Monday, March 26, 2012
9925: Mad Men Drops Season 5.
The premier episode of the 5th season of AMC series Mad Men was bookended by racial references. Staffers at Young & Rubicam were displayed dropping water bombs from their high-rise offices onto Black protestors below. The activists stormed the agency lobby to complain, and when the bombers were caught red-handed, one Black woman sniffed, “And they call us savages.” A drenched Black child allowed creator Matthew Weiner another chance to cast minorities as heroic victims.
At Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Roger Sterling joked about the incident and wondered if his agency shouldn’t advertise itself as an equal opportunity employer. Don Draper laughed along with Sterling. The Draper character has always been schizophrenic with his insensitivity. One moment, the man employs and shows respect to former housekeeper Carla. Next, he’s giggling over racist goofballs.
At a later event where executives continued discussing the Y&R scenario, Pete Campbell remarked, “Couldn’t have happened to a better bunch of bigots.”
It seemed odd that the program would tweak Y&R in such a way, as the iconic agency did hire Roy Eaton in 1955, while Mad Men appears to be depicting the early-to-mid 1960s. Not saying the place was or is a bastion of multicultural harmony, but surely the authenticity-obsessed Weiner could have chosen a better target.
A surprise birthday bash for Draper presented an effeminate Black attendee, giving partygoers opportunities to insult homosexuals. Weiner has been consistently comfortable exploring blatant bias aimed at gays. The party also featured a live band with a Black saxophonist, perpetuating a stereotype that still plays in advertisements to this very day.
Lane Pryce found a wallet in a taxicab and conversed with the Black driver, permitting more reverent depictions of Blacks.
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ultimately ran a prank want ad, touting itself as an equal opportunity employer. The episode closed showing the agency lobby filled with Black applicants, leading to an impromptu meeting where the dumbfounded executives decided they must at least pretend to offer someone a job. Plus, Y&R delivered a counter-prank, sending an African sculpture with a fake resume attached. Lane Pryce announced the shop would interview for secretary positions, dismissing the male candidates and collecting resumes from the women.
All in all, Mad Men exhibited two hours of cultural cluelessness—from the fictional characters as well as the series’ writing crew.