As proud as we all are of the women’s rights, technological advances, and increasingly clever advertising gimmicks – secretly I think we all wish we could hurl backwards sometimes, to the days where men drank themselves silly at the office, and ladies received sassy spanks to their posteriors just for drumming up a great meal.
Sure, those sleek and sexy BMW mini-movies done by the likes of Guy Ritchie are pretty cool. But we all love the retro ads that say things like, “You mean a woman can open it?” (Del Monte ketchup) or, “The Chef does everything but cook – that’s what wives are for!” (Kenwood Chef mixer).
They’re basic, they’re naïve — maybe a little shocking. But you know what? They’re also gosh-darn entertaining. The nuances in those ads captures a period in time that we secretly all wish we lived in.
AMC’s Mad Men is a journey through the 1960s advertising world in New York City, and captures the same impish nuances inherent in most ads of the time. They just didn’t know any better back then, which is kind of endearing in a way.
Crash course on characters and story
The incredibly handsome Jon Hamm plays Don Draper — the creative genius who came from obscurity to help Stirling-Cooper advertising agency rise to the top. Don is, as we would say in Newfoundland, a sleeveen. He sleeps with numerous lovely ladies, and gives his wife Betty (January Jones) little respect. Her job is to look pretty and be polite when he takes her to business functions, and keep little Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka; maybe my favourite character on the show) and little Bobby Draper in line.
Don’s co-workers are as sleezy as he is. Roger Stirling (John Slattery) is the silver fox who runs the agency, and like Don, does whatever he sees fit with the ladies.
On the surface the show is demeaning to women. They get zero respect, and seem to exist to take phone calls, babysit kids, and keep the mens’ endless supply of scotch on the rocks flowing freely.
Season One starts out a little lethargic, for sure. But that slow, sleepy pace becomes almost hypnotic, and you are soon drawn into this world of swank dinner parties, manipulation, affairs, and smoking pregnant wives.
On the surface the show is demeaning to women. They get zero respect, and seem to exist to take phone calls, babysit kids, and keep the mens’ endless supply of scotch on the rocks flowing freely. But in most cases, the women are the show’s most solid characters.
Joan ‘Big Red’ Harris (Christina Hendricks) is Roger’s flame-haired secretary, and in many ways runs the agency. Sure, he’s had his way with her, but she takes no sass. Peggy Olsen (Elizabeth Moss) fought her way from dweeby, trampled-on secretary to cocky, confident copywriter — something no other woman before her dared to do. Her determined spirit in a piggish man’s world is inspiring. She’s a real peach.
And Sally. Tortured, brazen, confused Sally. Her stride from girlhood into adolescence is brutal. She has no support or nurturing from her evil mother (yes, Betty is the exception to my ‘strong women’ rule for this show), and daddy is never around. Amongst sneaking out to meet boys and getting caught masturbating at a slumber party, Sally is quite the little handful. Watch the show to see what I mean.
Amongst Don’s mixed emotions and tormented past and constant escapades, the ladies are the show’s rock.
And the set design is just to die for. So ladies — fix yourself a dirty martini, set your hair in curlers, slap on some sultry red lipstick and get lost in all that art deco. And gents, if you’re real nice your ladies might let you get a spank in.
Mad Men is available on DVD and iTunes. 8.5/10 microwave donuts.