It's rare that we agree with the n+1 kids' privileged juvenalia, but, as the Mad Men hype machine relentlessly sucks us all into its insatiable maw, it's worth going back to read Mark Greif's generally astute take on the show, published last October in the London Review of Books. The DUMBO football team tends toward the contrarian for its own sake, but in this case, we recognize our own experience of trying to watch the first season in Greif's words.
Mad Men is an unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better. We watch and know better about male chauvinism, homophobia, anti-semitism, workplace harassment, housewives’ depression, nutrition and smoking. We wait for the show’s advertising men or their secretaries and wives to make another gaffe for us to snigger over. ‘Have we ever hired any Jews?’ – ‘Not on my watch.’ ‘Try not to be overwhelmed by all this technology; it looks complicated, but the men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use.’ It’s only a short further wait until a pregnant mother inhales a tumbler of whisky and lights up a Chesterfield; or a heart attack victim complains that he can’t understand what happened: ‘All these years I thought it would be the ulcer. Did everything they told me. Drank the cream, ate the butter. And I get hit by a coronary.’ We’re meant to save a little snort, too, for the ad agency’s closeted gay art director as he dismisses psychological research: ‘We’re supposed to believe that people are living one way, and secretly thinking the exact opposite? . . . Ridiculous!’ – a line delivered with a limp-wristed wave. Mad Men is currently said to be the best and ‘smartest’ show on American TV. We’re doomed.
We came to it with an open mind, looking to fill a void left after the last season of The Wire. We made it six episodes, walked away and never looked back.