The cast of MAD MEN

My latest Netflix darling: MAD MEN, the new television series about Madison Avenue advertising execs in 1960. The show is excellently written and acted, and I really like it. The main character is a top ad exec who has reinvented himself, hiding his past. It has high production values and portrays the business and social world of 1960 in beautiful detail. I’m glad I was not a grown-up young woman at that time. The rampant sexism in the business world–the secretaries in the office can barely breathe without the men making moves on them, talking about them like they were so many sheep, cattle, mares, and assuming that they have breasts so no brains. Some of the things the execs say to the secretaries make my mouth drop open.

The idea that a woman might be good at writing ad copy was revolutionary, not to say practically heresy in the cigarette smoke and martini-laced world of advertising at the time.

And, my goodness, the executive suite sure has changed! In 1960 it was common to have liquor in the corp office, to serve cocktails and food to clients, and I saw on one show where the secretaries, if they got the munchies or needed a quick lunch, there was a caterer’s set up in the office and you could go buy a sandwich or a danish or whatever. Guess vending machines replaced that.

Of course being black I would not have been a secretary in an ad office of the time. The only blacks on the show run the elevator and do janitorial work, or belong to the hip generation of 1960’s radicals and freethinkers. The life of the housewife was smothering, and if you were a divorcee, omg, pariah city. Fascinating show.