Sunday, February 2, 2014

I started watching Mad Men and I've realized something

So I started watching the first season of Mad Men and it's what you would expect: men in an office smoking, men wining and dining, men acting like pigs. Pretty wardrobes. 

I knew that there would be a lot of sexism, but I just can't get over it. There's a LOT of sexism. And it's not just the men. The women are sexist against themselves! It's just like I've always heard, about how women were taught their place was the kitchen, how they needed a protector, they weren't as smart as men, blah blah. and they bought that shit. they bought it.

The main character is that guy Don Draper you've probably all heard about. And he's this womanizer who, like, seems to pick a different woman to satisfy every different part of his personality, every different need. This one the mother of his children, the obedient wife, that one an independent artist, that third one a successful heiress and business woman.

DD's wife is a poor thing raising their two kids in a beautiful house in a lovely neighborhood on Long Island. Sounds horrible right?

Actually, no, it sounds idyllic. A nice yard, sweet kids. Enough money.

But she's getting numbness in her hands and has been told it's probably psychosomatic but she can't decide what could possibly be wrong with her. How could she be unhappy? Doesn't she have it all?

Every house on their block looks the same, every household is the same. The women are in the kitchen, smoking and gossiping. The children are wearing cowboy hats. The men are dressed in suits and working in Manhattan and parting their hair to the side with lots of hair product.

There's a woman down the block from DD's wife who is this like ostracized dissenter--she's a divorcee--and all the other housewives on the block have turned on her. They even said that a divorcee can lower property values, but I doubt this is the real problem. the problem is she BROKE THE RULES.

See, DD's got everything he's supposed to want and he's not happy. The same goes for DD's poor wife. But they don't do anything except live with it and wonder. The divorcee is like know...knife in their side. This nagging reminder that it doesn't have to be the way they've been taught.

At first I was just floored by the lack of options facing the women in this time period. Their job choices, their life choices. They're told what to want. They're given a narrow number of job opportunities and can have no career if they want a family. And they must want a family. And they have to keep their house perfect and smile for their husbands and rely on their husbands, etc.

Their lack of choices kept swirling around in my head until it struck me that the men have a startling lack of choices as well. They look the same, they sound the same, they act the same. They provide, they drink beer, they wear sweaters, they smoke. They make sexist jokes. They must provide. 

Some months ago I wrote an entry about how I was reading A Wrinkle In Time. This is what I said:

"The kids in Wrinkle In Time are on this planet where everyone has submitted to IT, and IT controls their minds and actions and those who don't submit to IT must be reprogrammed and reprocessed in a way that's very mentally painful. It's actually very creepy and dated at the same time."

I said in the entry that I thought that the fear of "IT" was about communism. I just assumed. I don't even know why, exactly, that a loss of identity and communism must go hand in hand. I just know it must. Because I have been taught that communist governments control their populations with an iron fist. I still assume this to be true although I really know surprisingly little about the way communism plays out in a real world situation. I have heard stories about long lines for bread in Russia and about media censorship in China. 

And I'm not saying that A Wrinkle In Time isn't about communism. Or that I really know that much about real life in the 1960's just because I've now seen the first five episodes of Mad Men. 

I'm just saying, the first season of Mad Men takes place in 1960. A Wrinkle In Time was first published in 1962. Coincidence? hmm. 

One more thing, unrelatedly. 

The knotty pine kitchen in the Draper house... 

I have that kitchen. I have the knotty pine cabinets. it's so kick ass. I even have a stove from 1949. and it's so kick ass.

That knotty pine is going to last those Drapers forever, for better or worse.