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Computers and anti-humanism on Mad Men

by Critical Commons Manager

This montage of scenes from the final season of Mad Men was distilled from sequences spanning four episodes of the series airing originally in Spring 2014. Set in 1969, on the eve of the Moon landing, a computer signifies the future of advertising through targeted marketing and analysis. However, it is also placed in literal competition with the creative process by taking over a space used by artists and copy writers. Along with common fears about rendering humans obsolete, the narrative takes a bizarre and slightly forced turn in the direction of individual pathologization, as seen in the character of Michael Ginzberg, who grows increasingly paranoid about the effect of the computer system on humans in the agency. He initially suspects the computer of turning people into homosexuals, then moves on to believing that the incessant hum of the computer is causing pressure to build up in his body, driving him to self-mutilation. It's unclear what was gained by the show's creators in overshadowing historically verifiable anxieties surrounding computerization in the workplace with the story of a single individual's mental breakdown, but this narrative thread arguably marks one of the show's rare historiographical failings, while at the same time delving in unusual depth into the infrastructural impact of computerization in the late 1960s.

Computerization anxieties on Mad Men

Installation of an IBM 360 computer system in an advertising agency prompts both hopes for the future and pathological fears of dehumanization

from Mad Men season 7 (2014)
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Distributor: AMC
Posted by Critical Commons Manager