I watch Mad Men a bit reluctantly each week because at some point that I can never predict, I am certain to have a deep-thought reaction that bounces around my head for days afterward. After last Sunday’s Season 4 finale, I took to the web.
Analyses were plentiful, scrutinizing the Snow Queeniness of Betty Draper and her ex-husband’s WTF proposal to his secretary. Boomers blogged about their recollections of the era. Black voices pointed out pros and cons of the show’s few black characters, and some paid special attention to the wobbly presence of black women. I don’t know what to make of The Root.com and its episodic “Mad Men Black-People” Counter.
I believe civil rights issues aren’t more prominent on Mad Men because that wouldn’t be true to the characters. A top NYC ad man, especially one as full of personal angst as Don Draper would have no reason to care whether or not Diahann Carroll starred on a TV show. He found his British colleague’s obsession with a Negro Playboy bunny surprising, but truly, Don could care less. At home, families like his found it easier to move to what were then exurbs to avoid integration, or the fear of it, and maintain status quo. Chances are that Don and Betty Draper continued to live relatively white-only lives until the day they died.
It’s not the adults on Mad Men that capture my imagination most. For me, it’s all about the children.
Do the math: the real-life equivalents of Mad Men “kids” are in your life somewhere, and now you have some clues as to why they’re so…complicated.
Sally Draper? She’s almost 60 now, isn’t she? Is she your boss? Your next-door neighbor? Your landlady? Think: If messed-up Sally had children of her own, how messed up are they now? And what about Sally’s weird little bud, Glen? Do you know him?
In the finale, consumed by shrill bitchiness, Betty Draper hisses at Carla, her long- suffering maid: “And where are your kids? Are they all doctors and lawyers?” The viewer’s focus shifts to Emmy-deserving actress Deborah Lacey, who offers, at last, a veiled threat of her own, “You best stop talking now.”
But, my focus didn’t shift. My brain stopped right there at Carla’s children. The ones who didn’t see her as often as they wanted to because she was away, taking care of the Draper household instead of her own. It’s the love of those children that has kept Carla from bitch-slapping Betty Draper years ago.
The good news is that today, Carla’s children are indeed professionally trained. Now in their late 50’s and early 60’s, they own lovely homes in integrated suburbs of major American cities. They remember their mother fondly: she died soon after the inauguration of Barack Obama. As for the actress who plays Carla, in real life Ms. Lacey’s mother worked as a housemaid for actor Bob Denver, TV’s “Gilligan.”
Karen Malone Wright is a modern communication strategist; crafting multi-layered plans and tactics for organizations, businesses and individuals looking to grow business, find donors and tell a story. She blogs at CommunicationsGoddess.net about communication tools, strategies and best/worst practices, with an emphasis on all things Internet.