The story of the seemingly picture-perfect life of advertising executive and anti-hero Don Draper came to an end this past Sunday with the airing of the series finale of “Mad Men”on AMC.
The show is set in the 1960s at a Manhattan advertising agency and stars Jon Hamm as Don Draper, an advertising executive who struggles with identity and personal problems. Along with other hit series like “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,”“Mad Men” is credited with revitalizing the network, which is committed to high-quality programming. “Mad Men”has enjoyed critical acclaim throughout its run, and has even influenced popular culture through its glamorous and idealistic image of the 1960s.
From baby names to men’s fashion, “Mad Men” has influenced the zeitgeist and is credited with making the 1960s cool again. Trendy men began wearing tortoise shell glasses and skinny ties, bar goers began ordering old fashioneds and smoking Lucky Strikes and homeowners filled rooms with mid-century vintage furnishings.
But the show is acclaimed for being more than just a smoky and glamorous display of 1960s fashion, cars and furniture. “Mad Men”’s greatest merits come from its portrayal and discussion of many universal, and sometimes controversial issues, including identity, alcoholism, feminism, race, counterculture and more.
The show’s discussion of these difficult and sensitive issues is necessary to its portrayal of the time period. Despite the vintage fashion and the appeal of smoking at work, the 1960s were an incredibly turbulent time in American history. Society struggled with issues of racial equality, gender equality, gay rights and the “culture wars,” the clash between new and old ideals and beliefs about society.
“Mad Men” skillfully and subtly tackled many issues and themes on the show, such as Peggy’s struggles and triumphs in the male-dominated workforce, Betty’s rejection of domestic life and gender roles, Sal’s affair with a hotel bellboy and Roger’s frequent, and often disparaged, racist remarks.
“Mad Men” is a show about Don Draper and his struggles with his identity and inner issues, not the 1960s. However, had the show shied away from the more sensitive and difficult issues, it would have read as an endorsement of the decade, the good parts and the bad.
According to Salon and Forbes,“Mad Men,” along with other AMC shows, is even credited as being the inspiration for shows on other platforms, like Netflix and Hulu, which are starting to make original programing with quality that is at or above the level of shows found on premium channels.
Saying goodbye to boozy and debonair anti-hero Don Draper is, in some ways, the end of a television era. Shows like “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad,”“The Wire” and “Mad Men” helped television earn a renewed reputation as a platform for storytelling on par with, rather than beneath, film.With the popularity of so many high-quality shows, television is quickly becoming a preferred medium for distributing high quality and artistic content.