Complex TVMain MenuIntroductionVideos for IntroductionComplexity in ContextBeginningsVideos for Chapter 2AuthorshipCharactersComprehensionEvaluationSerial MelodramaOrienting ParatextsTransmedia StorytellingEndsVideo GalleryTable of ContentsJason Mittell06e96b1b57c0e09d70492af49d984ee2f68945deNew York University Press
MAD MEN presents its characters' sexism as both offensive and charming
12015-03-18T07:13:00-07:00Jason Mittell06e96b1b57c0e09d70492af49d984ee2f68945de13501In scenes like this heartfelt exchange between Roger and Joan, casually sexist insensitivity is treated as uncomfortably earnest at the same time that it is held up for critique.plain2015-03-18T07:13:00-07:00Critical Commons2007VideoMad Men season 1AMC2015-03-18T14:07:28ZJason Mittell06e96b1b57c0e09d70492af49d984ee2f68945de
12015-03-15T13:50:58-07:00p. 230: MAD MEN2plain2015-03-18T07:13:33-07:00Often [Mad Men] embraces a more subtle take on 1960s norms, but not without its own discomforts. While we are obviously supposed to condemn the sexist attitudes of the ad men, the fact that we spend so much time with these characters and grow to like them (at least to a degree) makes it awkward when they casually belittle and mistreat people. For example, when in a seemingly heartfelt moment in the episode “Indian Summer,” Roger Sterling compliments Joan Holloway by calling her “the finest piece of ass I’ve ever had,” we certainly are dismayed by what strikes us as cruel insensitivity—but Roger’s character makes such offensive behavior charming and charismatic, and thus we can simultaneously dismiss and embrace his attitudes, especially as Joan seems content to take it as a compliment. Coupled with the fact that Christina Hendricks emerged as a sex symbol through her hypersexualized portrayal of Joan, regarding her as a “fine piece of ass” is not too dissimilar from how many contemporary fans seem to regard her.