Thursday, May 02, 2013

Mad Men, Sexism, and Irony

For those who don't know, Mad Men is a show about ... stuff. Okay, it's a character study and a demonstration about life in the sixties. Also, Jon Hamm's Wang. In addition to the fascinating life of the characters, the show adores slapping you in the face with the things that have changed in the last sixty years. Like when the Draper family has a fun afternoon at the park and, when they're done, they clean up by throwing all their trash on the ground, folding their picnic blanket, and driving away. Also, rampant racism, and sexism, and drunk driving (the legal limit was .15!)

The character of Peggy Olson is just nifty, played by the phenomenal Elisabeth Moss. You might remember her from The West Wing. Peggy's a bit different. She goes from being a naive suburban Catholic girl to, well, a wicked awesome icon of second-wave feminism. A woman working to have it all, a satisfying personal life and accepted as an equal in the workplace.

I started watching Mad Men when the local Blockbuster folded. They sold off their stock at cut-rate prices and I, like the rest of the town, descended and picked over the carcass. Among other things, I got the first season of the show and watched it with my mom. Then I got the second and third seasons. Simply phenomenal television. Mom's not nearly as into that sort of thing, so I watched the commentaries by myself and I noticed something. When discussing the male actors, the actors, writers, directors simply talk about the writing, the deeper significance, and the craft. When discussing the female actors, they talk about how beautiful they are.

In a show that likes to slap you in the face with, among other things, how sexist things used to be, they continue to embody sexism behind the scenes. Is that ironic? Or just meta?
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