YouTube Break: Peggy Olson on Women in the Workplace

Ah, Mad Men. I have such mixed feelings about the show, which is part of the reason I haven’t written about it here. Yet.* With seasons 1-4 now streaming on Netflix, and with the fifth season premiering sometime in 2012 (delayed while star Jon Hamm inked a 3-year, 8-figure deal), now is a good time to really look at the show. (Hint.)
Here is a cheeky little ad the FX network created for the show, highlighting feminist fave Peggy Olson.

If you haven’t seen Mad Men, how do you feel about this advertisement? If you’re familiar–or a fan–devoid of its context, doesn’t the ad appear to be promoting the very sexist ideology the show attempts to critique? (Oh, right, but it’s ironic, which excuses it from everything, am I right?)

*Stay tuned for our announcement and Call for Writers for Mad Men Week here at Bitch Flicks!


  • Posted July 29, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Ugh. I just have really mixed feelings about watching this show …

  • Posted July 29, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    First, let me warn that this comment has a bit of a spoiler in it… it’s fairly obvious when you watch the 1st season though, and by now most people have heard about these plot points (or at least I knew about them before I watched the show).

    Anyway, in prep for season 3 or 4, they released on itunes the top 10 most shocking moments in Mad Men. However, I was annoyed that #1 was the pilot reveal that Don Draper had a wife and kids, and #2 was Peggy’s surprise pregnancy, I would have reversed that. To be honest, I’d have Peggy revealing the pregnancy a season later to Pete and then the writers IGNORING THAT STORY LINE COMPLETELY would be the most shocking thing to ever happen on Mad Men.

    Anyway, this plays into the issues I have with the show, that as much as people say it’s feminist, it’s still all about the men. They bring these story lines up for the women (another is Joan’s rape by her husband) and then rarely do they ever actually deal with it. I guess it goes with the “women couldn’t do much about it back then” but I’m sure Joan and Peggy would still have some lingering issues, but the writers attempts at addressing their female character’s struggles with these topics are horrifically boring. Instead they focus on Don drinking and screwing around. At least, that’s my take on it. I haven’t watched the show since the last season ended as I was it’s all becoming too much style not enough substance.

    I might try to formulate a more coherent and better written response, it’ll prove a nice distraction from my dissertation.

  • Posted July 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m a huge fan of ‘Mad Men.’ This ad, while I’m sure FX thought it would be rather cheeky and oh so clever, reeks of sexism and is the complete antithesis to the show’s message. As I’ve written and said many times, regarding gender and sexism, to me ‘Mad Men’ is one of the most feminist shows on TV. Yes, it depicts a painstakingly accurate (and infuriating) era of misogyny in the 60′s. But it also critiques that world by showcasing the nuanced perspectives of its various female characters. Peggy, Joan and Dr. Faye are strong, intelligent women who reflect on sexism in the workplace and in relationships. The writers (7 of the 9 writers are women) show how the female characters contend with and are affected by their sexist surroundings. It’s one of the few shows that tackles sexism and our flawed history in such an overt way.

  • Posted July 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Thrilla, I completely agree with your assessment. It is, ultimately, still all about the men. (Which is why I find it sad and hilarious that Jon Hamm got such a $$$ contract. Of course he did!) I think that the show is guilty of the same behavior it attempts to critique.

    That said, I do enjoy the show–particularly seasons 3 and 4–and it *is, Opinioness, one of the few shows on television that overtly explores sexism.

    I think we might have a lot to say during Mad Men week. :)

  • Posted July 31, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Okay, now that Mad Men is officially streaming on Netflix, I guess I’ll watch it. Because I want to participate in Mad Men week!

    It’s also interesting to look at television shows especially (and many films) and notice how the marketing of the shows/films occasionally has nothing to do with the actual show/film being marketed.

    I was thinking about this with Friday Night Lights (because I just read an article about it and LOVE that show–Friday Night Lights week at Bitch Flicks?) and the marketers basically pretended it was a show about football, which it isn’t. At all.

    I wonder if this FX spot makes that mistake, too?

  • Anonymous
    Posted August 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    The show is about little else (thematically)but how men’s attitudes and women’s attitudes about women injured both deeply. (I use the past tense here but know that there is much in the present moment that resonates.)

    Every man in MM fails at intimacy and at looking like more than a caricature of power and self-assurance. Don Draper, sexist and vile as his character can be, seems to seek out and respect women with whom an intellectual and more complex emotional connection is possible. A chronic emptiness and unhappiness is shown as consequence again and again. Then men look foolish in the MM repeatedly and yet they stumble blindly thorugh a system that allows their winning to be losing. (With apologies to Sheen.) Likewise for the women: they follow the Angel in the House script and it fails them.

    Mad MEN is about men just as many shows feature woman or girl in the title and then use that career as a way of bringing in more nuanced themes that include the men of that field. But the show is ultimately about women as in feminism and how the assumptions taken for granted (sexism, inferiority of women) were foolish and dated. The way the show reveals its savvy is through the other dated notions it features. (Littering, smoking, drinking while pregnant, the stigma of divorce, children flying about car interiors sans seatbelts). All foolishness and all within the wise grasp of MM’s writers. It is Mad Men and not Golden Girls or Designing Women or (big sigh) Desperate Housewives or The Gilmore Girls, but unlike many of those shows who do, I suppose feature and revolve around women, MM is firmly in control of its stance as a feminist show.