Mad Men

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

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 13 reviews

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.

Violence

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

Sex

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.

Language

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

Consumerism

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 byterra100 April 9, 2008

great show for adults only

My husband and I have watched this show since the pilot episode. It is NOT for kids under 17 -- the messages are too complicated and mature. There's enou... Continue reading
Adult Written byJackla April 9, 2008

A Gift to intelligent parents

This is not a show for young kids, but it does seem relevant to teens who are adrift in the complexity of todays sexual landscape. The shock of the old gives p... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byTrissacar December 26, 2009

Brass tacs

Ok so I like to watch this show on and off. So I'm going to get down to the brass tacs. Nudity,foul langauge,scenes of the sensual nature. Not really appro... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byR. Zrike July 11, 2014

Lots of Sexual Content

Doesn't show any body parts, but be aware. More than what might be expected.

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

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate