Mad Men: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Mad Men: A term coined in the late 1950’s to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue.

They coined it.

In the Pilot episode of the series, we get just a taste of what the show entails: sex, drama, business, racism, and sexism. In today’s world (for the most part anyways), the racism and the sexism displayed in the show would be deemed unacceptable.

Don Draper (played by the ever-so-dreamy Jon Hamm) is the first character we see, as he sits in a loud and smoky lounge, struggling to come up with an advertising slogan for Lucky Strike Cigarettes.

Part of Don’s dilemma is that this show is set in a time when smoking is “becoming dangerous”; the government is intervening in tobacco advertising, and this is the era of tobacco companies beginning to put warning labels on cigarettes. But, nonetheless, he manages to pull it off in the end and we get the feeling that this happens more often than not, despite the unsuccessful meeting he has earlier with Menken’s, a Jewish department store.

Draper claims to know for a fact that “love” doesn’t exist; that it was invented by ad men to help them sell things. During the episode, Draper goes to see a woman, we get the idea that they know each other, that their relationship is pre-existing, and that she’s a girlfriend. Between this and his claim of non-existent love, we think we can safely assume he’s a bachelor, or at the very least, not married.

We later learn that Don is actually married with two kids: a family man with an affair on the side. He works in Manhattan, but lives in a suburb, so staying overnight in the city is not an uncommon thing, especially if you have to “work late nights at the office.”

The second focus of the episode seems to be Peggy Olson, (played by Elisabeth Moss), Draper’s new secretary. Our first impression of Peggy is that she is a very reserved person. You can certainly tell that she is not used to this kind of environment, despite her growing up in Brooklyn. This is to be expected though; after all, it IS only her first day.

Joan Holloway, Senior Secretary and Office Manager, is portrayed by the always-sex Christina Hendricks. Holloway comes off as helpful, but also very straightforward. She tells it like it is and gives Peggy all the facts up front.

The whole office dynamic is spot on for the era it is set in: all the secretaries are women, and that’s the only place we see them; everyone else is a man. The men talk to the women like they’re objects who don’t deserve a lot of respect. Women are often very sexualized during the series: something that is not uncommon in this time.

What is most interesting about the show, is that not only the men sexualize the workplace, but the women seem to as well! We often hear comments from both genders like, “You have great legs. I’m sure Mr. Draper would like them better if he could see them,” (heard from a phone operator) and “You’re in the city now, it wouldn’t be a sin for us to see your legs.” (heard from Pete Campbell)

The one character who begins with a minor role, but we know will have a more significant place in the show is Pete Campbell (played by the outstanding Vincent Kartheiser). He seems to be gunning for Draper’s job, or at least a position just as high as Draper’s. He is still very young (only 26), but he aims high. He butts heads with Draper twice in the first episode, so we get the impression he will be a very persistent character with quite the impact on the company. The other indicator of his importance in the show comes at the end of the episode when, after his bachelor party, he shows up not at his own home, but Peggy’s. The last we see of them in the episode, they are entering her apartment.

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