Thursday, September 17, 2009

“Mad Men” and the horror of grey flannel masculinity

I have a new post up at Global Comment

The popular show “Mad Men” concerns the advertising business in the early 1960’s. It centers on the highly problematic life of Don Draper. It is authentic in its presentation of the time period, which includes its portrayal of gender roles and race relations. Women on the show are largely in search of a man to marry. It is expected that they will give up their jobs to keep house and raise babies. People of color are only portrayed doing menial labour. In a recent scene, Roger Sterling, who is played by John Slattery, dons blackface to entertain a group of his friends. In this sense, “Mad Men” often reveals the ugliness behind the much beloved Camelot era in the United States.

Much has been written about the isolation of the 1960’s housewife. The white second-wave feminist movement launched much of their organizing behind the assertion that women had a right to be to work and be productive members of society. In the process, we have ignored the plight of the grey flannel suit that men of that period wore and its symbol as a form of yet another gender slavery. In Don Draper, we can see a man of great privilege who is nevertheless suffering from a highly conflicted identity.

The grey flannel suit of the 1960’s functioned much like a straightjacket. Men were expected to be the great provider and to present a stiff upper lip at all times. Their identities were totally tied to their jobs, which is why Don Draper does not just work in advertising; he lives and breathes advertising.

Finish reading here