Mad Men

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Mad Men TV Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Ads and anxiety in 1960s office drama for adults.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Depicts behavior that is unacceptable in contemporary society -- sexism, racism, anti-Semitism -- but is meant to provide a culturally accurate representation of the time and contribute to dramatic exploration.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each character is complex and flawed in different ways. Don Draper is both a womanizer and a mentor to Peggy. While Peggy is one of the few women who escapes the typing pool to do creative work. In later seasons Peggy and Joan assert their power and take a more active and creative role in the company.


Occasional yelling or domestic disputes. Rare car crashes resulting in injury.


Ideas about women's sexual role is a big part of the drama. Discussion of sexual availability, expectations, birth control, and being "easy" -- as well as the role of wife, girlfriend, lover, and secretary. Frequent sexual harassment. Actual sex scenes are usually limited to kissing and post-coital pillow talk, though some women appear in bras or pasties (and some characters have unusual sexual turn-ons). Characters have affairs and hire prostitutes. Some scenes take place in a strip club.


Words used include "s--t" (unbleeped), "damn," and "hell."


Real 1960s brands are discussed during ad campaigns, such as Lucky cigarettes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking is ubiquitous -- even the doctors smoke in the exam room. One episode focuses on a cigarette advertising campaign. Drinking is also constant, with characters frequently drinking cocktails at lunch and even in the office, often to the point of drunkeness. Sometimes there are consequences for drinking, but sometimes it seems glamorous. In later seasons, characters experiment with pot and LSD.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this complex drama set in the 1960s depicts cultural practices that wouldn't be acceptable today, such as frequent sexual harassment in the office, as well as near-constant smoking and drinking (with characters sometimes appearing intoxicated). Old-fashioned gender dynamics are at play, but these gender dynamics are probed forcefully, and viewers feel the impact of conflicting expectations for young women who are both shamed for their sexuality and expected to provide easy access to sex to their superiors. Women and men frequently have sex, though only before and after scenes are shown.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEducation12 December 22, 2019

great show

I usually watch TV in the kitchen, so I just always want to make sure that the kids don't walk in in a middle of a scene, either sex, violence or etc. This... Continue reading
Adult Written byciaoksksk September 18, 2019
Kid, 11 years old June 1, 2015

For 12-14 year olds and up depending on maturity

Definitely a good show! I think it teaches about the 60's and has interesting plots. Depending on how mature the kid is I think 13 year olds are probably t... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bysamantha19 June 15, 2018

What's the story?

MAD MEN highlights the anxious corporate culture of advertising agencies that illuminates a larger cultural picture. Leading the show is Don Draper (Jon Hamm), a top ad exec who must constantly fight off his ambitious younger competition. He plays a confident and talented businessman who struggles with hidden insecurities and conflicting relationships. Around Draper are the eager whippersnappers nipping at his heels who carry their fraternity mentalities into the workplace.

Is it any good?

Mad Men is a fascinating and complex peek into another era that can reveal a lot about contemporary society. The women in the workplace are subject to near constant sexual harassment, from both men and women, illustrating the nebulous era between the 1950s housewife and the late-'60s feminist. But though the men are the focus in the series, the women prove fascinating and complex in their own right. There's the smart, sexually confident Midge (Rosemary DeWitt), whose self-sustaining work makes her unusual in a swarm of women looking for husbands to whisk them away to the suburbs. And Peggy (Elisabeth Moss), who finds herself pressured to be sexually available to her boss and other men in the workplace while dealing with her own sexual curiosity.

And throughout the personal and professional relationships depicted onscreen is the underlying theme of truth, lies, and what can be bought and sold with them both. Due to the near constant sexism (not to mention racism and anti-Semitism), younger viewers without the ability to see beneath the action to the critique should avoid the program. Also, constant smoking, drinking, and discussion of sex permeates the narrative.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the world depicted in the show. How accurately do you think it portrays the '60s? Families can also discuss advertising. How does advertising affect your daily life? Are there any brands you feel loyal to? How do you think the advertisers created your loyalty? Do you have any favorite ads or ad campaigns? Do you notice any differences between the type of advertising depicted in the show and the kind you see today?

TV details

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