• Publication date: July 26, 2010

All That Glitters Is Not Gold They Have It All, Yet Have Nothing

�Mad Men� (2007) transports viewers back to New York City in the early 1960s. The middle-class of the nation are upbeat and oblivious to the uneasy times just around the corner. Concepts of racial or gender equality are irrelevant; no evil seen, no evil heard.

�Mad Men� (2007) transports viewers back to New York City in the early 1960s. The middle-class of the nation are upbeat and oblivious to the uneasy times just around the corner. Concepts of racial or gender equality are irrelevant; no evil seen, no evil heard. At the office a cute girl should expect a dose of sexual harassment, and her approval of the act might just land her a promotion.

Behind the white picket fences, housewives in the kitchen, and near-perfect two-child nuclear families there is a hidden reality. Pristine families are merely held together by women willing to tolerate their husbands� promiscuity, alcoholism, and non-stop cigarette smoking. Even with emerging revelations that tobacco use may cause lung cancer, the masses pretend that everything is wonderful � nothing can harm them or their ideal world.

It�s not that society was unaware of its faults, quite the contrary. Society bathed in the illusion of denial until it was no longer possible. Segregation and racial discrimination could not be swept under the carpet as individuals demanded civil rights; the uselessness of the Vietnam War, and its associated deaths sparked youth consciousness and rebellion against formally unquestioned government and authorities. The fa�ade had to come to an end.

This is the backdrop for �Mad Men.� Fresh out of the Korean War an illegitimate child of a prostitute snatches a fallen soldier�s identity and begins a new life in advertising. Think �The Great Gatsby� but set in Madison Avenue skyscrapers rather than Long Island mansions. Don Draper (Jon Hamm) hustles to become creative director at Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency and eventually grows to be a junior partner. Not a small feat for a farm boy from the lowest rungs of society.

On the outside Don appears to embody the American dream, however on the inside he is chronically unhappy. He has a wife and children who love him dearly, but he seeks additional sexual gratification from coworkers and other associates. Alcohol abuse is a daily fact and it is of no concern to Don that his wife, Betty (January Jones) requires the help of psychotherapist. In frustration, and after years of reluctantly accepting her husband�s affairs Betty eventually seeks her own extramarital fun � though it remains unknown to Don that he will raise another man�s child.

Perhaps the program�s lead protagonist has a guilty conscious from working in an industry that thrives on deception. After a medical study is released providing clear data linking lung cancer to smoking he assists a major cigarette manufacture with their new ad campaign, focusing on the harmlessness of tobacco. Or maybe it�s the knowledge of his shameful past and that he has built his adult life upon another man�s identity. What about fresh, young, and socially progressive faces beginning to emerge in advertising, ready to outshine a former hotshot?

Coworkers are no less entangled in problems. Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) engages in sex with various partners, including young account executive Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). Unbeknownst to him Olson will give birth to his child, and quickly put it up for adoption. Fellow female worker Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) is no different, shacking up with top company executive and heart attack victim Roger Sterling.

These social contradictions and pre-counterculture oddities keep things interesting from episode to episode. Additionally �Mad Men� captures the flavor of the early 60s � including its clothes, its shooting techniques, and even then revolutionary products such as slide projectors.

�Mad Men� has been lauded by critics and viewers alike, earning multiple Emmys and three Golden Globe Awards. The program is currently in its third season and, while other shows� ratings tend to dwindle with time �Mad Men�s� has been steadily rising with a bright future still ahead.