Must See DVD: Mad Men
Mad Men is definitely one of those TV shows that are so good I should have watched it sooner. I'm still watching Season 1. How did I miss this story of practical examples of personal and professional moral disasters? It's a complete guide of what-not-to-do. Although it's set in an advertising agency, I don't think the issues involved are unique to that industry.
Mad Men is set early enough (60s) that all characters definitely have not embraced feminism. This is a reminder of how new the world is to the concept of ideal equal treatment based on merit instead of personal characteristics. The story is set very little over fifty years ago. We take for granted things like freedom to choose whatever career we want, and freedom to balance a professional and personal life, and most importantly freedom from discrimination. The unbelievable behaviour in Mad Men is a pleasant reminder of what we now don't have to put up with. Some of those everyday consequences of misogyny could be seen as more unique to the early 60s, when the show is set. But every character has some flaws that cross the cultural boundaries of time.
Don Draper is the personified guide in what to never ever do. There is a realistic dimension as Don shows us the consequences of reckless behaviour, through his affect on his family and friends. Don's secret social life away from his family is embarassingly detrimental to the happiness of his wife as he abandons the people he belongs to. I'd say he's one of the villains, not a hero. Every show has an evil force as we sympathise with the victims.
We can't forget the Mad Men characters live in an advertising world. I am thankful for a story which discusses the blurred line between profitability and corporate social responsibility. Customers in the pilot include a cigarette company - showing us quite clearly where the professional grey areas are. Remember there have been progressions since those days. Of course humanity isn't suddenly perfect, but there is at least more theoretical support and social scrutiny pushing for transparent practice. There's nothing wrong with watching worst case scenarios of persuasion. But just remember there are plenty of honest people in the world doing a better job than Don.
Please don't feel overwhelmed by the deep debate looming below the surface of the Mad Men stories. And please appreciate my attempt to not give away much actual plot in case you haven't seen it yet. Sit back relax, and escape to an era of gigantic skirts and slick hair. Oh, and a time when you had to use a telephone to instantly communicate with someone. So let's all engage in the the comfort of having more conscience than those characters have. And maybe find out what disasters they fall into next.