Mad Men (TV Show)

Mad Men (Created by Mathew Weiner)/2007-2015

What has happened to Mad Men? I first started watching Mad Men after being blown away by the Wire. At the time it was a solid way to deal with the loss of Stringer Bell and Bunk from my life. The opening credits were amazing, the clothes and furniture beautiful and the historical references interesting.

Central to Mad Men was always the beautiful loser Don Draper. Like the Sopranos, Mad Men gave us an anti-hero: a man that was far from perfect, but with enough charm and positive attributes to be likable. Draper cheated on his wife, but had a passion for his work and rose from a state of poverty. Moreover, his objectification of women was always balanced by his mentoring of Peggy and his love for Anna Draper. I always found Don’s story of taken identify a bit odd, but it told us boldly that the men of Don’s age were losing their identify: an identity built on the lie of inherent male dominance.

As the show has progressed Don, and the show itself, has become primarily focused on sexual conquest: lately there seems to be little focus on the power of creativity and the influence of our pasts on our present selves. Mad Men has even stopped its investigation into the complexities of people battling with their weaknesses. What has emerged is one-dimensional characters: men solely interested in sex and women mostly presented as struggling to advance their careers.

Maybe it was wrong to see Mad Men as a presentation of a time period and the moral complexities of human identity, when in reality it is a show about gender relations and sexuality. However, even if this is the case, the show has fallen victim to presenting these issues in a format that sells rather than something that is enlightening or truthful (or interesting).

It is strange. Everyone knows that that sex sells. However, Mad Men already had the fans and the success. It did not need to retreat to the easy sell in order to continue. It might be that the Mad Men team have run out of ideas; or, they have fallen victim to their own fantasies. 

It is possible that the writers are trying to make the point that humanity has been completely consumed by lust and careerism and that our lives have become empty of all other meaning. But, the one-dimensional hyper sexuality of the presentation overwhelms and deadens the message.

The final few episodes may make sense of all this. However, regardless of the conclusion, I don’t think Mad Men will finish as one of the great TV shows.

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