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 there are some iffy messages here about sexism, thanks to the show's overly sunny and nostalgic tone. Female characters are portrayed as independent but must meet strict physical beauty standards (including regular weigh-ins); they also endure other sexist treatment from male (and a few female) colleagues that just wouldn't fly (pun intended) today. Social drinking is somewhat glamorized, too, and there's some light sexual content (mostly kissing) along with low-level language ("damn," "hell," etc.). The espionage subplot results in some tension and peril.
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What's the story?
Set in the early 1960s, PAN AM chronicles the glamorous lives of stewardesses and pilots of "the jet age," a time when air travel was luxurious and exclusive. The Pan Am crew includes Maggie (Christina Ricci), a rule-skirting beatnik who loves seeing the world; Laura (Margot Robbie), a blonde beauty who's running away from others' expectations; and Laura's older sister, Kate (Kelli Garner), who pulls double duty as an international agent for the CIA.
Is it any good?
For a while, Mad Men was the only TV show capitalizing on the look and feel of the 1960s, and it did so with sleek sophistication and a devilish wink. But in light of its success (and multiple Emmy Awards), other lookalikes began to emerge, including The Playboy Club and Pan Am. The only thing the three series really have in common, however, is their time period. Because the truth is, each show's attitude and approach is entirely different.
With a sweeping soundtrack and dreamy shots of sun-streaked skies, Pan Am takes the clear position that the 1960s was a golden era -- a time when air travel was still stylish and glamorous, before passengers were cranky and cramped. It was also a time when women were still expected to look and act a certain way, and these characters are all too happy to conform -- in a near-Stepford Wives fashion -- in exchange for the freedom of seeing the world. But instead of acknowledging and exploring that intriguing slice of women's social history, the series simply glosses over it with broad, sappy strokes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sexism and the way that women are portrayed on the show. What role does gender play in these characters' lives? Who generally seems to be in charge, and who's generally taking care of others -- or taking orders? How have society's views about women's roles changed since the 1960s?
Would you consider the show's female characters to be "empowered," in spite of the era's blatant sexism? How were these women more independent than other women of the same period? How are they less independent than working women today?
In terms of consumerism, how does this show help promote a brand that no longer flies? Does Pan Am stand to gain -- or lose -- from the show's success?