Monday, June 21, 2010

Mad Men VS Modern Day New York (with a dash of Women's Liberation)


Being a working woman in New York in the year 2010 is a far cry from the era so accurately depicted in AMC's hit show, "Mad Men."  I work a block over from (Mad)ison on Park Avenue, yet the New York of today is lightyears away from the 1960's golden age. Or is it?

One of the biggest advancements is that I'm able to attend one of Canada's top business schools and am not limited to women's-only secretarial colleges. (While a noble profession, I'm hungry for more than data entry & hanging up someone else's top hat).  At a recent neighbourhood party, I started chatting with one lady who is either pushing, or past the point of no return on 90 years old (you go girl haha).  She graduated from the same University that I go to (Western), in 1941...exactly 70 years before my soon-to-be graduation date.  She was so ecstatic to hear that I was in the Ivey School of Business (I think she might have cracked a new laugh line from smiling so much), as only men were eligible to attend back then.

She said she would have liked to have gone but went to the secretarial college for "girls" instead. (They weren't referred to as "women" until they got married...which is the main reason why they went to University in the 1st place - to get their MRS degree...haha, bad BAD joke) 

There were only 2 buildings on campus back then and my neighbour met her husband there (he was in Med School)...the business men were too pompous for her liking, she said. That was 1941, yet it resonates quite similarly to the 1960's Mad Men era, almost 2 decades later. 

Her excitement at me even attending business school (let alone getting a job in New York!) made me swell with pride at the leaps & bounds women have come.
(I know, I know, sappy "feminist" comment of the day...I took Women's Studies once so you can't blame me haha...I feel like "Bittersweet Symphony" should be cued at any moment).

Now back to how all of this relates to my love of Mad Men.

Of course there is the amazing vintage clothes, the fact that they drink scotch for breakfast and impeccable attention to prop detail (I've spotted about a dozen of the exact same items in my Grandma's house...which hasn't been 'updated' since the 60's)
But the thing that I love most about the show, is that on the surface it may appear chauvinistic & demeaning, but in reality, it's just an incredibly witty & intelligent satire of the time. With lines like "Don't be intimidated by this technology, men made it simple enough for even a woman to use" (referring to a typewriter), it's easy to view it as degrading...yet they're really just making a mockery by poking fun at the ignorance.

I'm also drawn to the romanticism of New York in the 60's.  The dapper dressers of the Upper East Side, the bohemian hippies of SoHo (they had the real Warhol...we have Factory Girl), a love for the Beatles & Bob Dylan, smoky candlelit bars, glamorous cocktail parties...
...then again, maybe modern day New York isn't so different after all?