Matthew Weiner’s show about Madison Avenue in the early 1960s is so meticulously detailed that it’s worth using as a spur to consider what has and hasn’t changed in the Zeitgeist over the last half century.• The overall impression Mad Men gives of 1960 is that of a less crowded, less expensive world before we swarming hordes of Baby Boomers escaped our playpens and ruined everything.
• In a fecund era, when most families had heirs and spares to spare (the Total Fertility Rate peaked in 1957 at 3.77 children per woman per lifetime), kids could have more fun and parents weren’t as obsessive about safety. ...
• In 1960, however, there weren’t actually a lot of 20something babes throwing themselves at guys born in the 1920s, even ones as handsome as Don Draper, because there just weren’t that many babies born in the 1930s. There were 2.95 million live births in America in 1925, but only 2.38 million in 1935. Because supply and demand favored younger women, they were picky.
The real sex mismatch happened with the sexual revolution in the later 1960s, when a flood of Baby Boom babes born from 1946 onward came on the mating market and immediately set about stealing prosperous husbands away from their wives. ...
• Something that Mad Men largely misses is that in the mid-20th Century the consensus of the most artistic and insightful souls was that American life was plagued by gender oppression. Men, in the view of social commentators such as James Thurber, Robert Benchley, Groucho Marx, and W.C. Fields, were relentlessly oppressed by women, who refused to sleep with them without a legally binding promise of lifetime support and fidelity.
The contemporary notion that women rose up as one to wrest from men the privilege of bringing home the bacon is one of the more curious myths in folklore.
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