Mad (and sick) Men (and women)
Anyone reading this who knows me knows this: I’m no prude.
I like to have a good time. I’ve had more than my share of long lunches the The Palm. I’ve had my late nights out. I did my time at some of the most fast-paced and well-known agencies in Washington DC. I’m a liberal Democrat for God’s sake.
So I’m no prude.
This all by explanation of my first experience with the show MadMen.
I’ve been in the communications business for 30 years. MadMen was the show EVERYONE said I should watch. They said it was a story that I’d relate to. It was the archetypal lifestyle of people in our fast-paced business of creativity in a political, cunning, personal and some times tawdry business. It was a “behind the scenes” portrayal.
As someone who has been around the block or two it was with particular interest that I watched the first two shows of the first season with my wife and daughter Saturday night.
I’m supposed to like this? This is what people think is cool? Fun?
It was pretty depressing to me.
There are NO redeemable characters. All the men are misogynists. All the women are whores. All the clients are either idiots, sluts, or calculating sleezebags.
The protagonist — the creative “genius” — is a dour guy that spends a lot of time either drinking, smoking or shirtless in a lifeless, mechanical, and utterly amoral and loveless tryst. Oh, and the shallowness of his relationship to his lover mirrors that of his relationship to his wife.
The “creative team” make college frat boys look like Mensa candidates. They are sophmoric, stupid, brutish, and seemingly incapable of intelligent or ethical thought.
The female lead in the first two shows is a mousy secretary that, immediately after taking the job beds the drunken account executive (who is the chief rival to her boss ) the night after his bachelor party. In show #2 she wonders openly to her other whore-like secretary friend why men think they have license to take liberties with women. Even her savvyness is sleazy: the first thing after getting the job it to get contraception, presumably so she can bed folks in the office.
And in between it all people smoke. Men smoke in elevators. Women smoke while pregnant. Physicians smoke while performing an gynecological exam. They smoke with children, in kitchens, in bedrooms, in offices, in bathrooms.
This is just in the first two shows.
I’m supposed to like this?
This is supposed to characterize the world I’ve spend half my life in?
This is me?
This is not intriguing. This is not compelling. This is not even entertaining.
It is embarrassing and depressing.
Maybe that is the point.