12 years later: I’m still mad for “Mad Men”

Macy's (1965)
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“Mad Men” is set in 1960s New York City.

BY
Staff Reporter

Have you ever wanted to escape your life — to just leave your woes behind and start over as a new person? Who would you become?

AMC’s award-winning drama (136 awards total, to be exact) “Mad Men” explores this fantasy through the eyes of advertisement mogul Donald Draper (played by John Hamm) and his tragically flawed colleagues.

In “Mad Men,” 1960s New York City is brought back to life in vibrant style as viewers find themselves immersed in one of the greatest stories to ever unfold on television.

Why would we care about privileged men drinking whiskey in a conference room, though? Because “Mad Men” is so much more than that, and it has something for everyone to enjoy.

All writers can certainly appreciate the world-class writing with its quick-witted dialogue and an intricate plot where every action bears heavy consequences. Characters produce these dialogues and decisions with a level of complexity unseen in most other media.

Psychology is a major theme in “Mad Men,” both normal and abnormal. Some families blossom while others are shattered. Extreme personalities collide, giving rise to extreme tension. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, drug addiction and alcoholism are rampant in a time where mental health is widely misunderstood.

For those who are passionate for history, this show is a journey back in time.

The culture, clothing, music and attitudes are incredibly detailed and constantly in flux as society progresses throughout the course of the plot. Stiletto heels, tailored skirts and continental suits with skinny ties gradually give way to bell bottoms, paisley shirts, double breasted suits and neckerchiefs.

The soundtrack is masterfully picked so that each song fits perfectly into the context of each scene. Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” brings electricity to the dance floor while Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bleecker Street” creates a somber atmosphere of introspection.

Characters’ thoughts and feelings drastically shift with the times as we see racist bigots transformed into compassionate and likeable people.

Women and minorities who were once timid and preyed upon grow into competent and confident leaders.

Major historical events such as the civil rights movement, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War and the first moon landing are organic to the story, with tremendous impacts on both society and the characters of “Mad Men.” These details are what keep fans like me coming back for re-watch after re-watch.

Above all, I cherish “Mad Men” for its uniquely candid portrayal of our imperfect world. Every man and woman to come on screen is deeply flawed, yet none are completely bad. Just as real life, they inhabit a moral grey area, and it is up to each and every one of us viewers to decide who is worthy of our admiration or scorn. Countless questions are raised by this great story, but the most prominent is presented within minutes of the series premier.

Who is Donald Draper? I dare you to come and find out.

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    Mary Harrington 2 weeks

    I’ve just started watching it again. Ii’s profound. Don’t know when I’ve seen a male character whose inner humanity (is this all there is?) is so laid bare. Matthew Weiner is a great writer.

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