Complex TV

p. 230: MAD MEN

Often [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.

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