News & Politics

The Seeds of the Culture War Sprout Here

A new television show takes on the patriarchy.

Tired of the movies, where women barely exist onscreen at all, and when they do, they’re treated like imbeciles or cardboard cutouts? The assumption in the movie industry is that men make the vast majority of the movie-seeing decisions, and that women are therefore a niche market that only needs a couple of intelligence-insulting bones thrown for a twice-annual girl’s night out.* But TV is another story. For whatever reason, it’s beginning to be understood that shows with fully realized female characters that have more going on than being fuckable and having babies do quite well on the small screen, thank you very much. And TV meets a variety of entertainment gaps that weren’t being filled. You have your fantasies of female empowerment that still aren’t realized in the everyday world—like on “Battlestar Galactica” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and you have shows that address women’s lives in an honest way, patriarchal warts and all, like on the comedy “Ugly Betty” and the drama “Mad Men”, which is a show that we power-chugged last week, watching most of the first season flying to and from New York.

The first season of “Mad Men” is set in 1960, which means it’s an exceedingly relevant program for modern times, because it’s this turning point in time that all culture war madness turns off of. When conservatives talk bitterly about the 60s, it’s because they romanticize the 50s as the ultimate moment of the American patriarchy, and to varying degrees, also the last gasp of blatant white supremacy, a utopia of white male dominance that was cruelly snatched away and needs to be restored through government intervention.
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