Mad Men and Working Women: Feminist Perspectives on Historical Power, Resistance and Otherness

Media Report to Women, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Mad Men and Working Women: Feminist Perspectives on Historical Power, Resistance and Otherness


Mad Men and Working Women: Feminist Perspectives on Historical Power, Resistance and Otherness by Erika Engstrom, Tracy Lucht, Jane Marcellus and Kimberly Wilmot Voss. Peter Lang Publishing, 2014, 195 pp., $89.95.

Mad Men's Don Draper, a snake of the first order, at first glance seems to be a creature out of a pre-feminist or non-feminist time. Not so fast, say the authors of this new analysis of the popular television series, who urge us to take a closer look. They concur with New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley, who said, "The women of the show, more than the men, are the ones who defy expectations and break ground." The same can be said of the authors of this book, who unpack Mad Men's character dynamics to tell us "about the serious issues that 'modem' working women continue to face today: balancing work and life, competing with other women, and having control over their own life and work choices." If she's promoted, is it because she slept with the boss? Is she on a power trip at the office because she's sexually frustrated? In addition to their gender critique, the authors also analyze episodes involving race relations and homosexuality. (Portions of one chapter, "Mad Men and the Marriage Gradient: The Risks and Rewards of Highly Competent Women" by Erika Engstrom, appeared in Media Report to Women in our Fall 2012 issue.) The authors clearly relished this exercise in popular culture analysis, saying, "Like any good prime-time soap of the past (think, among others, Dallas), the revelations and plot twists have become next-day 'water-cooler' talk as each episode has unfolded. …

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