Why do we write? That is a question that Creators asked us. The answer? Because we love it. Because we want to share our opinions and bring people into our minds and our worlds; share our passions, our thoughts and even our fears. We write because it makes us feel good. I look to further answer that question by sharing with you something that I am passionate about. Immerse yourself in my world.
Okay, so that sounded a lot deeper than I think I intended it to, but what I said is true. And I'd like to share this with you.
As a great man once said:
Shut The Door. Have A Seat.
In this golden age of television, we can all find something to immerse ourselves in; to disconnect us from the outside world and our worries and fears. If only just for a little while, we can forget- escape to a world of true tranquility where the problems exist only in fiction.
I'd like to think that if Don Draper were to advertise television, it would go something like that. Draper's words are always so heartfelt and real; the man could sell ice to an Eskimo, and the Eskimo would take it with a smile. This is one of many impacts that Mad Men made throughout it's 8 year run, ending last year.
Mad Men changed fashion, revived trends and saw baby names like Betty come back into use. Four Emmy awards in a row for it's first four seasons, a win for best actor and many more accolades. But what makes Mad Men so special?
Mad Men takes place in 1960's Manhattan and follows the lives of the employees of Sterling Cooper, an ad agency that's a leader in it's field. Mad Men was created by former Sopranos writer Matthew Weiner. It stars Jon Hamm in the main role with, among others, January Jones, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks. The show's main focus is it's characters; they deal with things that we all deal with, things that we all face and things that we all have to overcome. Mad Men has been universally adored since its debut in 2007 through to its end in 2015 and beyond.
Don Draper: Man With A Plan.
The main focus of the show is Don Draper. A quiet, reserved and mysterious man who nobody knows anything about. As stated in the first season, "He could be Batman for all we know". Draper is excellent at his job and leads a life that many would call "the American dream".
He's at the top of his profession and has a seemingly perfect home life with a beautiful wife (January Jones) and two children. But as Mad Men constantly looks to remind us, things aren't always what they seem, and everybody has secrets; things we hide, "The places we should never go" and "The people we should never be".
Time & Life.
Being set in the sixties, Mad Men is full of subjects like racism, sexism, homophobia and segregation, and doesn't shy away from any of it. It explores the ever changing times and the struggles of being anything but a white male in the sixties. Everybody is drinking and smoking 99 percent of the time and it shows us how while times have changed, they have stayed the same.
Mad Men acts as a reflection of society; holding a mirror up at us and forcing us to see ourselves and who we are, what we are. We constantly talk about the changes we've made, the improvements that have come over our society and what we've become. But how much has really changed? This is ultimately the question Mad Men presents us with.
This, for me, is the thing that makes Mad Men stand out against any other drama- at least the ones I've seen. It's relatable. It's real. It's raw. While a cancer ridden chemistry teacher turning to a life of crime is perfectly plausible, it's not exactly something that you experience in everyday life.
A lot of people miss this about Mad Men. Some people don't see past the glitz and glamour of a bygone era. It is a deep and complex show and something that fans love to pick apart, piece by piece. Mad Men is purposely ambiguous in it's messages and sometimes doesn't even want to make much initial sense.
Mad Men is a show that begs for discussion. It wants to make you think, it wants you asking questions and it wants to stick with you; lingering around the corners of your mind until you discover some hidden meaning, a metaphor or just something to make sense of it all. What does it all mean? What does this all mean? And Mad Men does that oh so well.
As described by television critic Matt Zoller Seitz in relation to the show's themes:
"It defines the difference between right-brain and left-brain story telling, between drama as poetry and drama as architecture."
Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency.
Mad Men presents us with characters that we've all met at some point in our lives. We have the man who is brilliant at his job, the reserved man, the man who has everything and at the same time has nothing, the womanizer, the family man, and the man who wishes he was somewhere else. And that's just Don Draper!
Further along we have Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), a woman challenging a male dominated workplace, Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), the femme fatale 'queen bee' among the secretaries and somebody that the offices could not run without. We have Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), who is good at his job but feels he doesn't get the recognition he deserves, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) — who constantly proves his worth but is always cast aside, with the Draper children getting the spotlight in later seasons and many, many more personalities that will be familiar to most of us.
Mad Men is something to be enjoyed but also something to be observed; to be experienced. The show often abandons traditional story telling and is told through a dream-like structure. The drunken nights, the drug hallucinations, the blackouts and the memories; all the times where it presents an unconscious revelation, waiting for us to put the pieces together.
"Mad Men is not ordered by chronology but by emotional associations." Consider all the times the show mislead us, gave us false starts and false endings or told us everything, and nothing at all. Mad Men wants to engage us, frustrate us; lead us to a different place, a place that is deeper and more complex. It shows how we are all vulnerable to life's pleasures and that no matter how much we try, we cannot escape who we are, and we cannot run away from our pasts. The show expresses feeling rather than just advancing a plot. It demands attention, it demands discussion, it demands dissection.
I am not sure what this article was supposed to be. You might be sat there thinking "What the heck is he talking about?" A discussion of Mad Men and it's themes? Psychology? Society? Life?
This is why Mad Men is special. These are my inner thoughts. Perhaps they make sense and perhaps they make none at all- much like Mad Men itself. It makes you think and it makes you feel. You can't help but try to understand what it means and what it represents. No other show impacted me the way that Mad Men did, and not everybody is gonna get that; but if you do, you really do. Either way, I hope you got something out of this, subtle as it may be.
As author Megan Abbot said in Matt Zoller Seitz's critical book Mad Men: Carousel, referencing Don Draper's legendary Kodak Carousel pitch: