It’s a mad, mad world

The following is an unabridged version of my column that ran in Metro on Aug. 20, 2009:

There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

The third season of TV series Mad Men premiered this Sunday; in it, the staff at ad agency Sterling Cooper is jettisoned into 1963.

Oh, what a year it turns out to be: Housewives awaken from domestic stupor when The Feminine Mystique is published; Camelot tumbles; Beatles fans let out hormonal squeals; singer Sam Cooke writes his iconic song “A Change is Gonna Come,” about simmering racial tension in the South.

Mad Men, a show its creator Matthew Weiner has said is feminist, signals the third season’s tone in the opening minutes, when Sterling Cooper’s lone male secretary mutters, “This place is a gynocracy.”

Though Manhattan was a man’s world, the woman’s life is well-explored: they’re passed over for jobs; pre-marital sex makes them “strumpets”; men rape them; they consider abortions.

Consider Christina Hendricks’ account of how viewers reacted to her character Joan’s rape: “People say things like, ‘Well, you know that episode where Joan sort of got raped?’ Or they say rape and use quotation marks with their fingers … It illustrates how similar people are today, because we’re still questioning whether it’s a rape.”

I’ve heard viewers, male and female, fawn about the secretive Don Draper, but even the intelligent ones are in awe of this lying, cheating ass. Truly, inexplicably, women are drawn to his misogyny, and men want to be that.

I chuckled when Joan shows the new-girl secretary Peggy to her typewriter. “It looks complicated, but the men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use,” she assures her.

Mad Men was set in a world on the cusp of change, edging its way to free love, desegregation and violent war — but they clung, and still we cling, to antiquated notions.

Every generation has its revolution, and ours is now. I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it is. It’s Afghanistan, where a law was passed that allows men to starve their wives for denying them sex. It’s Carleton University allegedly accusing one of its female students of “asking for” a sex assault by working late at night in a secluded lab. It’s women being interrogated before receiving birth control, the morning-after pill or an abortion.

Mad Men is a mirror, and if we look into it, we will see that our turmoil is as it always has been.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted August 20, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    yes! I’m glad to see you are doing this. I can’t remember if you were part of the discussion last week about women changing their names when they get married?

  2. Posted August 20, 2009 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    no, but links?

    i have very strong feelings about keeping my own name. most of it is a cultural thing — some chinese women keep their birth names (well, the chinese ones, that is). my mom still goes by her maiden name in chinese, but changed her english name to my dad’s. that, and odds are i will marry/partner with a white guy, and honestly, i don’t want people to think i’m white. i also think hyphens are pretentious. so there’s my entirely selfish, vain reasoning.

  3. Posted August 20, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Well my family is from Quebec, and since the 60s (quiet revolution) women don’t change their names when they get married, and it’s actually made difficult to legally change it.
    Check this out. http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2009/08/12/2009-08-12_70_percent_of_americans_.html
    Pretty shocking that 70% of the survey respondents thought the name change should be required. UGH.
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/08/12/name_change/index.html
    I thought I read a longer article somewhere… I’ll find it.

  4. Posted September 15, 2009 at 11:18 am | Permalink

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