Mad Men and the 60’s

I love Mad Men. I’m not going to lie. It’s been one of my favorite television shows since I was in eighth grade. My mother got me the boxed set for my birthday and I loved all the characters. Don wore attractive clothing and looked good, as did Betty, even though they were both crumbling from the inside out. That’s what I loved about it and what I still do love about it–manicured outsides like mountains but insides creating valleys. It’s not hard to love something so perfectly made, from the costumes to the camera work. Joan’s dresses, Betty’s perfect hair, Don’s finely cut suits–the aesthetics were to die for. I was obliviously a walking cliche though (who isn’t in middle school?)–I kept thinking about the 60’s and how great they sounded! A good economy (for the beginning), peace movements, mod chicks in London, great rock music, suburban tackiness, a better education system, everything I could ever want in a society existed and I wasn’t born! What a shame.

Lately, however, I’ve been really really rethinking this mentality people have about the later half of the twentieth century. Sure, it’s had its benefits. But people seem to act like it was a utopia or something, which, as the living Vietnam veterans and anyone who isn’t white, male, and heterosexual from the time period can attest, it certainly wasn’t. How many times have you heard people say that? “I was born in the wrong decade,” “I belong in the 60’s,” “I want to be a hippie,” etc. In fact, it’s not just Mad Men–there’s a new crop of television shows popping up everywhere (or at least there have been) that many have noticed have a little bit of an eerie pattern–Pan Am, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, etc all are from time periods that aren’t futuristic but instead from the past. They adhere to the outfits, the social standards, the colors, almost everything to a perfect T.¬†Obviously to today’s 20 somethings, the 60’s do sound fascinating–and Mad Men only aids in the obsession with it.

Something that changed my mind was an article in the New York Times Magazine. It was in the “Lives” section, my personal favorite part of an obviously very detailed and well done publication. The article was about how a woman wanted to go get a Mad Men Esque (Joan inspired specifically, if it’s relevant) dress from Banana Republic for her birthday. It explained a conversation she had with her mother, who was a young woman in the 60’s, and how her mother felt about her daughter wanting the dress. Needless to say, she didn’t love the show and described all the memories and things it reminded her of, namely, oppression. I realized that while the fashion is aesthetically satisfying, and is copied on runways everywhere, there’s something sad about the way people blindly love it without thinking about the way things REALLY were. Mad Men does highlight oppression in many ways–but I think people disregard that part of it and often just fantasize about the other aspects of the era. It isn’t good to be ignorant about it. I try to watch Mad Men only for the character developments and the plot, rather than because I like the idea of living in the 60’s. Because I know if I did, I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic.

I got this at forever 21. Though it was most likely made by kids in sweatshops, I still like the way it looks. I feel like Sally would wear it to a funeral or even Betty would wear it if she were in her 20’s and still with Don.

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