“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” A Tale of Two Cities
Mad Men is the most profoundly disturbing show on TV today depicting horrible fictitious characters that resemble many people you and I have worked with over the years. But I like it.What I most enjoy is the psychological torture of the common man addressed each week. I hate to say it but, I can relate. Sterling Cooper is a cesspool of lying, cheating, self-promoting, paranoid narcissists similar to many company offices in America. It is true: you can’t make this stuff up. The irony is the life lessons I’m reminded of on Sunday night when it regularly airs on AMC.
Here are five life lessons to mull over from the shows creators and writers:
1. Business is of the devil. One of the most disturbing transactions in the history of the show is Pete Campbell’s proposal to Joan(Christina Hendricks) to sleep with the sleazy, goombah Jaguar dealer to win the business. If you’ve never worked with a Pete Campbell in your life, raise your hand. They are all around and need to be punched in the face for just breathing.
2. Everyone has a secret life. Don Draper, the diabolical philanderer, is the most exposed as the central protagonist and the viewer and very few of his friends or co-workers know, the real Don Draper is dead. However, we see his compassion at moments such as his paying Pete’s partnership fees when Pete (for me, the most hated character in the show in a show cast with nothing but slimy men) was in a financial bind. Imagine what Don, ah, Dick Whitman, would do for a friend.
3. Infidelity screws up people’s lives. The gates of hell would be more crowded with the characters in this show than there are Thanksgiving night shoppers at Best Buy. But the damage that Don inflicts on his first wife, Betty(January Jones) is beyond comprehension. Worse yet is the domino effect it has on his kids. His cheating ways created an emotionally unavailable, paranoid wife who passes on the legacy to her offspring.
4. Despite all the purported progress of the women’s movement, we still live in a sexist culture. In the fifties and sixties, the show’s setting, objectifying women is overt and the women compete for the attention. Today, we call that behavior marketing.
5. Women hold all the cards. Some know it and some don’t. One of the great examples this season is Betty turning the tables on Don, her ex or course, at the cabin during Bobby’s summer camp. It changes him, at least for a moment, as we see later. Joan, the femme fatale extraordinaire, despite her giving up more than she wants to, is always confident of her control over men — including during the Jaguar incident. At times the show seems mundane. But once the back stories start to fill in, you have an intelligent, psychological drama similar to what you will see on the morning “news” circuits.