Race on Madison Avenue


I’m obsessed with Mad Men. I continuously tell people this in attempts to nurse my addiction—if I admit I have an obsession, I’m steps away from recovery. But, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m ready for a Freddy Rumson-recovery. Especially since season 6 begins tonight, and I’ve spent the past few weeks watching all five seasons for the sixth (or seventh) time. My interest/love/obsession for this privileged, WASPy set has been questioned by some—how can I, a woman who continuously discusses, analyzes, and critiques race politics, be invested in a show that merely uses brown hands and bodies to tend to children, push elevator buttons, and tryst with curious white men?

This inquiry is valid, but, please be assured that my racial lens is never dimmed—even when watching the oh-so-white playland of 1960s Madison Avenue. As I involve myself with the lives of Peggy, Don, Pete, Joan, and the rest of the gang, I’m continuously thinking, where are all of the Black and brown people? There had to have been some who weren’t as passive as the ones I’ve seen thus far– not everyone took the “I know my place” pursed lips stance. Surely there were more of us walking around outside.I wonder what Hollis, Carla, and Lane Price’s “Chocolate Bunny” say when the white folks are philandering about. No, this show is not about “them,” but their perspective would make things more interesting.

When watching Mad Men, I am constantly observing racial dynamics, while sitting at the edge of my couch– when is the next p.o.c going to show up? Will we ever look into the racial dynamic between people of color and white folks in a meaningful way? My thoughts/questions about race on Madison Avenue is varied, and admittedly not always linear in its connections, so I would like to attempt to record some thoughts in three pieces. As I simultaneously think up my outfit for my friend’s Mad Men Premiere Extravaganza, this afternoon I will publish a piece that reflects on how race has been addressed in season 5, and what I think we should see in season 6. My next piece will be an open letter of questions to Mad Men’s creative team, which I’ll post  mid-season. My final piece will reflect how Mad Men has represented race from season 1- 6, and how I think race should be represented in the shows final season. I would also love to hear your thoughts on the dealings of race on Mad Men, so please engage!

Now, if you can excuse me, I must watch youtube videos on how to get my hair 70s ready for this evenings soiree.


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