Not A Pink Girl

Things that make me mad about Mad Men. | October 20, 2008

My sister adores Mad Men on AMC. She’s always a trendsetter (she emailed me & said, “I just saw our next Democratic president” when she heard Barack Obama make his speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004), so I took her recommendation & rented the first season from Netflix. I really like the clothes, New York, the makeup, the way the guys look (most of them), & the cars. But there are a few things (mostly anachronisms) that bug me about the show.

There are no spoilers here; I’ve only just finished the first episode.

At one point, Betty Draper says something like, “Oh, I met that woman at playgroup.” No one in the 1960s referred to having their child play with another child as a playgroup or play date. Those terms were coined in the late 1980s / early 1990s. In mid-century America, the focus was much more on the mothers, with the inevitable reality of the children having to be in tow. If anything, the moms said, “Let’s get together for coffee.” It was implied that their little darlings would have to come with them &, hopefully, not kill each other.

Another thing was that when Don Draper came home (one of the few times he came home when the kids were actually awake), the little girl said, “Hey daddy!” (Meaning, hello). Using the exceedingly annoying term “Hey” to greet someone is only recent proof of the decline of civilization as we know it. The only people who ever said “Hey” as “Hello” or “Hi” lived in the west or, less often, the Deep South (& it was even rare in those places).

If you said “Hey” to someone, you were annoyed or irritated, or concerned that maybe they were breaking into your car or doing something else they shouldn’t have been doing. You were trying to get their attention but you didn’t know their name, so you hollered “Hey!” in a menacing tone, as in, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” No one in the northeast (& certainly not in uber-sophisticated NYC) used “Hey” as a greeting, especially to their parents. It just was not used as a greeting & was definitely not good manners.

Personally, I cannot stand how everyone seems to say “Hey” now as a greeting. I do not say it. I say, “Hi!” or Hello!” If someone asks me how I am, I say, “Fine thank you, how are you?” I hear almost everyone (it used to just be kids & teenagers; now it’s also my peers) respond to “How are you?” with “Good.” Blecch.

Another thing I hear a lot goes something like this: “Do you want to come over for pizza?” “No, I’m good.” Huh? Someone extended an invitation for you to join them for a meal. Use some courtesy & respond, “No, thank you for inviting me. Maybe some other time?”

Of course, I can barely breathe while watching this show (& it has nothing to do with Jon Hamm’s physique [although, in the 1960s, he would be wearing a white undershirt under his dress shirt, & it bugs me that he’s not]: everyone is smoking like a chimney. I know everyone smoked back then so this isn’t necessarily a flaw in the show. But I mean it: I feel sick to my stomach thinking about how everyone & everything is sopped in tar & nicotine.

They smoke in bed (can you imagine what the bedclothes smell like?). They smoke before they kiss their lovers (wives & otherwise). Have you ever kissed a smoker? It’s horrible. I mean, it is truly disgusting. The smoker’s mouth tastes & smells like a rotting corpse.

They smoke while they’re eating! That always brings me up short.

They light one cigarette with the butt of another (the definition of chain smoking).

It honestly makes me feel nauseated. Oh, by the way: can you tell I’m an ex-smoker? I quit on November 19, 1985. I smoked for a little over 5 years.

Oh, & did I mention the booze? I’ll leave that tirade for another time. (& yes, I’m an ex-drinker, too [celebrated 22 years of sobriety on August 17, 2008].)

Here’s another subject we’ll discuss in another blog post. The whole show made me have a total post-traumatic stress disorder moment (I’m serious) because of how the women – especially secretaries – are treated by almost all the men. It reminded me so much of when I worked in corporate America in the 1980s.

I’m going to watch episode 2 of Mad Men tonight. Back into the gin-soaked, cigarette-smoke-enveloped ’60s I go.

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1 Comment »

  1. I agree with most of your observations about Mad Men. I haven’t picked up on the nuances that betray the authenticity of the era as you have, so I’ll have to pay closer attention. I think there are some things that would have put this particular crowd ahead of the curve though – they are, after all, not only NYC-ites but Madison Avenue ad people. Not sure where you are in the series so I won’t say too much more about trend shifts as you move from season one to season two, but the influence of the beatnik culture and forward-thinking Europeans come into play. Keep your eye on Peggy… Anyway, one of the reasons Mad Men is so fascinating to me is that I worked at that ad agency – my firm was started by a Roger Sterling doppelganger in the ’60s, and he was still there every one of the eight years I worked there as a PR person starting in the mid-1990s. There were still remnants (besides him) of the Mad Men-esque 1960s ad agency world – cut-crystal bar sets and a standing ashtray in the swanky conference room; white-haired account VPs with collar pins and cufflinked, monogrammed french cuffs; and the occasional “Hey, kiddo” and wink. Mad Men is spot-on in depicting the ad world, even as it exists today. I’ve been in those new business pitches, having been up all hours the night before to prepare, and sat there listening to the ad people as they set up their ideas (while I’m staring at a platter-full of bagels and danish and wondering when PR would have a turn to speak…PR was frequently an afterthought, as depicted in Mad Men). I know what it’s like to be in one of those Monday morning account update meetings where everyone has to talk about their clients, what’s going on, what needs to happen that week and, sometimes, to be called on the carpet to explain why the client isn’t happy. And yes I’ve actually been in those situations when we won a big account and someone pops open a bottle of Dom Perignon and pours everyone two-fingers-worth in a dixie cup…

    Comment by Lisa — October 23, 2008 @ 4:45 PM


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