Friday, 11 June 2010

"Mad Men": postmodernism and history

In Series 3 Sally's grandfather lets her drive around the neighbourhood!

This post is about an area I forgot to mention during the revision of our post modern media texts.

Several but not all post modern texts draw their meaning from real historical events, together with nostalgia. In literature texts that filter real events through fictional characters' lives are called historiographical fiction. "Mad Men" draws much of its meaning for audiences from real historical events as well as attitudes and behaviour from nearly fifty years ago.

Real events such as the death of Marilyn Monroe, the Cuban  missile crisis of 1962 and the assassination of President Kennedy are filtered through characters' lives and experiences.

Prejudices, behaviours and attitudes are also presented in such a way that modern audiences would find them surprising and perhaps, even callous. Visit You Tube for a range of clips from "Mad Men" in which the following attitudes and behaviours are revealed through characters's lives:
  • Smoking ( pre the health warnng period of our time )
  • Drinking to excesss. Again, pre our concerns with units, etc.
  • Drinking during pregnancy: Betty Draper smokes and drinks her way through her pregnancy for her third child in series three.
  • Sexism and male and sometimes female attitudes towards roles in the workplace, promotion and pay.
  • Attitudes towards children and their safety. Betty Draper is more concerned with her children not creasing freshly dry cleaned clothes than running around wearing the plastic covers for those clothes!
  • Homosexuality and the descrimination and hypocricy practiced against gay people during the 1960s
  • False liberal attitudes: in series 3 Betty thinks people are not ready for equality for black people in 1963!  Paul Kinsey thinks he is a liberal but does not really practice what he speaks.
  • Several characters show no concern for the environment. In an episode in Series One Betty Draper casually throws away rubbish after a picnic in a park by flapping it away from a picnic blanket.
  • There are lots of others!
Of course, all kinds of intertextual references have their own historical and cultural origins which audience either get, if they are either old or savvy enough or they do not. There are also several parodies and pastiches of the programme on You Tube which make fun of the characters's attitudes towards these issues.

No comments: