Tuesday, July 15, 2008

we're all mad here

I finally started watching Mad Men, the AMC series about an advertising agency on Madison Avenue during the 60s, an era when people smoked anywhere and everywhere, when women were in the workplace only to find a husband, and when it was standard practice to have a decanter of your favorite liquor on your desktop.

This series depicts the very time and setting in which my parents met. My dad was a creative director at McCann-Marshalk and my mom held a secretarial position in the traffic department. My mom seems to think that the show goes a bit overboard with the sexism, though she admits to having been hit on several times. Then again, she was apparently just waiting for the right guy to hit on her.

My own experience having grown up hanging out at Ogilvy and Mather's San Francisco branch (which then became Hal Riney and Partners), and not just hanging out at the office, but going on weekend ski trips with the whole gang and playing interminable tortuous games of charades (try The Gulag Archipelago, for instance... sounds like...?) tells me that in the 70s and 80s 1) it wasn't just the men that were mad, 2) the amount of alcohol consumed on the job depicted in the show is correct, and 3) the tradition of fooling around on the side with co-workers was maintained (but that's not saying much - this was San Francisco after all). The only obvious difference is that women were not only secretaries anymore, they were also account executives, accountants and a few were also copy writers. They also didn't have to get so dressed up for work. I don't hang out much at advertising agencies nowadays, so I can't comment on what the scene is currently like and if there are many female creative directors, or if a glass ceiling in that department still remains to be broken.

My mom commented that back in the day when she worked on Madison Avenue, she didn't feel like she was even at work, per se. It was just so much fun watching these all these crazy people playing pranks and trying to comically outdo each other that she just laughed all the time. Watching Mad Men reminds me of when I was a kid, and I used to observe this same madness unfolding before me, as all these creative superegos battled it out in charades, or verbal sparring matches, to prove to each other (or the women present) about who was the most clever of the bunch. To be very honest, it was entertaining to a certain point, but after a while I thought they all belonged in a nuthouse. Including my dad.



Piú giú, in fondo alla tuscolana...!?...passavo per un saluto!

KT said...

Is this a joke? Anyway, Mad Men is so nice I watched it twice. Very subtle dramatic arcs. Very complex characters. The subtlety is what really draws me in though. And the fact that this series could very well be my family history.