High Definition: After 3 Seasons, Mad Men Is Just Getting Started
I was born a couple years after the 1960s ended, but the decade’s shadow loomed with import over the ones I first encountered. It was the second half of the decade I always heard about, though—Viet Nam, the moon landing, the summer of drugs. So one of my favorite things about AMC’s Mad Men is watching the forgotten beginnings of the ’60s, before John, Paul, George and Ringo touched down in an airport that had recently been named for the just-assassinated president John F. Kennedy.
It’s that other, more familiar plot-line threaded through Mad Men‘s affairs, business dealings and wayward lawnmowers that has me intrigued as much the goings on at Sterling Cooper. The show began in March 1960 with the Kennedy/Nixon election just starting to take shape. Through three seasons, we’ve seen the men and women of Madison Avenue react to a new president, the Freedom Rides, the Bay of Pigs, and the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and JFK.
The times, they were a’changing, but the hope that came with the young president from Massachusetts took a real blow with his assassination. One episode later, and Don Draper noticed that his picture was still hanging on the wall in a bar—“but what are they going to do—replace it with Lyndon Johnson?”
We’ve seen how far we’ve come in tackling racism and misogyny and how far we still have to go in tackling our own pride, selfishness and materialism—things that unfortunately don’t ever go out of style. But despite the final crumbling of Draper’s marriage in the Season 3 finale, the show ends with renewed energy and rolled-up sleeves at a new start-up company. There’s plenty more of the ‘60s to come, and I can’t wait to watch it all through the flawed lenses of Don, Roger, Peggy, Peter and Joan. And I can’t help but think the newly formed Sterling Cooper Draper Price needs an art director. Oh Salvatore…