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Art & Health

Mad Men

Mad Men is an ongoing American drama TV series set in 1960’s America. The plot is centred on the inscrutable life of Don Draper, a chain-smoking and booze-drinking although successful creative director, and partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency, and the people that surround him. It first premiered in July 2007, and has just finished airing its 4th season last October. The TV series has received a legion of critical acclaim, which includes winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series four times in a row, and more nominations and awards from several other television production award-giving bodies.

Such an impressive track record for a TV series that is broadcast in more than 70 countries in the world, will give an idea on how much influence it has on pop culture. Although much of its rave is attributed to its visual style and diachronic accuracy, it being largely responsible for the current reappearance of 1960’s American fashion, the extent of its influence does not stop there. More than alluding issues on sexism and women’s movement, premarital sexual intercourse, racism, homophobia and adultery, portraying 1960’s America meant excessive drinking among the “Mad Men” even at work, and chain-smoking by both the men and women.

Roger Sterling who is one of the senior partners of the ad agency, suffered two episodes of myocardial infarction, but these did not help to rid him of his cigarette and alcohol addiction. Alas, watching the characters drink heavily and chain-smoke on television promotes irresponsible drinking and cigarette smoking not only to adults but also to adolescents.

In some of its episodes, product placements were all too efficaciously integrated since the TV series deals with advertising. Lucky Strike cigarettes and Heineken beer were among those that were purposely adverted. It really was a smart move by the two brands as part of their ad campaigns. Although, the TV series production team attempted, albeit feebly, to include sending the message of the ill-effects of smoking to health and smoking-related lung cancer, in one of the earlier episodes, by acknowledging a related article on Reader’s Digest, it was brushed aside predominately.

Being set in the 1960’s, much is different from the social norms for men nowadays. As with their men’s suits, manners were a trifle finer and importance was given to personal grooming and external appearance. The formal, slicked back clean look hairstyle had to match their well-tailored suits with pocket squares, which altogether made them look manly and sophisticated. In fact, Clearasil and Gillette had to partake in some of the sales action, surely enjoyed by Heineken and Lucky Strike from the show’s consumers.

This more gentleman way, nevertheless, is ironic to their bigotry, male chauvinism, womanizing and infidelity. The females were deemed to be secretaries at most, besides being the objects of the men’s sexual rendezvous. And these "Mad men" get away with it. These, as well, have great influence on the choices men and boys make, when it comes to fashion, grooming, and behaviour towards the ladies.

Mad Men, as a drama television series, is an effective medium in penetrating pop culture due to its pervasive reach, which greatly affects the choices that we make. But primarily, it means business. It is there to sell. It is up to us to be responsible enough to decide for ourselves what’s best and what’s right for our health, and relationships as social beings.

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