Why I Love Mad Men

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ah, what I would give to write for Jezebel. I loved this article about the psychology of women through Mad Men's 1965 lens. Seeing how things used to be for American women through the show feels simultaneously foreign and familiar; we note how much has changed for us by observing the female characters, and, at the same time, how much has stayed exactly the same. When the wives on the show dote on their husbands, like Trudi with Peter or Joanie with Greg, it seems exaggerated and demeaning, exhibiting how far women have come. But the sentiments of the women in the Ponds Cold Cream focus group in Sunday's episode were not far off from those in modern female psychology. Although the group members were asked about their beauty routines, the topic of conversation quickly turned to why they try to look attractive, and the answer was simple: to find a husband.

Yes, we've come a long way. Now women say, "we don't dress for men; we dress for other women." Is that entirely true, though? Maybe for fashion, but not so much for general attractiveness: grooming, exercising, eating right, etc. are big components in making ourselves appealing to the opposite sex. And whether or not we want to admit it, marriage, or at least relationships, remain pillars in mainstream female culture in ways they simply don't with male culture. If I had a dime for every time someone asked me if I had a boyfriend, and another for the follow-up - "why not?", or a more tactful version of that question - well, I'd be a very rich lady. I imagine guys my age are not asked that question as often (though I have not exactly taken a survey). Don's take on the issue was interesting; he disagreed that Ponds should take a matrimonial approach on its new campaign, arguing, "You can't tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved." This leads me to a chicken-or-the-egg sort of dilemma. Do popular culture and advertising inform women's behaviors (and people's, for that matter), or is it the other way around?


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JLLAMA said...

As far as chicken-egg, I'm not sure that a one-way causal relationship works in either direction, as each tend to react and adjust to one other.

I would also venture that evolutionary imperatives also play an important role in shaping gender specific behaviors. Throughout most of history it often comes down to people making sense of themselves and their lives through the lenses that their society gives them. Marketing/advertising has at times colored these lenses, and the 60's was possibly the decade were it colored them the most.

Have you read the essay in Eating the Dinosaur (Klosterman) about advertising, Mad Men etc? I recall you reading Sex, Drugs & Coco Puffs many years ago, that's why I ask. It's an interesting piece.

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