Mad Men has become arguably the most successful drama in recent years (they’ve one the Best Drama Emmy every year they’ve been on the air). Other networks are beginning to capitalize on that success and create their very own retro style dramas. In the last year alone we’ve gained The Hour (BBC), Pan Am (ABC), and The Playboy Club (NBC)!

The Hour is basically Mad Men but with British journalist (and damnit it’s actually really good), Pan Am is basically Mad Men but with stewardesses and The Playboy Club is basically Mad Men but with Hugh Hefner. Unfortunately, they all glorify a time period when misogyny, racism [stories that are still barely being told at all because most of these shows have been completely white-washed], and homophobia were considered a-okay behavior. [This is not to say that these shows aren’t good from a story telling standpoint. Mad Men and The Hour especially have even created really wonderful dramatic roles for female actresses. It’s just that they’re also very problematic.]

These shows package the sexism as “empowering” their women – they have jobs, they make their own money, they get to travel the world! But they still have to do it while being leered at, hit on and discriminated against by men. They’re not really empowered at all. And, as it was in that historical period, no one faces any consequences for their misogynist behavior.

We as audience members see blatant displays of this kind of behavior and we’re appalled by it and yet we’re still tricked by all the beautiful people wearing pretty vintage clothing and smoking wherever they want that we accept it. Enjoy it even. These shows are using a technique that FeministFrequency calls “Retro” or “Ironic” sexism:

“Modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in an ironic way.”

The writers/creators know that we know that what we’re seeing is racist/sexist/homophobic, yet because everything takes place at a time when people got away with these behaviors there’s no critique or commentary being made about how damaging they are. And they are damaging.

You can argue that “it’s in the past!” We’re learning about our history! It’s teaching us how bad it was back then and it doesn’t have an effect on society now! But it does. [Not to mention that if you really wanted to learn about these periods in our history, you could also go pick up a book]

These shows mirror a scary trend in the backwards way our society/government has been treating women in recent years. (Think of all the laws attempting to pass and are being passed restricting women’s rights to birth control, cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, redefining rape, making women pay for their own rape kits, decriminalizing domestic violence. The list goes on and on.)

[Written by: Dayln Grossklaus]
[I would like this to please count as my final graded blog entry]