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Marianne Paskowski

AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ Makes Me Mad

September 24, 2008 9:35 AM

Okay. I know “Mad Men” won the Emmy for best dramatic series, but I absolutely hate the show.

AMC's 'Mad Men'

AMC's 'Mad Men'

True, I didn’t walk in those women’s shoes in the early sixties, the time period for this show. Frankly I was a kid, and I never witnessed how women at home, raising families were treated by their high powered, well-paid male spouses.

Pretty shabby, according to this show, including all of the women who worked at this fictional ad agency. But when I grew up, I saw the other side, “Bewitched.” I personally prefer that slice of life. Darren never cheated on Samantha. Remember?

I’ve only seen two episodes of “Mad Men,” and I’m still trying to get the drama’s appeal. So I took it upon myself to ask older women why they find it appointment TV.

They all say, and some can really relate, being married to ad agency executives, while they were raising families, that it’s all true.

However, I find this show extremely deprecating to today’s young women. Sure you can argue that’s the way it was, but it isn’t anymore. Bring back “Murphy Brown.” That I can relate to.

I would like to see more shows on TV about women who actually crashed through the glass ceiling, like Murphy Brown, and are on equal footing with their husbands (Although Murphy didn’t have one and raised a baby anyhow).

To me, “Mad Men” is one very sexist show and didn’t deserve the Emmy.


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Comments (36)

Nicole Wilder:

Dear Marianne,

You are hating a show and saying it doesn't deserve an emmy because of what the content is (ie: sexist, women are inferior)...But that's exactly what makes the show so intriguing is that the sexism and demeaning treatment of women was absolutely a reality and was standard practice day in and day out. I think you are more upset that we, as humans, ever acted that way in the first place and are choosing to hate the show because it depicts American behavior in the 60's...hate the behavior, but not the show simply because it's portraying realistic events and behaviors during an important and controversial time in American history. You might as well as hate any show or movie about the civil rights movement and the klu klux klan...while that too was filled with racism and despicable behavior and homicide of many african americans, it's important that we look back and remember so that we don't ever convince ourselves that that behavior would ever be okay.

Don't hate the show just because it portrays an unflattering time and decade in America.

Nicole Wilder

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Nicole,

Your points are well articulated, however, if you look back at some shows and movies, well, say about Rosa Parks, and the civil rights movement, the oppressed spoke out and did something about their fate.

That's not happening in Mad Men. Those women behave like pawns, and that their fate as women, is to be servile, and that's why I'm not a fan.

Appreciate your thoughtful post,

Hi Marianne,

I agree with Nicole on this one. You can also argue that Mad Men is not just sexist but also racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic. That was our America in the 60's.

But change is coming: the days of women as "pawns" are numbered. Mad Men's Don Draper has begun to mentor his secretary, Peggy Olson, promoting her into a copywriting job, a first for a woman in Sterling Cooper. The glass ceiling in an ad agency is now cracked, soon to be shattered. Give Mad Men a little more credit.


Hi Marianne,

I agree with Nicole on this one. You can also argue that Mad Men is not just sexist but also racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic. That was our America in the 60's.

But change is coming: the days of women as "pawns" are numbered. Mad Men's Don Draper has begun to mentor his secretary, Peggy Olson, promoting her into a copywriting job, a first for a woman in Sterling Cooper. The glass ceiling in an ad agency is now cracked, soon to be shattered. Give Mad Men a little more credit.


John Hensler:

Arriving at a judgement of a series -- especially one as great as Mad Men is -- by only watching two episodes is somewhat of a stretch, and really shortchanges the writers of the show. There are storylines that take all season to mature. You need to make more of an effort to watch the show if you want to comment on it with any authority.

Hate to burst your bubble, but this is how it was my dear. Not every woman was Rosa Parks, most were resigned to their role as wives and mothers. That's what makes the show great, in that it portrays America warts and all. Not some nostalgic rose-colored glasses look at "the good old days". It makes me appreciate how very far we've come. And I agree with John, to "hate" a show based on two viewings is just silly.


I agree with everyone else. Your reasons for disliking the show do not make any sense. Using your reasoning, you should also hate every show or movie about slavery and the holocaust. Let's go one step further and erase them from all history books.

On a side note, did anyone see the woman who plays "Joan Holloway" (the head secretary) in Mad Men at the Emmy's? My god. Those things can't be real.


I love Mad Men, and partially for the very reason that it does portray women acurately at that time. No, it wasn't right, and it wasn't fair, but at that time, they just didn't see any other options. But watch Peggy carefully - she's trying to overcome her position in life, and is continually frustrated. And you obviously didn't see Joan when after she did such a great job reading scripts, she was replace by a man who obviously didn't know the first thing about the job. Watching that show makes me appreciate just how far we've come since then. Plus, it's a great show - writing, acting, etc.

To not like a show because you disagree with the reality of the era, is silly. To judge a show based on two episodes is also unfair - do you work for a network or something?

It took me a few episodes to really connect with this show, and now I love it.

Marianne Paskowski:

I feel like a heretic here for expressing an opinion. Kara I did see the episode about the female script reader replaced by a no nothing man. I don't recall her doing anything except accepting her fate.

I like fighters. I love that Lifetime movie about the reals of Ike and Tina Turner, for example. Tina was the star of the show, and after taking years of physical and emotional abuse from Ike she left him, a very inspiring story.

That's my problem with this show, it's not aspirational, and simplistic, not all women of that era were like those depicted in "Mad Men."

And no, I don't work for a network. I've only seen this show twice, but some shows only get one chance with viewers. I'll give it another shot, and maybe I'll change my mind.

Thanks all for your posts, even though you busted my chops:) No problem, m


Yo, Blondie --

Lighten up! You sound like the women who claim liberal values who still insist they'll vote for McCain/Palin just to get even. Your rant hardly references what is so obvious: the void between what older women experienced (and don't mind seeing portrayed in a retrospective drama plot), and what younger women expect to experience. Both are right, and you need a cold shower.

Cruisin not bruisin

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

I am surprised at your dismay. "Mad Men" is designed as a period piece drama, warts of the period and all. Do you complain that Shakespeare's plays are sexist because they don't reflect today's gender equality standards? From a feminist viewpoint (and men who support women's rights are indeed feminists, too) dramatizing the bad old days exposes what we abhor. It's a reasonable lesson that our daughters and sons should be putting in proper context. That's where we adults can help them, not by complaining, but by explaining.


Marianne Paskowski:

I recall working for one Florence Iverson, in Chicago, who owned her own business, and I worked there part time at the vulnerable age of 16.That was the late sixties.

She ran a secretarial answering service. All of her many clients were men. She would not tolerate the kind of behavior you see on this show. All of her employees were women and she grew us and promoted us.

She's my real hero. Not these nitwit chicks on "Bad Men.," who don't speak up. Florence let us and we did. Her business thrived. And bad men became good men.

Florence let us be us, and we worked our asses off for her and what she stood for.

She was the first women's libber, I had the privilege to meet and work for.

Obviously, I'm not going to give this up, because I straddled generations and understand both sides. I'm just the monkey in the middle.

Thanks for your post,

Marianne Paskowski:

Read my above post and better understand where I come from. I did work in the 60's albeit as a teenage grunt, but I worked for a real woman.And she was better looking, richer and far more successful than any of these women portrayed on the show. She owned her own business.

Thanks for chiming in, all responses are appreciated even though you're nailing me on the cross here. No problem, thick skinned.

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

That's a heartwarming story, and I'm happy you had such a wonderful and empowering experience. But don't be so foolish as to think your experience was typical. As a journalist/blogger, you need to write to your audience, and not insult your readers by implying that just because "where I come from" is some Happyland of Enlightenment that their more realistic views are not valid.


Marianne Paskowski:


I'm not intentionally insulting anyone here, just trying to explain why I feel the way I do about this show. If I offended you, that was not my goal.

Trust me, my life was not "Happyland of Englightenment" as you wrote above.

I would like "Mad Men" better, obviously, if the women were stronger and fought back. That would make it far more interesting for me.

My Two Cents,

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne --

Then you want a different show. Maybe add a talking goat and a flying saucer, while you're at it.


Marianne Paskowski:


I do want a better show, and it could be, no need for goats or flying saucers.

If you are referring to stronger women as goats or flying saucers, you are a indeed a bad,man yourself, or really a very old man living in the past.

You asked for it, you got it.

Don't worry, Marianne, just because you're dead wrong doesn't mean we still don't love you.


Now about this TV show you two are bandying around about a stronger woman as a goat: If I suggest you cast Geraldine Laybourne will that get me censored again?



but the thing is that very few women did fight back back then. the are portraying a time period.

another girl:

I love the show, I'm younger than Marianne but I think a lot of what was true for these young women at the time is still true today for people in blue collar or pink collar jobs. They do not have job security, they do not have unions and they don't necessarily see options for themselves. Yet I find them fascinating characters who each struggle for control over their lives one way or another. They show me the world in which my mother came of age, and she and her generation went on to change that world, just not so much in 1962.

There are also some characters you may have missed. The woman who inherits her family's department store and takes the firm to task for talking down to her. The woman who is the wife and manager of a comedian/pitchman who plays hardball with the big boys when it comes to negotiations. Even Peggy is figuring out how to break the mold but she has no role models, so she's making it up as she goes along.

I love the show and I love these women.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Another Girl,

Ok, you are the one and only person on this blog that has convinced me to give this show another chance.

You speak from your heart, many thanks for your post,


Hey M,
I haven't really watched this show myself but thought I should comment that this one at least looks like a genuine period piece for AMC. It also reminds me again of Swingtown, which I will miss a lot this upcoming season. That show portrayed a lot of women as overcoming barriers but I had to really wonder if the proportion of them who were overcoming those barriers was typical for the '70s. Even if it wasn't the fun in these sorts of shows relies exclusively in the overall storylines of the characters and to a lesser extent, the scenery and background on the show. Swingtown really excelled in the latter.
Take care and turn off CNBC for a few hours this weekend. ;)

Marianne Paskowski:


I don't watch CNBC on the weekends, infomercials, remember? The nation's on the edge of falling off the precipice and these guys, at least this morning, were airing infomercials about a fat concealing garment. I escaped to a Lifetime movie and basically goofed off. Kyle came awfully close to the Cape. But we have power.

Soon it will be time to see how the Asian markets open. God, you know me well:)



Awww Lifetime eh? You mean the "men are pigs" network. ;) Glad that NBC has kept them from getting whatever overrated Bravo reality show they were trying to get under the table.

Glad to know Kyle stayed away from our folks. Canadians won't be as lucky though. What was interesting is that every other cable network besides CNBC was covering the market crisis this weekend.
Enjoy your markets, I'll enjoy my Family Guy and Amazing Race.

Marianne Paskowski:


Nah, on Lifetime, the women usually murder the men:) CNBC, true to form ran infomercials, so, the financial market is collapsing, but it did run a brief financial news recap. You're right on CNN and the others did a better job covering the financial crisis.

As for me, I just spent two hours talking to Asia, trying to get this bloody Verizon DSL back on track. I'm a mad woman...so

Think I'll give Mad Men another chance.

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory & Joe,
Sorry, this show blows, trying to watch, snore, diminishes women, exalts asshole men, all of the above, maybe that's why people like, it, off to Army Wives or CNN. m

David Cohen:

I'm just jealous of the readily available Jack Daniel's in the office.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi David,
Well as promised, I gave the show another shot, no pun intended, Dave, and I am getting addicted. Last night's episode was great.

My God the booze flows and the smoke blows, love the costumes, kinda like watching the ugly side of the old Dick VanDyke Show.

Thanks for your post,
M, a new convert:)


Yes, Marianne, that's just what we need: More vapid drivel like Bewitched. And more laugh track, please, Murphy Brown! How utterly stimulating.

Are mediocre sitcoms your only frame of reference? Your comparing apples to oranges. If you compared Mad Men to Dallas or Melrose Place, I'd still think that you are ridiculous, but at least you'd be in the ballpark's parking lot.

Marianne Paskowski:

Mea Culpa, I've become a fan, note above.
Thanks for your post, m


Thank you, Cory, for your comment about Don's mentor, Peggy Olson. There is a follow up article here, http://praxislogos.com about the different roles women played in the early 60's and how tough it must have been for some women to watch other women breaking the mold of a 60's housewife.

Marianne Paskowski:

Thanks for the link, interesting comment. I had lunch yesterday with a former female exec at Booze Allen, older than me.

It was our first lunch, and the first thing she said to me, "was you don't get it," and she was referring to Mad Men. I was startled. But she Googled me before we met from lunch,
and found the thread up here interesting and was happy everyone is beating me up.

So thanks to all for chiming in, and converting me, m


Why would anyone feel the need to disect
ANY show on television.If you don't like it, or it's "content" then don't watch it. We must remember that shows like this are purely for our entertainment! I was born in the early 60's.
Very much of what this show depicts is accurate.
Pregnant women drinking & smoking, cut throat executives, spouses cheating on each other.(Men are not the only one's being unfaithful if you haven't noticed.)What I know of emmy nominations-content has nothing to do with. T.V. shows are nominated for acting, writing & directing ability.-I think it's done with great writing-a great cast, direction is key-and I never walk away disappointed.
Donna C.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Donna,

That's part of the gig, to opine. If you read the later entries here, especially fine, I am now a convert.

The finale last night was a cliff-hanger, Thanks for jumping into the stew here, m

I just wrote this whole note & then saw how old the conversation is~

Hi Marianne,

I like your post... And I have to admit that I shared some of your views on the show originally - something in my gut just didn't sit right about finding entertainment in seeing these women being walked on.

Then I watched a few more episodes, and I realized how much I see of my own struggle in these women.

Women in advertising STILL have to fight for equality.

In 10 years of agency work I can't tell you how many times I've seen men bully their way through their careers (now, it's IS a high-stakes job that requires much more than just social finesse), or claim they've produced work & ideas they haven't. So many men in advertising have always been this way, and still are, regardless of the decade. Now there are many powerful women in high posts in advertising and many of them I have watched step on coworkers, talk badly about their clients, lay claim to work that isn't theirs and simply tell people they are stupid for having an opinion.

Often I think they learned if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so these women bullied staff just like their male counterparts to earn the high-title jobs.

Job security? Doesn't matter if you are a man or a women, it simply doesn't exist in advertising agencies, and hasn't since I've been in the industry. To alleviate some of that, there are always jobs available for good ad professionals, who truly have a passion for the science & art of advertising, whether at an agency or on their own.

Thankfully, not ALL the men in advertising are jerks (or were in the early '60s, based on later episodes of the show), and not ALL the women in advertising are trying to claw their way to the top.
Some really nice people make it to the top men and women, unfortunately it is rare.

So perhaps some of the issues you have with the show are correct, just more reflective of the advertising industry than of all women working in the early '60s

Near the end of the first season, I was hooked. The second season, instead of being worse than the first, is even better! Give it another shot, if you don't get over the uneasy feeling, then it's not for you & that's OK.

I can't watch LOST or 24 because I just don't enjoy watching that high-stress explosions/shooting life & death type of TV, but I totally get that other people love those shows.

In the end, the awards don't determine if the show stays on or not - it's the viewers. If people don't tune in & the show doesn't earn ratings (the measurement that helps determine a :30s ad cost), advertisers won't buy ads on the show/network and the network won't continue to buy or fund the show.

Marianne Paskowski:


Thanks for your response from a modern woman working in the agency trenches today.

Your comments were very thought provoking. I think women have it tougher than ever, especially if they are mothers. But in the 60's mothers were not working in advertising agencies.Nor do they in Mad Men.

But now they are. I know a young mother who works in ad sales at a cable network. She has her head on her shoulders, but knows she will never advance much further than her current, rather senior post, because she wants to be with her new born and not do the night circuit.

Thanks for weighing in....m

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