Pretty Little Prisoners: The Sexual Politics of Mad Men

mad-men-tv-90

Be still my heart!

Over the next week leading up to the Series Three Mad Men premiere, I’ll be posting some thoughts on the sumptuously heartbreaking AMC TV series. Here are just the first few paragraphs.

Start organizing your thoughts on MM so we can have good conversations in the comments, ok, friendos?

Before we even get into it: I started trying to write a super scholarly treatise on Mad Men, but, almost 10 years after college days spent blissfully analyzing poems and novels to death, I finally realized that I wasn’t writing an essay for WST 205 (Something’s Happening Here: Manifestations of Social Change and Dissonance in 1960s America Through the Lens of “Second Wave” Feminist Theory). Thus, please enjoy my nonacademic rambly thoughts, and please add your own!

After hearing me heap praise on Mad Men for months, a friend finally started watching the series from the beginning. He called me up after watching the first few episodes.
“I don’t get this show. Why you like it.”
“What?”
“You talked so much about the clothes and the set designs and the characters—I didn’t know it was going to be so dark. And it doesn’t seem like a show you’d be into—the women are so, I don’t know…oppressed.”

Yep!

Just as there are people who do not understand that The Simpsons isn’t a lighthearted cartoon but one of the most bitingly satiric shows ever to air on TV, there are people running around whining about how Mad Men is misogynist. Today seems like as good a day as any for a radical feminist to counter that claptrap by heaping praise on this most radical, most feminist show.

After watching every episode of both seasons three times and taking copious notes (as well as screenshots), my thoughts on Mad Men, can be boiled down to two:

  • It’s about feminism.
  • It’s about nihilism.

Specifically: how a heartbreaking devotion to the latter held back the former.

And: how that changed.

Tune in next Tuesday or Wednesday for more! BE EXCITED!

8 Responses to “Pretty Little Prisoners: The Sexual Politics of Mad Men”

  1. mary

    i can’t wait to read your thoughts and to see the rest of season 2! favorite show. xxoox

    Reply
  2. Dani

    THANK YOU! ( I asked you once if maybe you’d write about this, so glad you are.)

    your praise over the last few months has made me re-think my aversion to the show.

    the first 3 episodes of season 1 made me feel all icky…that it’s a show created by men about mostly men with “men” in the title just made my skin crawl. plus it just seemed all style, no substance (although I agree, the style is amazing! oh to be a peon in the set decorator’s or costumer’s crew!). I admit, I’m one of those who felt it was sort of glorifying that era of extreme male dominance and that the women characters were so static and depressing – they didn’t seem to hold up as having any importance to the show except as decorative scenery, sexual conquests and victims…it was sort of like reading Updike without the beautiful prose to get you through the shitty things the characters do or LET be done to them that make you want to reach into the book and strangle them.

    um…so. I’m willing to take that as a knee-jerk reaction and tell myself maybe I can give it another chance. I still think it’s going to be hard to watch without at least 2 glasses of wine.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of your points!

    Reply
  3. Dani

    (created mostly by men I meant…and I forgot to say how hard it is to watch because of the advertising BS…)
    yet I am ready to have my mind flipped! bring on the critical thinking!

    Reply
  4. lagusta

    OK!
    “the first 3 episodes of season 1 made me feel all icky…that it’s a show created by men about mostly men with “men” in the title just made my skin crawl.”
    IT SHOULD! It’s supposed to! That’s good!

    “plus it just seemed all style, no substance ”
    OH NO!

    “(oh to be a peon in the set decorator’s or costumer’s crew!).”
    OH YES!

    “I admit, I’m one of those who felt it was sort of glorifying that era of extreme male dominance and that the women characters were so static and depressing – they didn’t seem to hold up as having any importance to the show except as decorative scenery, sexual conquests and victims…”
    OK, i’m eager to see if I change your mind by the end of the week–let me know!

    “it was sort of like reading Updike”
    Yuck, why would anyone do such a thing? ;)

    Reply

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