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SELLING THE WORLD: Madison Avenue ad executive Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) is the central enigma of Mad Men. © 2013 AMC TELEVISION NETWORK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Mad desires

A voyeuristic pleasure in historical flashbacks is part of what makes Mad Men compelling viewing. Set in the early 1960s, AMC’s Emmy-winning drama about an advertising firm shows a world very close to our own except for being more glamorous (the characters make midday drinking look sophisticated instead of desperate, and they wear linen suits to the birthday party of an eight-year-old).

And except, of course, for all the casual racism, sexism and classism. A new secretary at the firm is subjected to nonstop verbal harassment and a public pool is started to see who will be first to sleep with her; a housewife drinks and smokes her way through her pregnancy; a picnicking family shakes their litter onto the verdant grass and drives away. How sexist and ignorant and environmentally unsound, we say from the safety of our couches.

 

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