I am interrupting my series on the Mr. Dependable years to bring you a lighter fare; though, as is my custom, be prepared for me to go deep. That's me, always taking it deep. Why yes it was, double entendre you say? Thank you very much.
All the hype, all the awards, Gayle gettin' Oprah all excited about it, I finally had to see what this Mad Men thing was about so I DRV'd myself a Mad Man marathon and have now viewed all seven episodes of Season 3. This prompted me to get on ye old AMC website and find out what the hell happened in Seasons 1 and 2.
While there, I created an avatar of yours truly as I would appear in the early 60's Mad Men genre. Cute, huh? Man, this girdle is killing me!
The show is good, full of symbolism, not in your face - you have to dig for it. I could keep it light here and go on and on about the writing, the sets, the wardrobe, the careful attention to every last subtle detail of that era but I won't. You can watch it and appreciate those things for yourself. I prefer to focus on that which has been burned into my brain after seeing 7 episodes. Holy shit, that doleful, haunted, little Sally Draper is me, or was me. No wonder I spent most of my time scared, confused and sad. The early 60's were hard on a girl.
Parents were not the least bit interested in how a child might be feeling when they lose say, their grandpa, who was perhaps the only positive male influence said child had in her life. Sally was told to stop crying and go watch TV, wherein she witnessed a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, in an act of self immolation during a protest in Saigon. There was no one available to explain what was happening during those turbulent times.
In another scene, Sally runs into the kitchen with a plastic dry cleaning bag over her head and is sharply reprimanded for potentially wrinkling the clothes that were in it. I know this seems a bit over the top but in all honesty, I think our parents were living in a fucked up time and they didn't have the desire, strength or concern for our social or emotional development. They did the best they could.
I am mad (crazy about) Mad Men but it also makes me mad (crazy angry). Not only am I forced to delve into my own misguided childhood but I am also compelled to analyze the social commentary of the time. The historically accurate account of the life of women and the treatment of minorities is appallingly painful. I've seen the newsreels, I understood people of color were not allowed on buses or in restaurants, couldn't drink out of water fountains and were beaten and hosed down by the authorities. I have cried while witnessing the brutality and rejoiced at the triumphs of the brave leaders who stepped up to pave the way. I thought I had it. I thought I understood why it was so important for us to have an African American president.
Now I realize, I really didn't get it. Isn't it remarkable that a TV show gave me a slap in the face by showing me what I didn't see, what is not talked about? Mad Men has exposed me to the ignorant, infectious subtlety behind racism. It wasn't just the uneducated, good ol' boys from the deep south, it wasn't just the KKK or the police who were to blame. It was rich white people gathered at a party, watching the partner of their Madison Avenue advertising firm singing to his new fiance in black face. This was 1963, the year of my birth. Forty-five years later, we elected an African American president. I get it now.
Then there is the plight of women, making their way in a man's world. I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like to be one of the first women to break those barriers. I am fighting for Peggy, she's smart - a writer, raised to be a lady but not afraid to bend the rules, question authority, even smoke pot if it will get her a guest pass to visit that exclusive club for people with penises. When I watch Peggy, I feel like one of those Sunday afternoon armchair quarterbacks yelling at the referee to call that penalty, "it was holding ref, call it"! I cheer for her, she is my hero.
Racism is still with us and women are still fighting for equality in the work force. I have had my own personal encounters with both. My dad would not let me bring my black friend from our neighborhood (the only black family there) into our house to play. I had to play with her outside because he thought she was dirty. He frequently used the N word and sometimes worse when he would see a black person sitting on their front porch. I used to argue with him about it. When I really wanted to make him angry, I would tell him I was going to marry a black man. I can still picture the fury in his face as he ranted, "like hell you will, over my dead body, etc."
Likewise in my career, I have had more than my fair share of exclusions from the frat club, derivative nicknames, sexual harassment and of course, earning much less than my male counterparts. But hey, after watching Mad Men I know the old Virginia Slims advertisement is true. We've come a long way baby. (Hmmm, I wonder if Peggy wrote that slogan?)