The other day, I had a very interesting request, from a journalist at Dagens Nyheter - one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden. She asked if I could answer some questions about the TV show Mad Men and the issues of working for an advertising agency in the 1920′s and the issues of working for one today. FYI, I do not work for an advertising agency, I work for a Social Media / Digital Agency. But hey, I guess this is where the ad agencies are moving towards today.
Either way, I was up for the interview and here’s a transcript of it. Let me know your thoughts in the comment box!
1. In your opinion, what is it about Mad Men that has made it such a hit show?
Mad Men, despite being firmly set in the 1960‘s, takes great care to draw from timeless social issues. Gender inequality, the value of “surfaces,” the tension between career and personal lives—these issues are planted in a different time just to reveal just how similar today’s world is.
Mad Men does a phenomenal job at luxuriating the not-so-distant past. We’re talking about the 1960′s here—not the 1760′s. My parents were alive, and my grandparents were in the middle of their careers. As such, the setting is one quite familiar to those we spend a great deal of our time with.
This historical authenticity and visual style are rare in today’s programming. We’re given an accurate glance into the smoking, the prejudice, and the unrepentant bigotry of a world not so far from our own. We see American culture when it was free of self-pity and guilt—where men had their place and women theirs. It presents a simple world, and it’s this simplicity that allows us an opportunity to focus on characters and their personal development.
Certainly, there were few affected by the issues of modern women: “Who shall stay home with the kids?” “Can I continue my career?” “How will I balance my role as a wife with my commitment to myself?” Among other things, Mad Men paints a compelling portrait about the inconvenience of being a woman in a man’s world.
2. What’s your view on the show? About the obvious sexism and attitudes of the era?
The show makes us imagine living in a world where, as a woman, we are born to be pretty, to have no opinion about anything (except what to cook for dinner), to know how to socialize with the high-class, and to go to bed with our husband whenever he pleases. The reality is incredibly disturbing for today’s woman, and one I’m sure we’re all glad to have escaped.
At the same time, Don Draper knows how to make a woman feel special—when he wants to. He has a swag that, today, not many men have or can pull off (I am sorry to say). What’s more, he makes whichever woman he decides to go to bed with feel special, pretty, important, smart and worthy of his full attention. Don Draper knows his place; knows what is expected of him.
The fact that he is not ready for a world of gender equality, however—or to find the “Golden Middle Ground” with his own wife—comes back to haunt him (especially as hints of radical 1960’s change begin to emerge, such as Betty’s anxiety about being “only” a housewife). As the series progresses, I’m confident that issues of “appropriate gender roles” will only continue to gain strength.
3. How would you describe your job in a few sentences, what do you love? What are the challenges?
Working in an agency such as Whispr Group, we come to understand the obsession Mad Men places on surfaces. So much of the work being produced in our industry focuses on being the “newest,” the “loudest,” the “most-desired.”
Fortunately, emerging trends in social marketing have begun to account for a new set of ideals: listening, reacting and re-imagining. Gone are the days of the silent billboard; today’s consumers demand a space to be heard, and the respect of being listened to. In many ways, marketing has become a race for the best intelligence.
At Whispr Group we focus on listening, we want to hear our client’s customer and we want them to have a voice in what matters to them and their lives.
Still, the pace of our industry is unforgiving. From week to week, the technologies and trends delivering our message are replaced; if we don’t bring ideas to resolution quickly, we miss our mark. It’s not a job that values a normal sleep schedule, but I’m proud of the work we do at Whispr Group and the brands we help deliver to our customers.
4. Have you ever felt discriminated against at your place of work?
Occasionally, I can’t help but wonder what role we (as a gender) have in the process of discrimination. After all, it’s clear that problems of “ism” (racism, sexism, ageism) are rooted in misidentifying people by their relationship to a group, and not for the individuals they are. When we lump injustices of sexism into issues of “men vs. women,” do we propagate the same injustices that men do against us? Does an underlying fear of being discriminated against guide us into situations where we feel it occur?
In any event, it’s clear the problem exists (and that it has for a long time). As such, I resignedly expect that a final, working solution will be equally slow and convoluted, though I hope to see a day where the “Golden Middle Way” has been achieved once and for all.
5. What do you think have changed the most for women since the time period of Mad Men ( the sixties)
I believe that we still have yet to find the “Golden Middle Way” in regards to equality and balance between men and women. We are definitely moving in the right direction, however, and radical change is a convoluted and typically unpaved path—one that occasionally loses itself before reaching its final destination.
I do not believe that women should be asked to juggle the demands of a career and a family—at least not any more than we ask men to. Building the professional acumen for an Executive position takes time and energy, as does keeping a home in working order as a mother and wife. In many cases, combining the two tasks requires far more than any human being has to give. It is too much, and my generation’s women struggle with this dilemma every day.
We will find our “Golden Middle Way” eventually — I know we will. We might have to give up some things along the way, but that’s simply the process of compromise. Best of all, we’re all individuals; when gender inequality is done away, each of us can take the path of our choosing. For some women, this may mean staying at home with a family, while for others it may mean focusing on a career.
In the end, equality isn’t about being the same, it’s just about having the same opportunities as those around us.
What’s your thoughts / What do you think? Do you agree with me?