Grab your fedora hats and kitten heels, people: The new season of "Mad Men" is about to begin. Add a
The AMC drama about life in the early 1960s is starting its fourth season Sunday. Our flawed hero,
I have been awaiting the beginning of the fourth season. I love the show's time-capsule approach -- part
At first I would shrug when friends recommended "Mad Men." Why would I want to relive a time when women were secretaries, black men operated elevators, and male prerogative included philandering? But after watching a few episodes, I was intrigued, first by the pitch-perfect sets and costumes, and then by the characters. Draper, played with sublime understatement by
The veneer of perfection masking dysfunction is an old story line, but the show's creator,
Cheating on her with other women is one thing, but Betty could not countenance having a husband with a base pedigree. It would have destroyed her vision of herself as a wife of status. She's last seen getting out of the marriage.
The women are what make "Mad Men" so compelling. Their coming societal advances are well telegraphed: Betty's boredom at being a full-time mother; the talented and ambitious Peggy navigating the shoals of male egos and entrenched sexism; Carla, the black maid, watching the civil rights movement unfold in America's racist South even as her own life prospects in the North are constrained by race; women secretaries using sexuality as power, because no other source is available.
Everyone is chaffing against their cultural moorings, while on the cusp of an awakening. We know those ubiquitous cigarettes will soon disappear from offices along with the male clubhouse atmosphere, where the roue
Soon, working will no longer be what women do until their boss dumps his wife, as Sterling did to wife Mona, or until their husband finishes medical training, a la Joan. Women will gain opportunities at the same time the American economy begins denying men the ability to solely support a middle-class family, shifting the balance of power in marriages and eroding sex roles.
Cigarettes are the series' great props. As much as the mid-century modern furnishings and the wet-head hair, they are what place the characters in a vintage time. I'm old enough to remember living in a cloud of smoke -- at home, in the car, at a restaurant. If one peeked into the teachers' lounge at school, stale cigarettes is what you'd smell. Yuck.
There isn't much about the "Mad Men" era I'd take back. Certainly not the cultural mores, the blithe littering or all that inappropriate drinking. But I admit to some satisfaction in seeing Don and Betty not hover over their children. Maybe young people wouldn't be so entitled and self-absorbed if their parents enjoyed the adult realms of life without their children always being in tow. Could we have some of that back?
OK, gentlemen, start your cocktail shakers. I'll see all you Madders by the watercooler. Updo hair and skinny ties optional.
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(c) 2010 Robyn Blumner