Sailer reviews the popular 'Mad Men,' and weighs whether the show's producer, Matthew Weiner, is a reactionary subversive. He ultimately and unfortunately concludes Weiner is not, and makes some great social commentary along the way.
... Weiner maintains plausible deniability in Mad Men by methodically depicting how unenlightened the upper-middle class WASPs of a half century ago were. We in the audience are scandalized to note, for example, that even the most respectable parents in 1960 devoted more time to socializing with other adults than to obsessively overseeing their offspring’s next leap up the steep slope of the meritocratic pyramid.
Moreover, many families in 1960 can afford a home on just one income. As Betty Friedan noted, housewives are imprisoned in their suburban homes, escaping in Mad Men only, well … any time they feel like it.
Worse, firms pay married workers more than equally productive single ones, in violation of all the tenets of Friedan and Friedman. Employers back then felt they had a “duty to society,” a concept with which our advanced cultures are no longer familiar.
Even more shockingly, the employees at the Sterling Cooper ad agency knock off work right at 5:15 PM each day. They appear to have some weird Depression-era relic of a notion of solidarity among American workers: that if the bosses want more work done, they should hire more workers.
Didn’t they understand back then that cheap wages and expensive land are what made America great? ...
While watching Mad Men, Weiner affords us ample opportunity to congratulate ourselves on how much progress we’ve made. For example, most of the black characters in Mad Men have servile jobs. Today, of course, things are infinitely better. Black men are seldom seen in servile jobs (unless they are African immigrants or gay). In fact, black men aren’t seen in any jobs as much anymore: ten percent of black men were out of the work force in Don Draper’s 1960 versus 24 percent in booming 2000. Indeed, black men aren’t even seen at all as much anymore because a million are now locked away in prison. (The incarceration rate of black male high school dropouts was one percent in the Bad Old Days of Dwight Eisenhower’s last year in office versus 25 percent in Bill Clinton’s glorious finale.)
The kicker to the joke is that Mad Men, despite being set in New York, is filmed in LA, where Latinos have been imported in vast numbers to fill the servant jobs that today’s upper-middle class whites no longer trust blacks with. Yet Hispanics are even more invisible to the Hollywood elite today than blacks were.
Steve gets in a jab at feminism as well.
Consider the interview in Variety in which Weiner is asked a standard question: “How much of the show’s take on gender roles is rooted in your own upbringing as someone born in 1965?” In response, he wanders around for 867 words trying to explain, without being so lucid that gets himself Larry Summersized, that he’s learned—the hard way—that feminism is flapdoodle. In his strained verbiage, though, there’s one cogent sentence that explains much of Mad Men’s appeal to contemporary women:
“What’s sexist in the office is fuel in the bedroom.”
Sailer also notes that Weiner is married with four sons, which leads to my observation that the personal lives of the elite often vary a good deal from the lifestyles they insist everyone must scrupulously tolerate. In fact, the liberal elite are often downright conservative (at least publicly) in their personal lives. This modern iteration of noblesse oblige wouldn't be so bad but for the fact that it's accompanied by shelves upon shelves of laws designed to smack down non-elites who lack the wealth to insulate themselves from the effects of progressivist social policy.