April 25, 2010


Camelot and Its Discontents: Mad Man’s Third Season Comes to DVD ( Edward B. Driscoll, Jr., 4/25/10, PJM)

Watching the third season of AMC’s Mad Men series, recently released onto DVD, makes for the same push-pull love/hate response that the TV series itself has with the era it portrays. Say what you will about its first three seasons, at the very least, the show is a reminder that the early 1960s, now frequently known as “Camelot” thanks to a powerful assist from a then-recently widowed Jackie Kennedy, was nowhere near as tranquil and idyllic as that word suggests.

What we look back at mistily as “Camelot” was actually one of the most tumultuous stretches of American history since the end of World War II. It began in November of 1960 with a close election in which Richard Nixon (in contrast with Al Gore in 2000) conceded rather than having a protracted fight against John F. Kennedy. This would leave some thinking that Kennedy stole the election, “selected, not elected,” to coin a phrase. October 1962 saw the Cuban Missile Crisis, with wide swatches of America wondering if they’d wake up to see the next day. (Shades of 9/11.) And it ended on November 22, 1963, with President Kennedy the most important, least understood victim of the Cold War.

Along the way, the American business community hummed along, with the first waves of mergers and conglomerations, the rise of the slide-rule technocrats, and the transatlantic men — British businessmen more comfortable in the States, away from the ridged class structure of their homeland.

That last item informs much of the subtext of the third season of Mad Men. (WARNING: SPOILERS GALORE AHEAD!)

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2010 5:02 PM
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