Never got around to reviewing the latest episodes of AMC series Mad Men because, well, it’s just not a very interesting exercise anymore.
Creator Matthew Weiner’s cultural cluelessness and clumsiness continue to be on full display. In terms of integrating Black culture and historical events into the program, it feels like Weiner has simply given up—reflective of the diminishing diversity efforts of modern Madison Avenue.
Mad Men still portrays all Black characters as heroic figures, albeit in subservient positions. Dawn Chambers, Don Draper’s secretary, actually served him on the side during his professional banishment from the agency. Peggy Olson also has a Black secretary now—Shirley—to play alongside Chambers. Why, there’s even a Black woman taking care of Pete Campbell’s son. Is she colored compensation for the loss of long-time Draper housekeeper Carla?
With the Black secretaries, Weiner manages to tap into an advertising industry reality—although it’s doubtful the tapping is deliberate. That is, Mad Men shows the progress White women have enjoyed in the field, in contrast to the discrimination that has held back Black women. For example, Olson grows in power and stature as a creative director with nearly every episode. And Joan Holloway is meeting directly with major clients and winning the respect of the agency partners. Meanwhile, when a Black secretary is moved into reception—a stereotypical role ultimately awarded to Black women in advertising agencies—Bert Cooper quickly pulled her from the public job. Despite the current protests of 3% whiners, White women have it made in the ad game versus their minority peers.
Black men are as invisible as Ralph Ellison’s iconic main character. Was it really that difficult to find a token replacement for Hollis the elevator attendant? Indeed, Black men are only mentioned in the final season of Mad Men, such as when Shirley received roses from her boyfriend or a White guy referred to a cup of coffee as being “black and strong as Jack Johnson.” Once again, the AMC series is inadvertently reflecting another reality—the abysmal lack of Blacks—on modern Madison Avenue.
Looking forward to the last installment of AMC series Mad Men fading to White.