Mad Men: Everything Changes


By November 1964, Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt, and notorious conservative Phyllis Schlafly came to national attention, signaling an impending chasm of cultural mores: “sex sells” and “family values.” Every scene in last night’s Mad Men premiere indicated that change.

For most TV shows, the first few minutes of the first episode tend to establish what the rest of the season will be about. As we watched Don get interviewed by a reporter for Advertising Age he was asked, “Who is Don Draper?” Don laughed at the ridiculousness of it, but he also didn’t seem to know the answer—despite the fact that the question has been asked indirectly so often.

With the fallout of a failed marriage raining down on him, Don is determined to not fail at his upstart ad agency. But in order to be successful, he needs to embrace the fact that he no longer has that whole “double life” thing going on, and merge the two versions of himself—family man and swinging bachelor—into one modern man.

It’ll probably be a difficult task for him, as his own moral code is about as complicated and difficult to understand as women’s foundation garments of the time. Don seems to have double standards for everything, and it’s not exactly cognitive dissonance. For example, he was impressed with his latest work of creative genius—his Glo-Coat commercial. He said he wanted to make the ad indistinguishable from a film, so as to trick the audience into watching it. However, when he learned of Peggy and Pete’s PR stunt—where they tricked the public into thinking that two women were really fighting over ham—he didn’t like it. In Don’s mind, these two things are different, but it’s not clear if he even knows why.

Don’s dichotomy is reflective of the era. While splits were becoming more common (divorce, two-piece bathing suits), there was also the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning segregation. Those events set the stage for what could be this season’s theme: coming apart and coming together.

Speaking of “coming together”…Who is Don Draper? Well, he’s a masochist.

Hiring a hooker on Thanksgiving could fall in to the “sex sells” category. As for the “family values” category, Betty’s blended family isn’t blending so well.

Some other changes: Peggy has new hair and a new assistant.

If you’re wondering what the “John/Marsha” thing was all about, it was a bit from a soap opera parody by Stan Freburg. It served as a little wink to the comedian turned advertising creative director (who went on to win 21 Clio Awards).

Joan has her own office.

Around this time, model Jean Shrimpton began to grow in popularity and established a new body-type ideal for women: “The Shrimp.”

And although The Feminine Mystique had been published a year prior, the second wave of feminism hadn’t really picked up steam just yet. In the fall of 1964, Gloria Steinem was writing about the Beatles for Cosmo.

Still, with the mop-tops of the British Invasion, gone are the formalities (men wearing hats to the office) and razzamatazz (women wearing ballgowns and gloves to dinner) of the early ’60s. But with New York World’s Fair having showed people what the future would look like, everyone in 1964 is racing to get there. That mindset will, no doubt, be represented in the answer to the question: “Who is Don Draper?”

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