Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Commentaries on this Media!

Mad Men on civil rights and feminism

by Critical Commons Manager

There are certain kinds of histories that popular media is ill-equipped to tell. One example is the kind of nuanced portrayal of conflicts within progressive social movements. This is especially true when hard won advances of the civil rights movement are coming systematically under threat, as they  are in contemporary American media and political culture. From the beginning, AMC's Mad Men has pursued a deliberate revision of previously imagined televisual histories of the 1950s and 60s, resisting easy cliches and historical consensus (the 1950s were a time of placid prosperity and teenage highjinks; the 1960s were all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll). In this scene from Season 4 (originally aired September 19, 2010), a political radical who is passionately advocating civil rights for African Americans mockingly dismisses the notion of extending the movement to include similar rights for women. As the show has progressed through four seasons and a similar number of years in TV time, the Peggy Olson character (Elisabeth Moss), has emerged as an increasingly effective, organic intellectual speaking on behalf of rights for women, while still retaining her sense of self as an apolitical career woman focused on local, personal struggles in a Madison Avenue advertising firm.

Mad Men civil rights for women

A remarkable elucidation of the exclusion of women from the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s

from Mad Men "The Beautiful Girls" (2010)
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Distributor: AMC
Posted by Critical Commons Manager