Why I like Mad Men
1. It's about an advertising firm and its peculiar combination of madness and magic. I can relate to it so much sometimes that it is frightening. Frightening because this is a supposedly authentic 40 year old milieu. What has changed?
2. Don Draper. A swoon-worthy brilliant hero who is not faultless or fearless. Women fall all over him and he takes advantage; yet he is a good father and his sense of family is an old-fashioned one. He is the creative backbone of his agency; yet he is pretty much a product of his times when it comes to gender equations in his office. He has things to hide in his past and it makes him mysterious, enigmatic.
3. The women. Shockingly treated and used. A copywriter who is not paid as much as another because of her gender. Secretaries whose only aspirations are meant to be marriage. Affairs that lead nowhere. Yet they form pretty much the backbone of the series. Peggy is the representative of the female breakthrough in corporate ranks - a secretary who aspires to be and becomes a copywriter; who has ambitions beyond her gender; who attempts to make the most of the lift Draper gives her. Joan, her striking sexiness and her impeccable efficiency at work gets her nothing more than an affair with the boss and a loser husband. Betty Draper is the Richard Yates suburban wife, frustrated beyond words, willing herself to believe she is worth more than the roles she plays. It leads to little beyond useless psychiatric sessions, an affair and a divorce. Marylyn Monroe had a lot to answer for in setting the stereotype.
4. The suits in advertising. Don't think they make them like that anymore - gung-ho, adding value far beyond creative, salesmen par excellence. Shows me up terribly.
5. The drinking and the smoking. I love the insouciance of it all. Everybody, including pregnant women, drinks and smokes, in office and out of it, all the time. Political correctness be damned.
6. The clothes, the lipsticks, the hair, the nails, the shoes. Women who are turned out impeccably well most times. The aura of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Monroe.
7. A current obsession with that time in American history and the surprising angst evident in a prosperous, rising economy. The civil rights movement, feminism, the sexual revolution... all somewhere in the pipeline. Historical fiction, however recent the history, is pretty fascinating.
And some inexplicable magic that keeps me coming back, again and again.