Kwitney Report 2009
I’m not canceling my plans to have a Madmen-themed birthday party in December, but I am beginning to wish I could go up to Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator and chief writer, pour us both a couple of stiff Manhattans, and tell him to cut the crap.
Matt, I’d say, it’s terrific that you get all the little details right – cane backed seats on the subway, the sleek, almost pettable look of sixties modernism, so much more charming than the eighties version. But Matt, even though “the past is a different country,” what you did best was remind us that it wasn’t inhabited by aliens. Pre-revolution sixties folks weren’t the quaint, two-dimensional characters we’re used to from old sitcoms. And just because women wore girdles didn’t mean that they didn’t have sex.
So what’s up with Don and Betty’s melodramatically bad parenting? Yeah, I know early sixties child-rearing didn’t involve the degree of kid-centric thinking that it does today. And sure, my mom (pregnant with me) was told to smoke a cigarette to help digestion by her doctor. But in Madmen, you show Don and Betty as completely indifferent to their children’s emotions. I mean, not even a stiff smile and an inadequate “Mommy will buy you a new doll” or “you have to be strong, son”. Hell, no one even smiles at the kids.
And Matt, while you may still give me the ironic pleasure of watching Grandpa let little Sally drive the car (my uncle Paul did this with me, albeit on a country road) I can’t help but feel that I’m being manipulated. You don’t need to hit me over the head, Matt.
As the legendary adman David Ogilvey once said, “the consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”