It’s a small start-up company. The office is modern, the money is becoming steadily more real, and the tension couldn’t be thicker. The business is run by those with great ideas, each one hoping to that their next big breakthrough clears a hurdle for the company. There are high expectations, and a lot of buzz surrounds the company’s every move.
Welcome to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce – what? Did you think I was describing Facebook?
Last week, Mad Men kicked off its fourth season with a multi-faceted premiere, including interviews with the 1960s version of Ad Age, taking issue with storyline details, social interaction with fans, and enough sex, divorce and alcohol for the entire east coast.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Mad Men, set in an advertising agency, is a television drama like no other, with opportunities like no other. People of every age adore the characters, and they give the show enough brain time to conjure up some rather interesting memorabilia. It is understandable why older generations would want to see or relive some of their earlier years; nostalgia is a powerful drug. But why would Millennials be interested in a show set in a time when our parents were mere children, if they were even born at all?
I think a large draw of Mad Men for the Millennial generation is our fascination with a decade of individuals that we feel we’re the most like.
Look at the similarities.
These are people who, despite their uncertainties, landed on the moon, started the end of institutional racism, pushed the boundaries of sexual and gender relations, and still found the time to screw up their lives with all the energy they could muster while maintaining impressive careers doing what they loved. These are our doppelgangers, the people from whom we’re taking the baton.
Don Draper, the main character, played by actor Jon Hamm, is a mysterious stallion of a man. His thoughts become prose when added to the right visuals; his mind is wracked with the consequences of his pursuit of happiness. And yet he presses onward.
We’re labeled as entitled, selfish – a generation reared by parents who sought to shield us from the very indulgences that ruined their own, and as it turns out, we became almost a mirror image of the Boomers. Our quest for autonomy, for innovation, for the American dream is not at all unlike that of our predecessors. But we watch Mad Men, most of all, to realize the mistakes of the past, and to learn from them, because despite the fictional characters and plot line, the story these people portray is very real.
They want the finer things in life and pursue them with gusto. So do we. They love with passion and try to fight for what they feel is right. So do we. They are immersed in the newness of the change around them, and they must adapt to it. So must we.
Even in this latest episode, where Peggy Olson, the essence of meekness, storms ahead with her own ideas about what is best for a client, we see a growth of character that mirrors our own growing surety. We, as well as she, embrace the adage that it is better to ask for forgiveness, than permission.
That is why I feel our generation is taking so strongly to a truthful representation of the more important generation before us. We see ourselves in the characters, whom we loathe and who we would like to be. And we’re madly in love with the mad men.