Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Go Mad-Men Yourself!

Too awesome! If you can't wait for Season Three to arrive mid-August, then check out AMC's sweet new app to create your own swanky cartoon doppelganger as you would look in the world of Mad Men. Be sure not to miss the orange, circular tabs at the bottom-right of the page, where you can customize everything from the shape of your head to your accessories. Then you get to download your image and use it for your Facebook profile picture, not that I would do that or anything...

Besides my deep and undying love for the way that Janie Bryant dresses Betty and Joan and all of the other Mad Women, I am super-psyched for Mad Men to start up again to see what else Matt Weiner has got up his sleeve for Don, Betty, and their secretly sordid friends at Sterling Cooper. It is comfortable to view the extremity of the sexism portrayed in this late 1950s-early 1960s advertising office as a historical relic of how working women had it in the bad old days, with the same detachment that we admire and are inspired by the aesthetics of dressing and self-presentation of that time. Although overt gestures common in Mad Men world, like slapping a secretary's ass, are now (rightfully) the subject of lawsuits and other protections, the attitudes that engender these behaviors still rumble beneath the surface, cloaked in innuendo, thinly veiled threats, and stunted opportunities for advancement.

Most troublingly, the dissonance between how the characters feel and how they present themselves to the world resonates strikingly with the psychotic state of modern-day gender affairs. One of the most tragic aspects of the Mad Men and Women is their isolation from one another, paralyzed by shame or fear against exposing an inner life that would destroy their perfect veneers. The rigidity of the familial and social roles perscribed keeps every character in his or her place, separate and alone.

Although their specific constructs have adapted to fit the times, the gender roles are no less constrictive now. The young age at which people are absorbed in media culture fifty years after Mad Men means that kids are exposed to stereotyped concepts of "boy" and "girl" even before they start to have contact with actual children of their own age in school. The ideas of what it means to be a "real man" and a "hot girl" seep in at a steady drip, infecting how we encounter real people and decipher what our potential partners are interested in. For example, when I was anorexic, I had convinced myself that what guys really wanted in a girl was someone who looked like a model based on who was on the magazines that guys read, rather than trying to figure out what an individual guy found sexy. The images mediated and sold by the Masters of the Universe distort the way we see each other, warping us into caricatures and interfering with our ability to directly relate to the individual spirit, regardless of gender/appearance. So while the costumes have changed since those mad days, the confines of the gender roles they evoke that alienate us from each other continue to tighten around our hearts.


  1. Okay I haven't seen Mad Men before but everyone keeps talking about it...and you give a convincing pitch so I think i'm going to have to check it out!

  2. Also...you are really good at extrapolating the inner-workings of societies pressure on women that are oh-so-true! I think that you're right, the costumes might have changed but the underlying, lurking issues are still around...they might have shape-shifted to take new forms and new manipulations...but they're still there.

  3. you rock girl....you have a way with words....