Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mad Man

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is Mad Men.

During its 17-month hiatus, a ridiculous number of shows have come along which TV critics everywhere have lazily dubbed "the new Mad Men", because it's also set in the '60s, or also features people wearing suits, or also is a show that is on TV.

But finally, a show has come along that really is "the new Mad Men." What is this show? It's the AMC drama Mad Men.

It returned this week and it was as brilliant as ever. Apart from one scene, which provoked a feminist shake of the head from me.

Sorry Don Draper fans, and I am one of you, but that was rape. Well, it started as rape, but of course it turned out that she wanted it all along. And she didn't actually mean it when she said "No". And "Don't". And "I don't want it". The problem is one that feminist philosophers Rae Langton and Catharine MacKinnon raised about the silencing of women. This scene is a perfect example. It tells us that when women say "No" to sex, they don't mean it. This legitimises rape. She says "No", she says it clearly, she repeats the rejection again and again. But she doesn't mean it, she wants Don Draper because he's Jon Hamm and she's a woman. So when women say "No", they mean "Yes", the confused idiots. That is the silencing of women, and it's dangerous. It might be familiar to you from pornography, but this is Mad Men. That episode was watched by 3.5 million people in the US alone, and it's telling them that "No" doesn't mean "No". I expect sexism from the characters of Mad Men, but not from the show itself.

It's not just the US who are guilty of sexism in their TV shows; the BBC's own 1960's drama White Heat (the new Mad Men) recently caused another feminist shake of the head. Obviously you first have to get past the relentless lingering shots of people staring out of windows and into mirrors. It is a BBC drama after all. Because you're all too important to watch TV, I'll briefly explain the context.

This is Charlotte, played by Claire Foy, the Abi Morgan of acting. She's a feminist.

See? That's in her bedroom. She's a feminist. That's her thing.

This is Jack the uber-creep, played by Brian May, probably.

They are sort of together. But he treats her like shit; he tells everyone, over dinner, that she shaves under her arms; he sleeps with her for the first time, makes a remark about "a bit of uncomplicated sex", slaps her bum and fucks off; he sleeps with her best friend. I told you it was a BBC drama. This is what happens next.

So all it takes for Charlotte - did I mention she was a feminist? - to forgive charm-void Jack is a nibble on the hand and a lazy cliché? In the space of a minute, she goes all gooey about him. Because she's a woman, and as feminist as they claim to be, they still can't say "No" to a man, no matter how much of a dick they are. This show says that you can take the most strident feminist ever, give them a minute with a thing with a penis, and they'll melt like Silly Putty, the silly women.

We deserve better representations of women on our TV screens, not shows that patronise and silence women. The new Mad Men is really good though.

Thank you for reading, I'll leave you with the song by The Hives that this blog is named after, and a slap on the bum. Enjoy!


  1. I'm not sure we can accuse Mad Men of perpetuating sexism - I'm not sure what goes on in that scene can be understood as condoning silencing of women, its something the characters are doing. Don't know much about the subject though.

    1. The point is she wants it, despite claiming that she doesn't. That implies that women don't mean it when they say no. That transcends simply what the characters are doing.

    2. Can imply... not necessarily. She may have changed her mind? Or may be lying at some stage? There's a risk of simplifying it too far, but maybe I'm making it more complicated than it is too.

    3. But either way, No doesn't mean No.

    4. It's irrelevant because it sends the signal that women want sex when they say no.

    5. The fact that we all understood that that isn't what it means surely means it doesn't send such a definitive signal?

    6. But surveys have shown that a high percentage of men believe than women don't mean it when they say no. 14% according to one I remember.

    7. You know, I once read an article that praised how sexy this one scene in a movie was. Basically, a woman has kidnapped her ex-boyfriend, tied him up and forced herself on him. He not only hates her, but he's happily in a relationship and decidedly does not want to have sex with his ex. She forces him to get aroused and then uses him. And I watch this scene and all I can think is, "... This is rape. This is awful!" And it disturbs me that we allow stuff like this to be passed off as sexy because it's sexual. Did you know the word ravish means1. To seize and carry away by force. 2. To force (another) to have sexual intercourse; rape. 3. To overwhelm with emotion. ... That's a pretty big leap there.

      Sorry, a bit of a rant.