I’m currently re-watching Season 1 of Mad Men in order that I might embark on Season 2 – a recent ipoints purchase*. I forget, in between viewings, how quietly remarkable this entire show is. There are no big laughs, it doesn’t shout about how smart it is, it just gently dazzles you with its understated brilliance. And has a nauseatingly fabulous wardrobe department, which probably explains why I picked this dress out this morning. Plus, Ruby Shoesday you know…
For all his philandering, lying and cheating, Don Draper seems to get more heart-breakingly manly every week. (Feminists everywhere just dropped their burning bras at that one…)
And Peggy’s struggle to reign in and tie down her sexual power as a woman, so desperately unbalanced with her lack of professional power as the only female copywriter, is painful, empowering and frustrating in equal parts. She is thrown so neatly into contrast by the two extremes of the era, the has-it-all housewife Betty Draper, who’s career has been by-passed now that she’s a wife and mother, and the powerhouse that is Joan Holloway, sleeping her way to the top of a very limited and female populated food chain and having a pretty good time on the way, while simultaneously aware of her own ticking clock…
The complexities of the characters, the mixed emotions, the contradictory thoughts, feelings, aims and intentions and their inability to quite hit that perfect balance is so strikingly true to life. Not one of these men or women has it all, because suddenly, at this time, there was so much more to reach for. There were choices there had never been before, glimmers of different paths, options laid out before them… options we’re still struggling to cope with today.
And yet, this is a drama in which the traumatic undercurrents are just that, hidden under the sheen and gloss of a 60s America where women were women and men were men. Outwardly at least.
Some of the best lines are right there in the first episode. My favourite?
He may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they’re looking for something between a mother and a waitress.
How much has changed…?
(*Quick explanation: before I can contemplate watching a new season of something I HAVE to watch the entire back catalogue again. It’s just one of my delightful quirks, much like my compulsion to eat all the whole peanuts from a packet first, or to only eat chocolate buttons in similar sized pairs… This also explains why I still haven’t watched Season 5 of House, despite it having taken its place on my DVD shelves several moons ago now…)