Nostalgia at Its Best
July 19, 2007 – Present
Stars: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, and many others
Since I’ve exhausted many of the British television shows on Netflix, Mad Men caught my eye as soon as I read that it was set in the 1960’s. Ah, the 1960’s. I was 10 in 1960; graduated from high school in 1968. Watching this television show brings back not only my childhood, but my teenage years as well. Everything from Selectric typewriters, to switchboards, phones with blinking buttons, eating raw hamburger, and living with parents that smoked and drank as a normal part of life.
Set in New York City in the heyday of advertising agencies in Manhattan, it’s an eclectic weave of husbands, housewives, mistresses, secretaries, office politics, and account executives. It reminds me of those days when anything went. Men made sexual innuendos to the female office staff, booze was in the offices, and everyone smoked like a chimney. My first time someone flirted with me at my second job in 1969, the bank manager came up and told me I had “great legs.” Then in 1972 my boss had me stay late one night and came up behind me and grabbed my breasts. Wow, I could have sued had that happened today.
On top of the outlandish days of sexual harassment in the office, it’s mixed with the occurrence of segregation where Negros couldn’t ride in the elevators with the working staff unless given permission. Everyone in the company was white – no mixing of the races like our modern offices today. Jewish people were treated like aliens that couldn’t be understood. Everyone drank and smoked. I can remember my first boss in 1968 having a bottle of booze stashed in his desk drawer. Most of the day he smelled of alcohol.
Then there were the women who stayed home – the housewives. Always with their hair in place, their bouncy little dresses, their kids clean, their houses spotless, and dinner waiting on the table when their husbands came home. They knew their place, and they kept their place whether they were miserable or happy. It was their way of life, along with eating prime rib and butter for dinner. The men, of course, lived doubled lives of carousing with other women and having mistresses on the side in or out of the office setting. Married women, who met a divorced woman with two children living alone, was an unthinkable state of affairs.
The characters are wonderful, with their own back story of how their childhood and family has molded them into the adults they have become. Each have their own personal struggles, whether it be with self-worth, a family they wish to forget, a wife with whom they are estranged, an overbearing mother who filled their daughters with expectations, or a father who doesn’t support their son’s career choice. The stories are rich in their own right and filled with everybody’s pursuit of happiness in the 60’s, in one way or the other. Rather than worrying about their smoking, drinking, or butter on their plates, the Communists are the threats, as well as the thought of having a Catholic president.
I can’t tell you how utterly entertaining this show is, at least for me. If you didn’t grow up in that era, you’ll probably find it very strange. If you did, it will be like walking down memory lane, remembering your childhood, and no doubt your parents. I can still see my mother who wore a dress every day, had dinner on the table, who hadn’t worked out of the home since World War II. Yes, we have evolved in many ways. Discrimination and sexism in the office is a thing of the past. Feminism has taken the women out of the homes and made them executives along side men. However, a part of me misses the simplicity of those days when life had different complications than we face today.
One of my favorites are the girls in the office and how they share the gossip. A particular scene that had me rolling on the floor happened to be when one lady pulled from her purse the novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and the women started talking about it. Of course, it’s strictly taboo to read such a book that uses the words no lady would utter and contain such graphic sexual scenes in a book! One woman asks if she can borrow it to read, and the advice was priceless. “Don’t read it on the train. It will attract all the wrong elements.” What a hoot! Reminded me of today and women reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public. Things never really change in some aspects. We just color it in a different light.
Anyway, highly recommend the show. After finishing five seasons on Netflix, I’d like to slap Don Draper in his unzipped pants. Nevertheless, I love the characters.