Mad Men and Modern U.S. History

Posted on August 18, 2008. Filed under: miscellaneous |

Since both Historiann and Clio Bluestocking have posted on this, I thought that as a recent U.S. historian I would weigh in on the subject of the AMC series “Mad Men.” I have to side with those who say the show is very entertaining and extremely well-written. if it weren’t on so late at night, or if I had a DVR, I’d watch it more often (looks like I’ll be getting it on Netflix)

I would add that it’s a great way to remind ourselves of the way things were BEFORE the women’s movement — perhaps it should be mandatory viewing for women (and men) who think feminism was “irrelevant.”  As to historical accuracy, the costumes, sets, hairstyles, mannerisms, and so forth are very similar to those of TV shows and films from circa 1960 (e.g. “The Apartment” — on of my favorite films. In fact, the male sexual misbehavior in Mad Men appears to be modeled exactly after that in this film, except there’s no Jack Lemmon to serve as a moral center).

In contrast, CBS’s latest attempt at historical fiction, Swingtown, set in the mid-1970s, is really boring — which is saying a lot for a show about sex!  If you’re really interested in getting a feel for the material culture of that decade, “The ’70s Show” is the best. [seriously, Donna’s wardrobe could have come straight out of my closet circa 1977).

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One Response to “Mad Men and Modern U.S. History”

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KC–thanks for the link. I’m really in the minority on this one! But if any young women’s consciousness is raised by this show, then I’m all for it. I found the depictions of the women a little formulaic and obvious setups for a coming feminist awakening, but maybe the young’uns will really be shocked by what’s going on in the show.

I didn’t get to see Swingtown, but I heard it was pretty bad. After The Ice Storm, what more can anyone say about 1970s swingers and the anomie of latchkey kids in suburbia?


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    Heather Munro Prescott

    Heather Munro Prescott

    Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT.

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