I cannot tell you how many times I heard the question, “Do you watch Mad Men?”
I didn’t, so their next comment was usually, “You should! It’s right up your alley.”
I knew it would be a good show for me, but my daughter was born a month after its premier, and for several years, adding another hour-long drama to my already full schedule wasn’t going to happen. When the show was in its fourth season, I finally decided to give it a chance. I got 10 episodes in and was so bored that I gave up. The character development was long and drawn out, and I didn’t like many of the main characters to begin with.
I got sick of watching a bunch of pompous men who cheated on their wives.
When the fifth season was starting, a neighbor finally convinced me I needed to try again and to at least finish the first season before I gave up. It was in those last three episodes that all of the character development paid off, and the first season ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger. By the third season, I was hooked, binge-watching like a crazy person, while I carried my iPad around the house cleaning toilets and watching those same pompous men — many of whom I now liked — with the excitement of a 13-year-old girl going to her first dance.
Here are the six reasons I’m oh so glad I didn’t quit Mad Men:
1. Don Draper
Don is — at face value — a self-important jerk. He drinks too much, smokes too much, cheats on his wife, doesn’t spend time with his family and has a mysterious past few people know about. The drinking, smoking and not spending much time with his family could very well be chalked up to the fact that it was the 1960s, and that’s what a lot of men did. The mysterious past keeps you coming back, as you want to find out exactly what happened and why he is who he is — a smart, go-getter who pulls advertising slogans out of his brain like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. He’s fascinating, he’s debonair and he’s a big part of why you can’t stop watching.
2. The time period
The 1960s were a time of great change for Americans, and it’s interesting to look back at how much we have changed. In one episode, the Drapers are out for a family picnic on a Sunday afternoon. When it’s time to leave, they fling their picnic blanket in the air. Trash and empty beer cans go flying onto the ground. Don folds up the blanket, they walk away and head to the car. Unfortunately, I remember this same thing as a kid in the 1970s, and all I can say is hooray for recycling!
3. Historical themes
Not only have we evolved environmentally, but socially, spiritually and individually as well. You soon realize being a woman in the 1960s was no walk in the park. They either stayed home and smoked cigarettes while watching TV all day or worked in an unwelcoming environment. The sexism faced by many of the characters in some episodes left me angry and, as the mother of a daughter, so glad times have changed. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, alcoholism, smoking allowed everywhere and adultery are all issues touched on in the series. You may not realize how much change our country went through in that decade, but it was substantial. We are still a work in progress, but the 60s were a great decade and a lot of strides were made.
4. The setting
It doesn’t get better than New York City, and 1960s Madison Avenue, with Don Draper in the mix, will captivate you.
5. Visual aesthetic
Show creator Matthew Weiner drew great inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock in the making of Mad Men. You can see the influence of his films, such as Vertigo and North by Northwest, in the series. The visual aesthetic is gorgeous and goes perfectly with the time period.
6. The clothes
Seriously. Not only the clothes, but the hair, the makeup and the shoes — all of it. While women were basically treated like dirt in the workplace, they certainly didn’t look like dirt. They looked beautiful, all the time. No running to the grocery store in sweats and a ponytail for these ladies. A full face of makeup was needed just to get the mail. They dressed to go shopping, for dinner and for airplane trips. It’s easy to have an appreciation for the effort they made daily, and it’s hard not to have a twinge of envy that we still might put forth that same effort today. (Then again, I’m happy to sit here in my sweats, typing on my keyboard — because my career and my clothes are my choice.)
I hope you didn’t give up on Mad Men like I did. If you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you do. There are 92 episodes in all, and that seems like a lot of hours devoted to one show, but it’s a show continually called the greatest drama ever written. The payoff is huge. The ending is pure genius, but you have to watch the other 91 episodes to appreciate it.