worrying.  Nell Engoron, writing at Salon, argues that “the show sides with the men. The men get off scot-free…while the women are subjected to repeated humiliation and misfortune, which is invariably attributed to their own flaws and poor choices”.  For my feminist friends, this also rang true.  “I’m just not sure I can watch it,” one friend shivered after seeing two episodes of the (admittedly bleak) first season.  “It’s just not a feminist show.  I can’t reconcile the characters with my view of how women should be portrayed and treated”.

http://traffic-dealer.de/?kruwa=bin???¤re-optionen---meine-geschichte-forum binäre optionen meine geschichte forum But if you’re going to refuse to engage with something because it doesn’t portray women in a light which recognises their true worth, then perhaps it’s best not to read William Shakespeare either.  Or listen to Bruce Springsteen.  Or consume any popular culture, really (with the obvious exception of Sheilas).

binära optioner bra By Season Five, it is clear that the social change of the 1960s (placed somewhat appropriately at the periphery of the Mad Men’s upper-middle-class world) is sending the women of its world in very different directions.  Where several of the male characters (notably the laconic Don Draper and smug Roger Sterling) show very little growth through the series, the women are evolving in spectacular and complicated ways.   Having scorned a divorcee new to her community, Betty discovers a way out of a complicated and disappointing  marriage.  Peggy uses her wage as a means of embracing a relatively independent life.  As the series progresses, it becomes clear that the truism of feminism – that it took much longer to change what it meant to be a man than it did to change what it meant to be a woman – is being played out in the offices of Sterling Cooper.

tastylia side effects A mapping of the tensions between women in this time of change is also present in the series.  Feminism is often reluctant to engage on issues of difference between women –sometimes it’s too easy to become fodder for the “If-all-women-don’t-agree-on-everything-then-feminism-must-be-dumb/broken/not working” machine.  Mad Men, albeit in a way consistent with its own plot lines, allows its women characters to explore the way in which a fringe idea – women’s equality – becomes mainstream. The interplay between the women on the show demonstrates the role change being carved out by younger women: their changing expectations and new ideas about how to be treated in contrast to those who are happy with the niche they’ve carved for themselves.

opzione binarie con soli 10 euro Secretary-come-Business Manager Joan’s reprimands of ambitious copywriter Peggy are also jarring, because for feminists of our generation the sisterhood is a well-established idea.  For these women who had both achieved a level of career success, there is an inherent suspicion of one another.  Both recognise that their positions are tenuous.  Without the structural protections many women now take for granted, the territorialism with which they guard their own gains is understandable, yet– in an era where sisterhood has achieved so much – difficult to watch.

binäre optionen aktien handeln None of Mad Men’s lead characters are community activists or politicians.  They don’t pursue social change, but neither has writer Matthew Weiner let them bask in the somewhat smug idea that a quarter-page ad will change the world.  What the show demonstrates is a phenomenon perhaps easy to overlook: while significant leaders were at the forefront of social movements, those who brought change were in the most part ordinary people.  And there’s nothing more complicated than ordinary people.