Friends of the blog Jeremy Levine and Latoya Peterson are both winding their ways through the second season of Mad Men, ahead of the coming third season premiere. (It’s about time, y’all.) There are articles clogging up my reader ahead of the show, so I’m feeling the media crush to the premiere even though I don’t have a TV.
Mad Men is, obviously, a fantastic show (still not The Wire, though) but I’m having a hard time figuring out if the way issues about race are generally handled really intelligently — there’s something pretty spot-on about the fact that for these upper-middle class white businessmen and their families, black people are pretty much invisible, not worthy of much discussion or consideration — or whether that’s just a dodge.
You could read the way the writers are hedging on the main characters racial animus — and I’d argue they’d probably have to be bigots — would make them too unlikeable. The shit Don does to Betty (and every other woman on the show who isn’t Peggy) is boorish and cruel. He shoves her around. He condescends to her. He’s vicious to his mistresses, as well (think of that scene where he grabs his lover and forcibly shoves his hand into her vagina). By any measure, this cat is a misogynist. But this deep misogyny comes across as a necessary part of his alpha male cool. But to make Don or Pete or any of the Sterling Cooper gang seem to be active racists and still portray them empathetically might be too difficult a needle to thread, because we still tend to think of racists as unambiguously evil and morally bankrupt.