I was going to hold off on writing my thoughts about the new AMC series MAD MEN, but it has really started to grow on me. Hearing the premise before its debut, I was intrigued in the story which chronicles the lives of ad men in the 1950s. It was a time when advertising was changing from simple statements and outright snake oil pitches to a more insidious and psychological approach to move products.
Just weeks before I heard about MAD MEN, I had seen a 2002 BBC documentary called The Century of the Self which talked about the use of psychology in business and politics to control the behavior of the masses. In four one-hour segments, one of the topics it covered at length was how ad men used Sigmund Freud’s theories to influence purchases and eventually decide elections. The chief architect that took the theories from the couch to Madison Avenue, Washington D.C., and beyond was Edward Burnays – nephew of Freud. Because the previews of MAD MEN hinted at looking into this topic, I set the TiVo.
At first I was a bit disappointed in that it seemed to have more relationship stuff than serious PR or opinion shaping. While the content has changed a lot in the first few episodes, what I have discovered is an interesting story about how attitudes have changed over time. The first thing you are struck with is how many people smoke and how much, but it is the treatment of women and children that seems almost shocking. Sure, some of it is a bit exaggerated for television but it is a great reminder of how much change we have seen in the last generation. When is the last time you heard the word “divorcee” used in a derogatory way?
It might not be what I was looking for, but I am finding it interesting enough to keep it on the TiVo.
Oh yeah – if you want a good education (in four hours) you can stream all four episodes of “The Century of the Self” online at Google video.