Mad Men, Twenty-First Century Style

Cynthia Cheng

Mad Men’s third season premiered on Sunday.  The show has certainly brought a surge in popularity with early 1960s styles – even Banana Republic ran a contest with AMC and Mad Men where fans got a chance to win a walk-on role by submitting their best “Mad Men” looks. Seeing that, Prospere Magazine can’t help but wonder how people in the 2040s and 2050s will see the dawn of the twenty-first century.  Will they judge it the way we are doing to the Kennedy era? Certainly they would look at our current society from their “progressed” world, and have a lot to comment about it.  Therefore, let’s take a look at what Sterling Cooper would be like in our present 2009, and how people 40-something years down the line might think of us:

The Staff:

A 2000s Mad Men certainly wouldn’t have as many secretaries and admin staff.  And people like Pete and Peggy would not have their own assistants. They’d also be working out of a cubicle, rather than an office.  In fact, only people with higher positions, like Roger or Don would have one.  Now that there are people who log in from home, I wonder if people will actually go to work at all in the 2040s or 2050s. They may find the mere fact of getting up early and driving to catch a train downtown as odd.  After all, all you need to do is get up and log in.

Technology:

Many critics complained that the typewriter used in the first season was an anachronism. The model hadn’t been out in the market yet, and since offices are often slow with new technology, it wouldn’t be likely that Sterling Cooper could have had these typewriters for years to come. It would be akin to offices using Windows Vista in 2005 (many offices are still running XP today). The question here is this: Would Sterling Cooper be a Mac or both PC and Mac?  They certainly wouldn’t be all PC – the art department would never go for that.  But despite being on Macs, would the art department go for iPhones?  Or will they be BlackBerry people? It’ll certainly be interesting to see what people in the future think of our gadgets (it’ll be interesting to hear “why doe she have a (BlackBerry) Bold? The episode takes place in 2006!  The Bold only came out in 2008!).

Homosexuality:

A 2009 Sal would definitely be out and proud. However, the current topic of discussion, at least in the United States, is marriage.  This is still illegal in most states.  Things will probably have changed in 40-something years (let’s hope), and people would look back to our day and say that people were very out of it.

Smoking and Drinking:

They definitely wouldn’t be smoking indoors – it has long been banned in most major cities.  Since many of the drinks we hear about on the show are very retro/vintage by our standards (many viewers didn’t know what a gimlet was until the show), it is likely that the 2040s-2050s audiences will be hearing about cosmopolitans and other “sweet-tinis,” which are popular with the female staff today. Who knows if these drinks will still be common in 40-something years?  And how will they feel about our coffee addiction?  Certainly, a company like Sterling Cooper would have an espresso machine and flavoured coffees.

Role of Women in the Workforce:

While things aren’t perfect yet, in 2009, women are definitely taken more seriously.  Last season, Joan, who is head of the administrative staff, worked as a script reader for Harry Crane for a short period. Although she did a good job, it never crossed Harry’s mind to give her the position. Of course, you could also say that Joan never campaigned for the job (this is actually a problem some women have. They say that one of the reasons why we often get paid less is because we are less likely to actively pursue something). The most senior staff are likely still be predominantly male in 2009. This one we are stuck with and perhaps something that people in the 2040s would criticize us for. Peggy, who tries to be “one of the guys” on the show will likely be more “herself.”  As a copywriter, she’s in good company. Peggy would also NOT be stuck with a make-shift office in the copy room because well, she’d be in a cubicle.