07 December, 2009

Some reasons I love Mad Men

by AWV, age 8

(Also, I just want to apologize for this blog. What a mess. First I was just writing it because I thought I should write a blog, and then it started being about Disability Things and I was so excited and felt like I was writing something that was actually worthwhile unlike most of the things I write to distract myself, and I just feel bad because I've been posting about such dumb things lately. I think the approximately four people who read/were reading the blog were probably reading it because of my previous posts that were actually interesting and about things that matter. So I am sorry. On the plus side, I'm going home on December 15, and once I'm home I won't need to distract myself, so I will probably only post here when I actually have something to say.)

Anyway, here are some reasons I love Mad Men, by AWV, age 8.

1. PETE. Except, my reason isn't actually Pete. I think that Pete is just the best example of my favorite thing about the show, which is the fact that no one is used as a device and every character is developed as a real person. People (including me) are always complaining about how offensive Glee is, but in addition to being offensive, it's offensively lazy. There are a few characters the writers actually care about and treat in a realistic way, but a lot of them are just devices. The way Terri acts doesn't make sense. The way Mercedes acts doesn't make sense. But worse, they're boring because you can see that they aren't being written with love.

Every major character on Mad Men is written with love. Pete is not a nice person and in the first season he is the antagonist to the "heroes," Don and Peggy. But he is written with so much love that he could never be just a villain. He's funny, sad, mean, tender, devious, and inappropriately genuine. People love this character.

Because I can't stop at just one example, I give you Sal. A fun fact about offensively lazy writing is that it is often the regular kind of offensive, too. Using gay men as devices is a trope with a long history, and at first Sal seems like yet another example of a gay character who exists to provide comic relief--in this case, he is funny both because of his campy snarkiness and because he doesn't know he's gay, but we can totally tell, and we can see him trying to pretend he's not gay, but it doesn't work on us, because we're so smart!

"Except," says Mad Men, "if you were gay, and you didn't know you were gay, or you did know but you were afraid to act on it because everyone you knew hated gay people, and you knew you could be fired or even arrested--well, that actually wouldn't be funny, would it?"

Well, no.

2. PETE AGAIN. And Paul. And some other people. This reason is about how the show is super funny without being a comedy. Because it's funny in a diegetic way. Pete and Paul are characters you can laugh at in a mean way. And you can laugh with almost all the characters, because they're witty people. Diegetic humor is super rad because it means you can enjoy the humor on a deeper level than you can in a comedy. My relationship with the characters is serious at the base, so when they are funny, I feel so warm towards them, like I do when my friends are funny. It makes everything funnier.

3. Peggy. Peggy is the actual reason and not the microcosm. She is a girl who doesn't do girl stuff! She seriously didn't understand that she wasn't supposed to be genuinely interested in being a copywriter. I guess this also ties into #1 about all the characters being real people. Even the woman characters are real people! I know!

4. The period stuff is (as far as a baby like myself can tell) really good, and it's used as a setting rather than a plot. For some reason it seems more like science fiction than historical fiction, maybe because it doesn't feel educational. It's a world where things are really different, in an interesting way. Pete and Trudy get married for no apparent reason, and never seriously consider getting divorced even though they make each other miserable for the first few years. Joan thinks she wants to be a housewife even though she obviously doesn't. The way the characters think takes the plot in directions that would never happen on a show set in the modern day, because it just wouldn't make sense.

Are those all the reasons? I guess. I feel a little bad that because the show has such an obvious hook ("it takes place in the 60s!") it is kind of reduced to that, when the realism and love are really more important, and are the main reasons I like it so much.

ETA: I'm not 100% sure, but I think that this article borrowed a phrase from one of my Wikipedia edits. Which is SO COOL. Another cool thing is when you're really obsessed with a band, and they play a song live, and you listen to a video of that song 400 times and try to type out the lyrics as accurately as possible and put them on songmeanings.net, and then when you search for the lyrics a few years later, all the lyrics sites are using a version that is obviously yours, because you were the first to post lyrics for that song on the Internet.


  1. Wow.

    I love your eight-year-old voice.

    Though I'm not sure that the people I know would allow their child to watch a show like Mad Men before they were about 15, when the fifteen-year-old can choose what shows she likes to watch.

    When a series is "written with love", it really makes a difference.

  2. Yes! I totally share all of these reasons, even though I probably couldn't have articulated them as precisely.

    But yes, I love all the characters on Mad Men. They're so real, and with such depth and pathos to them.