I read this yesterday in the NY Times and thought it was pretty interesting and another view of the relevence of Mad Men. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/17/opinion/17sat4.html?em October 17, 2009 Editorial Observer ‘Mad Men’ and the Thrill of Other People’s Misery in Sour Times By ADAM COHEN During the Great Depression, America entertained itself with Busby Berkeley musicals, movies about the madcap adventures of the rich and other happy escapism. It is not exactly a trend, but one well-watched and critically acclaimed television show is doing the opposite. In tough economic times, the advertising-biz drama “Mad Men” is offering beleaguered Americans heaping helpings of other people’s misery. Set in the advertising world of the 1960s, “Mad Men” is stunning to look at — a Camelot-era parade of smartly dressed professionals lounging around on midcentury modern furniture. The writers of “Mad Men,” however, are telling an anti-Camelot version of the era. In the well-appointed offices of the advertising agency Sterling Cooper, some of the major ad campaigns have included Richard Nixon’s 1960 presidential race and efforts — a year before the surgeon general’s fateful warning — to persuade Americans to buy more cigarettes. Racism is alive and well in the South, where four little girls have just been killed in the Birmingham church bombing, and also in the North, where black people are largely invisible. The oppression of women is so raw that the agency’s strong and self-possessed office manager, Joan Holloway, was raped at the office by her fiancé. In this, the third season of “Mad Men,” the major characters’ trajectories have all taken a decidedly grim turn. Don Draper, the protagonist, is getting kicked around at Sterling Cooper and beaten up by his mercurial patron, Conrad Hilton. Salvatore Romano, the agency’s likable art director, is unjustly and cruelly fired. Betty Draper, Don’s beautiful but joyless wife, spends her time caring for children she can barely tolerate and considering an affair. Carla, the Drapers’ black maid, is forced to stand by silently while Betty tells her it might be too soon for civil rights. The characters who once shined brightest now seem headed toward despair or oblivion. Joan married her rapist-fiancé, whose medical career is in free fall, and has been forced to work in a department store. The biggest rising star, an oily young British executive who seemed poised to take control of Sterling Cooper, fell to earth when his foot was mauled by a secretary riding through the office on a lawn mower. The central character, Don Draper, was always an uneasy combination of hero and anti-hero, but his archer qualities are winning out. In the office, he has been capable of acts of nobility, but lately he has exhibited a vicious streak. He tersely informed Peggy Olson, his sometimes-protégé, that there is nothing she does that he could not live without. When he fired Mr. Romano, whose secret homosexuality he was aware of, he threw in a nasty gibe about the failings of “you people.” At home, Don has often been an attentive husband, but never a faithful one. Now he has taken his philandering closer to home, paying a late-night visit to his daughter’s teacher, an overture that seems destined to end badly. For many viewers, “Mad Men” is a window on their parents’ world — an era of three-martini lunches, gas-guzzling domestic cars and boundless optimism about America’s place in the world. John F. Kennedy was in the White House, and women were choosing between rival style icons Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. To a generation beaten down by skyrocketing unemployment, plunging retirement savings and mounting home foreclosures, “Mad Men” offers the schadenfreude-filled message that their predecessors were equally unhappy — and that the bleakness meter in American life has always been set on high. Escapism makes a lot of intuitive sense — whisk people away from their cares with stories of a better life. And there is plenty of it in today’s movies and in the Brangelina celebrity culture. But there’s some scientific support for the gloomier approach of “Mad Men.” Stanley Schachter was a Columbia psychologist who conducted a famous experiment years ago in which young women were told they would be given electric shocks. The more anxious they were about the shocks, the more they told researchers they wanted to wait with other people for the experiment to start. They did not want to wait with just anyone, it turned out — they wanted to be with people who faced the same shocks. “Misery doesn’t love just any kind of company,” Schachter said, “it loves only miserable company.” For people worried about the Great Recession, and the uncertainty of what is coming next, the characters of “Mad Men” are good company.