oct 28

Not Everyone Loves Your Favorite Show

Hey, someone doesn't like Mad Men! Writing for LRB, one of the n+1 dudes, Mark Greif [sic!], says: "Mad Men is an unpleasant little entry in the genre of Now We Know Better. We watch and know better about male chauvinism, homophobia, anti-semitism, workplace harassment, housewives' depression, nutrition and smoking. We wait for the show's advertising men or their secretaries and wives to make another gaffe for us to snigger over." And then: "Beneath the Now We Know Better is a whiff of Doesn't That Look Good. The drinking, the cigarettes, the opportunity to slap your children!"


I like Mad Men maybe too much, but I can see his point here -- in fact, isn't he just identifying exactly why this show is popular? I think Mark has it inverted, though: The show's pretty heavy on the Looks Good!, with a light sprinkling of We Know Better on top for good measure. Slap your children is really both, though.

posted by scott at 5:12 PM on October 28, 2008

No. If Mad Men debuted in the 90s, that criticism would be spot on. But the social and character development of MM mimic our modern uncertain times too well. Rather than simply a quaint pastiche of anachronisms, MM's all about the lesson that we still don't know better, and the troubling salesmanship that keeps us from learning.

posted by Steve Bryant at 10:04 PM on October 28, 2008

Sounds like someone is a bit jealous of Don Draper!

posted by Julie at 6:55 AM on October 29, 2008

This is like saying the Sopranos was bad because it was filled with mob clich├ęs. Both shows have plenty of character development, and formal experimentation, and unspoken nuances and sly jokes to reward attentive viewers. Aka: good writing.

posted by Jared at 9:02 AM on October 29, 2008

Isn't Greif missing the point? It's not just Know Better/Looks Good. It's the journey. What happened at the time where some of those Looks Good moments were changed into Now We Know Better. What goes through people's minds at such pivotal moments? How would YOU respond in such a moment?

One of the best examples of this was the episode where Paul Kinsey went to the civil rights march. It showed that people at the time would have to decide whether to take off of work and interrupt their everyday lives to go. (Or at least follow a girlfriend down, which shows how such decisions may really happen.)

And, of course, this all leads to the biggest question: What do we currently think Looks Good but in 40 years will Know Better?

posted by Doug D. at 12:40 PM on October 29, 2008

I've never done this before, but I wrote slightly more generally on this idea a while ago and was curious what you may have thought of it, so I'm throwing the link in here. If you get a moment, lemme' know if you have any thoughts.


posted by Nav at 1:26 PM on October 30, 2008

A very insightful piece that manages to verbalize many thoughts about MM that I have had but was unable to put my finger on. I have watched 5 episodes and find it to be slow and uneventful yet as compelling to watch as a super slow motion replay of a car wreck. The treatment of the period is simply irresistible. I think I'll stick with it.

posted by ronpadz at 3:50 PM on October 30, 2008

james wolcott isnt a fan either.

posted by alias at 5:01 PM on November 3, 2008

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