A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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.
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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?