I’m very disappointed that there will be no “Mad Men” in 2011. I started this blog to analyze the connections between pop culture and history and “Mad Men” was prime material. The show was a fascinating take on the social changes of the 1960s as producer Matt Weiner arranged many of the seasons to culminate around a major historical event.
In season 1, the show ends with the Kennedy/Nixon election (1960). In season 2, it concludes with the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). And in the third season, Weiner did an interesting look at how everyday people dealt with the Kennedy assassination (1963). The “change” wrought by the assassination also meant change for the major characters, with Betty and Don Draper getting divorced and several of the principals leaving Sterling Cooper to create a new firm. In season four, the season doesn’t revolve around a particular event, but we started to see the Vietnam War come into play with Joan’s husband in the Army.
Over the first four seasons, the show has often been best in depicting the early years of the women’s movement, particularly though the characters of Peggy and Joan. We see Peggy encounter the tremendous difficulties that a career-minded woman faced before the initial successes of second-wave feminism. Despite mildly open-minded superiors such as Don, she still faces tremendous sexism in the workplace and pressure from family and friends not to work so much (who fear it will prevent her from finding a husband). Joan faces a different set of obstacles in a more traditional position as an office manager, though everyone realizes the firm can’t really run without her. She even gets a promotion with no increase in pay, a common phenomenon during the period.
I’m sad we won’t see (for a while) how things would evolve in 1966-67, when the fifth season would presumably get underway. Beyond the historical issues, I’m very curious to see how Don’s new marriage to his secretary will work out. Not well I would imagine. What will happen to Betty, who was far less a presence in season 4, after her divorce from Don?
I feel that Don’s desertion from Korea and his forging a new identity is going to become more of a problem as the Vietnam War expands during the mid-to-late 60s. With resistance to the draft becoming more of an issue, it would be hard for the U.S. Army not to take a hard line on him should he ever be exposed. It seems that at some point everyone will know Don is really Dick Whitman and Don may regret not biting the bullet and revealing himself earlier.
Let’s hope for answers in 2012.