The television series Mad Men takes place in New York City in the early 1960’s. “The title, Mad Men, provides insight into the show’s psyche through a multilayered play on words. It is about the culture of the advertising industry that thrived on Madison Avenue. It tells us that the show is about “ad men” and we have to guess whether “men” here is used generically or whether it is intentionally exclusive to the women who also held significant positions in the business. The two most common meanings for mad, “crazy” and “angry” seem particularly apt, especially considering how masochistic some of the characters seem and also the stressful nature of the work—conceiving of and selling ideas to clients. The show’s title, like a key goal in advertising, is at once broadly recognizable and subtly effective” (blog.oxforddictionaries.com, 2012). In order to truly understand the era and what the writers of the show are trying to depict it is important for viewers and watchers of this series to know what was happening in the world in the years leading up to the decade of the sixties as well as the actual decade itself. Cultural Timeline
The 1950’s saw the end of World War II that brought thousands of young American servicemen back home to pick up their lives and start new families in new homes with new jobs. With a huge renewal in energy, American industry expanded to meet peacetime needs. Americans began buying goods not available during the war, which created corporate expansion and jobs. There was growth everywhere and what has become known as the baby boom was well underway. In 1954, stirrings of the Civil Rights movement began when racial segregation was ruled unconstitutional in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1958, the world got little bit smaller when the first domestic jet-airline passenger service by National Airlines began between New York City and Miami (Bradley, 1998). Perhaps one of the things that most characterizes the 1950's was the strong element of conservatism and anticommunist feeling which ran throughout much of society. During the 1950’s Congress added the phrase "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. Because of the cold war and the communist view of religion, this act was seen as an indicator of anti-communism. Fifties clothing was very conservative. Men wore gray flannel suits and women wore dresses with pinched in waists and high heels. Families worked together, played together and vacationed together. Gender roles were strongly held. Men were the bread winners and women stayed home to raise their family. Even as children the gender roles were very specific. Girls played with Barbie dolls while boys played cowboys with Roy Rogers’ pop guns or played explorer with Davy Crockett coon skin caps. Drive-in movies became popular for families and teens. Cars were seen as an indicator of prosperity. Highways were built to take people quickly from one place to another, by-passing small towns and helping to create central marketing areas or shopping malls. Fashion successes were blue jeans and poodle skirts while hair styles consisted of pony tails for girls, and flat tops or crew cuts for guys. Saddle shoes and blue suede loafers were popular. Hula hoops, Hopalong Cassidy guns and western gear, Davy Crockett coon skin hats and silly putty were the popular toys for kids (Bradley, 1998). 1960’s
The 1960s are considered to be the age of youth, as 70 million children from the post-war baby boom became teenagers and young adults. The movement away from the conservative fifties was gradual but it eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking and real change in the cultural fabric of American life. The young adults of the 1960s were not content to be like the generation before and they wanted change. The changes affected education, values, lifestyles, laws, and entertainment. Youth dominated the culture of the 1960's and due to this domination, these...