This series of Mad Men seems to be all about change. Now, I never really wanted Mad Men to change; I would have been perfectly happy to absorb another twenty years-worth of ad men in classy suits and their slim blonde wives in their cocktail dresses — despite the cringing of my inner feminist — but the 60s weren’t static, and Mad Men isn’t either.
As far as historical context goes, Don Draper and company are right in the middle of the civil rights era. The series opens with the employees at one of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s rival firms, Young & Rubicam, throwing water balloons at African American protesters outside this building. Because of a mix up with a joke ad, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are forced to interview black candidates in order to avoid seeming racist and end up hiring, in a confusing and often commented on move, Dawn, a young African American woman, as Don’s new secretary. Other than the civil rights era, Don also finds himself chasing after the Rolling Stones. Toto, we aren’t in the early 60s anymore. In fact, we’re on trajectory to collide with disco! The horror!
Joan, my personal favorite character, isn’t vulnerable from the change either. She had a new baby and her husband is coming home from Vietnam. I won’t spoil the next bit because if you haven’t seen it you absolutely have to — but there are some enormous changes for Joan as she tries to balance new motherhood, flawed marriage, and her desires to get back to the ad firm.
Don’s new wife, Megan, seems to have ushered in a new era in the area I personally find the most important — fashion. Gone are the days of pearls and full-skirts; Megan, being hip, young, and fashionable, has brought the gang into the Mod era, paisley, shift dresses, and all. Nowhere is this more clear than at Don’s 40th birthday party where Megan dons a short black dress and treats Don’s colleagues to an awkwardly sexy, and to my boyfriend’s chagrin, incredibly catchy, version of Zou Bisou Bisou. Of course Joan hasn’t abandoned her sexy style in favor of the late 60s, even post-baby, which makes me very happy.
Megan has made an impression on more than just the fashion. Don seems to be a new man, though there is some foreshadowing of future problems. He actually smiles and blushes on a few occasions and even when confronted with an old mistress, he resists the urge to cheat. Could this be a new Don Draper? I personally doubt it.
These aren’t all the changes that occur, but they’re the ones that I have adequate space to describe, anyone who has been keeping up to date will know just how much upheaval there is this season. Though Mad Men is moving from the early 60s world we’ve come to love, it has shown that it can adapt along with its timeline and keep churning out hits (knock on wood!) I’m definitely going to keep watching and am really excited about how things are going to develop.