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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Design Observer pays homage to AMC's excellent Mad Men, the first season of which Jaimee and I finished up watching on DVD last night. This particular homage is all about Mad Men's depiction of the advertising business—which I suppose is something it's rather good at—but it's really the subdued dystopianism of the show's 1960 Manhattan setting that grabs me. Matthew Weiner (who as Design Observer informs us earned a job on The Sopranos on the basis of his spec script for Mad Men) has a very keen eye for cultural critique, and in accordance with something I once wrote of Terry Gilliam never allows his 1960 to become so reified that we forget the different ways in which we're also talking about the present. There's a nice cartoonishness to the satire that's fun, but also necessary: it functions as a kind of critical prophylactic so that we're never allowed to understand Mad Men as mere history.

The critique of American consumerism is as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it's solid, and I can't think of any other show that's ever been more focused or forceful on the realities of misogyny. This is very good stuff.