Mad Men Goes Full Circle

Mad Men was a very appropriate show to conclude this semester’s screenings with. We began this course wondering whether there are truly any differences between generations or if generational issues remain static throughout time, only to be framed and presented in a slightly different manner. After analyzing various TV shows, from Veronica Mars to Mad Men, I believe the clear answer is… a little bit of both. Mad Men is an excellent example of how issues from the 1950’s are strikingly present today. Many people try to characterize the millennial generation as morally ambivalent, but it is clear that in Mad Men, moral codes were followed loosely in the past. While this is a clear example of a similarity, it should be noted that the way in which moral ambivalence is presented in Mad Men is far different than it is presented in millennial media. In the 1950’s, there was a certain discreteness associated with illegitimate sexual conduct. Now, sex and scandal couldn’t be further away from closed doors, as shows like The Real World tape morally deviant actions for the whole world to see. Thus, I reiterate the idea that some generational issues are homologous across time, only to be presented in a different ways. However, Mad Men also shows obvious differences between millennials and past generations. I do not watch Mad Men, so I do not know how the female characters develop, but in the pilot, the control that men have over them is astounding. When compared to shows like Veronica Mars, it is clear how far women have come in their fight for equality. This list could go on and on, but you get the point.

I think the reason why Mad Men is so popular is similar to the reason why people are so fascinated with millennial musicals like Glee. As we discussed, millennial musicals use songs to connect their viewers to the past. Older viewers can reminisce about their youth while millennials realize, through the music (in shows like Glee), that what they thought were “millennial” issues have been experienced in the past. Glee uses many old songs to address serious issues, and the lyrics of these songs reflect how modern issues have been dealt with before. A similar dynamic is present in Mad Men. GenX and baby boomers love the show because it is a flashback to a time in their past, and millennials (i’ll generalize based on my own feelings) are fascinated by how many of the show’s themes seem incredibly familiar to modern day circumstances.

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