A Retrospective Call for Action: Mad Men's Feminist Reawakening
Access changed 8/20/19.
When Mad Men first aired in the summer of 2007, it was more than just a television series with the uncanny ability to tap into the subconscious minds of its viewers, causing them to reminisce about a bygone era they may or may not have actually experienced. It was a show that highlighted the range of experiences present in a decade most people now only look back on with nostalgia. The series, which follows an advertising agency amidst its ups and downs, trades and merges, would not have held its allure over seven seasons without the presence of its multifaceted characters, namely that of its female leads. While arguably every single character in Mad Men plays an essential role in the developing narrative, modern viewers may take special interest in the characters Elizabeth “Betty” Hofstadt, Margaret “Peggy” Olson, and Joan Harris for their potential to not only extend beyond their visual personas seemingly locked in time but for their unique capability to connect viewers across generational and ideological divides. Moreover, these characters exhibit a special ability to bridge this dichotomy by encouraging a return to critical perspectives regarding the limited roles afforded to women in media and the restrictive expectations placed upon their femininity. On its surface, Mad Men is not a show advocating for feminism; in reality, its historical rendition appears to be promoting the precise opposite. At its core, however, Mad Men is a series that clearly calls for the revival of a movement through a restoration of its disparate parts. In this way, the contrastive attributes of Betty, Joan, and Peggy function to embody a displacement that can only be understood as a feminist reawakening.