Mad at Mad Men

My Post on Mad at Mad Men

by Salamishah Tillet on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 10:42am


The creators of Mad Men get so many things right in this period television series. Too bad they get black women so wrong.

Mad at Mad Men

By Salamishah Tillet

In Mad Men, AMC’s seminal series on the 1960s advertising scene, all the women are white, all the blacks are men and, well, the rest of us non-male colored folks are housekeepers and Playboy bunnies. At least, that’s what one would think watching the show lauded by The Washington Post as “TV’s most feminist show.”

Mad Men is all about progressive gender politics — as long as it comes wrapped in white skin. For female viewers who both enjoy Mad Men and come wrapped in brown skin, watching the show can be a frustrating experience.

For the fourth season, Mad Men, which comes to a close on Sunday, the civil rights movement serves as little more than a decorative backdrop. Now set between 1964 and 1965, the show continues to wonderfully detail the fall and the failures of its patriarch, Don Draper, while also exploring the limited gender roles that stifle white suburban housewives, like Betty Draper-turned-Francis, and the sexual harassment and gender discrimination that plague working women, like Peggy Olson and Joan Harris. 

In fact, the show’s creative representations of white male chauvinism and a budding white feminist movement is best captured in the ninth episode of this season, “Beautiful Girls,” which oddly pits the fomenting civil rights movement against the budding feminist movement. When Abe, a white male hipster, sits down with Peggy and waxes philosophic about revolution — particularly the upheaval in Greece and the civil rights movement in America — Peggy quickly interrupts, “Most of the things that Negroes can’t do, I can’t do, and no one seems to care.” Abe chides: “All right, Peggy, we’ll have a civil rights march for women.”


The civil rights movement, it seems, was for black men only.   

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