ince it premiered in 2007, "Mad Men" has never suffered for critical acclaim. The AMC drama has consistently earned plaudits — not to mention 13 Emmys — for its glossy, meticulous depiction of New York's circa-1960s advertising world. But despite the series' reputation for intelligence, not every member of the intelligentsia is such a big a fan. Writing at The New York Review of Books, author Daniel Mendelsohn contends that the show's "delirious" critical reaction is completely undeserved. "Melodramatic" story lines make it nothing more than a "soap opera," while its "attitude toward the past is glib...." Here, an excerpt:
"When people talk about the show, they talk (if they’re not talking about the clothes and furniture) about the special perspective its historical setting creates—the graphic picture that it is able to paint of the attitudes of an earlier time, attitudes likely to make us uncomfortable or outraged today. An unwanted pregnancy, after all, had different implications in 1960 than it does in 2011.
To my mind, the picture is too crude and the artist too pleased with himself. In 'Mad Men,' everyone chain-smokes, every executive starts drinking before lunch, every man is a chauvinist pig, every male employee viciously competitive and jealous of his colleagues, every white person a reflexive racist (when not irritatingly patronizing). It's not that you don't know that, say, sexism was rampant in the workplace before the feminist movement; it's just that, on the screen, the endless succession of leering junior execs and crude jokes and abusive behavior all meant to signal 'sexism' doesn't work—it's wearying rather than illuminating."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy
- Why Good Friday is so important to Christians
- Israel and Russia are getting along. Have the neocons noticed?
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- The 6-year-old who woke up from a coma with a different personality
- 14 wonderful words with no English equivalent
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week