Mad Men Paper

I hope to write my term paper on the AMC series “Mad Men.” I am interested in “Mad Men” because it has a very clear auteur, Matthew Weiner, and uses a lot of the HBO style techniques we have talked about. I have not totally decided on my argument but it will likely have to do with “Mad Men” as the epitome of an auteur show. Weiner often runs around controlling every aspect of the show – is there such a thing as too much involvement from one single auteur? Also, “Mad Men” was the first basic cable show to win “Best Drama” at the Emmys, indicating that it was important in the rise of quality cable television. Alternatively, I might make an argument about “Mad Men’s” use of the past to explore present social messages. For example, “Mad Men” exposes many racial, gender, class, and religious tensions from the 1960’s in order to talk about things today. There have now been two instances of rape that, while clearly rape, have raised skepticism in some viewers (ie many people do not consider that they were rape, even though we’re supposedly past the era of the 1960’s). Whichever way I end up taking the essay, I hope to explore the crucial role of “Mad Men” in television history.

4 responses to “Mad Men Paper

  1. You could also explore how “Mad Men” was passed over by HBO, and the possible differences in narrative dynamics that have affected the show since its inception on AMC. In addition, “Mad Men” usually scores pretty low on the ratings, despite its seeming popularity. It was renewed for its third season, and yet it seems to be the best show on TV that nobody’s watching (as many articles about the show have termed it). You could explore the nature of the show’s popularity in that vein as well.

  2. I think exploring the racial tensions of the show could be a good way to draw comparisons to other works we’ve studied in class, i.e. The Corner, The Wire, and Homicide. I’ve only seen the most recent episode of Mad Men, but the backwards way that the Drapers and their neighbors view civil rights is simply shocking. This could tie into your discussion of quality TV on basic cable, because these topics might not have been so easily discussed on basic cable ten or twenty years ago.

  3. For me the Mad Men phenomena is an exercise in narrative reflexivity that concerns itself with the second stage of advertising over the airwaves. At first glance, post WWII thinking may seem “backwards” but I think it’s true that plenty of evidence can be found to support that these same “backward” attitudes persist. I see Mad Men as a creative nonfiction narrative that documents the social mores of its time. It seems that enough time has passed to allow narrative to dispel the myths of the perfect past and notice that there is bubble gum stuck to the bottom of the table. Weiner writes the personal threads over the background of advertising and television history. A paper on Mad Men has lots of possibilities.

  4. Good stuff. There are a lot of ideas in circulation here. Do remember that the paper needs to focus on some question concerning authorship, so you’ll want to think about things like the relationship between the network and the creator, between the creator and his previous work, and so forth. There’s an argument to be made that the most important “authors” of the series are in fact the set decorators and the costume designers — how does that vision become as important as the show’s narrative, and what does it mean that it has?