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Monday, April 8, 2013

Why I Can't Watch Mad Men: AKA: I've Got Issues Like a Magazine

So I started typing this a week or so ago, and in light of the now semi-infamous "Betty Draper rape joke" in the premier last night I am now posting it.

I've never really considered myself to be a feminist, sure I am in support of strong females, but I've never been the one to go out and preach the evils of a patriarchal society.

Maybe it has to do with my upbringing, I grew up in the suburbs in a middle class family, we were by no means living in the lap of luxury, but I don't recall ever really being in want of anything either. My house consisted of two loving heterosexual parents, an older sister and my grandmother, so females out numbered males four to one. I am white, heterosexual and have a naturally slim build. I grew up watching shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and reading the Harry Potter series so strong females were almost always present in my entertainment. By the time I got to high school, and probably since then, a majority of my closest friends were/are men, who for the most part have never treated me as anything but an equal. I took a "Women's Study" class junior year of high school, but mostly because one of my favorite teachers was teaching it, not for any female empowerment agenda. I also grew up doing theatre, which for the majority is a pretty accepting environment.

It's not really anything I've thought about, until about a week ago when The Boy has decided to start watching Mad Men. We have plenty of friends who watch and love the show, so I was not opposed to checking it out, but about halfway through the pilot, I knew I wouldn't be continuing to watch it. I know, I know, it has always been my policy to watch at least three episodes before ditching a show, but Mad Men made me so uncomfortable, I just found no enjoyment in it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that it's a bad show, or that you are a terrible person if you do like it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I also realize that women, in that particular time period, were treated as inferior and submissive and that if you are setting your show in that time period you should be showing that. It is the reality of that time, and hiding it or denying it will do the world no good. We can't/shouldn't just omit the parts of history we don't like. That being said, I personally do not get any enjoyment in watching the women of the show being basically abused and mistreated episode after episode. In fact I find it very uncomfortable.

We all want to think that we've come so far from those times/ideas of how women are treated, but some time I am forced to wonder, especially in light of recent current events. I am not ashamed to admit that some of the "opinions" that were being tossed out during the last time of the last presidential election scared the hell out of me. Actual politicians were legitimately saying things like a woman can only get pregnant from a rape if she wants to. That she was in control of whether or not she wanted to get pregnant during a rape and could just flip some magic switch to stop it. Excuse me what?

I tried explaining to The Boy as to why I wouldn't continue to watch it, and although he is understanding of, I can't help but think he missed my point. He told me he understood and brought up the example of Don disappearing during a birthday party for his daughter an returning how with a puppy and no apology. While I agree that Betty should have gotten an apology and been consulted on the puppy, I couldn't care less on that issue. No, what upsets me is the constant degrading of the women on the show. The fact that in episode one, the OBGYN that Peggy goes to threatens to revoke her prescription for birth control if she uses it as an excuse to become a slut. Or how Peggy is only going on birth control in the first place because she told by Joan if she wants to get ahead she's gonna have to learn to put her "pretty little ankles" above her head. And don't even get me started on the character of Pete Campbell, basically everything out of his mouth makes my skin crawl, especially the episode when he more or less asks his newlywed wife to sleep with an ex-boyfriend to get his "story" published. If that wasn't bad enough, he starts a fight with her when he finds out that he's getting published in what he deems an inferior publication because she refused to be unfaithful to him.

Now, I am in no means saying that Mad Men isn't a good show, that you shouldn't watch/enjoy it or that it should be taken off the air. Nothing like that, there are plenty of shows I enjoy that many others do not. No, this was simply written to try and explain why Mad Men is not a show that want to invest my limited television viewing time on.

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