Book Review #8 Analyzing Mad Men

Hello everyone and welcome to my eight book review. This time I wanted to do a scholarly book on pop culture so I choose the book Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series edited by Scott F. Stoddart. So this book review is going to be done a little bit differently because the book is complied of 12 essays by different authors all about the Mad Men TV series. So I will review the book as a whole and just several selected essays. If you are wondering why Mad Men? Well I love the series I loved the TV show when it started and when it ended. Also the 60s is one of my favorite periods in history. And before you become that person I do realize that Mad Men doesn’t truly portray what living was truly like in the 60s. It does give a glimpse and nostalgia but no one can ever remake the 60s or anytime period, you can only experience it during the actual period itself. Also if you have not seen the show this review will have spoilers to the show so just a warning. Let’s get started!

Overview: Like previously stated Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series contains 12 critical essays that have a broad interdisciplinary approach on the first three season of Mad Men. These essays: are broken into four parts: The Contexts of Mad Men, The Politics of Mad Men, The Women of Mad Men and The Nostalgia of Mad Men. The titles of the four parts are  explanatory as to what is going to be covered in each part. The Context of Mad Men: what Mad Men depicts on the show and the underlying tones in the show. The Politics of Mad Men: politics of advertisement, capitalism, products and utopia. The Women of Mad Men: addressing sexism, women in the work place, motherhood and progressive women. The Nostalgia of Mad Men: addressing that Mad Men is a period piece and is a nostalgia trap.

There is no real beginning or end to Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series, no story or narrative to follow since all the essays are all analytical essays. The reader can start anywhere in the book and not fell like they missed something. I did read all of them but any other reader can just read a few essays, all of them, or just one if they felt like it. None of the essays in Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series ever really reference each other so a reader doesn’t need to read one essay to understand another.

My Opinion: So I will give two ratings to this review, one for the essays in general and one for the book. Why need two ratings? Because these essays are a collection, each essay was written individually without the need to be in the Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series nor with the initial intention of being in this book. Basically Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series can only exist because of these collective essays but the essays don’t need to be in this book to be published.

The essays get a 4/5 stars! These essay are critically analyzing Mad Man in a scholarly style. Not a personal style. For me it was great to find such a  in-depth critical view of Mad Men. Each author breaks down, finds and address themes in cinema, theory’s, philosophy’s, politics, civilization growth and much more in the Mad Men series. The essays I select to expalin will only summarize a little of the essay, not all of it.

One of my favorite essays in Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series is titled: “”We’ll Start Over like Adam and Eve”:The Subversion of Classic American Mythology” by Melanie Hernandez and David Thomas Holmberg. This essay addresses several themes: civilizing oneself, the rebirth of an image for oneself, and “the American Adam” myth. In the Mad Men series we the viewer know that Don Drapper has it all: a great job, beautiful wife, kids, a good house what is described as the perfect life. Don is a civilized man, but it does not bring him happiness. Don wants to escape this civilized way of life by wanting to run away while on a business trip to California and staying there to reinvent himself. As the viewers already know but Hernandez and Holmberg explain that Don has already reinvented himself once during the Korean war when Done was in the army and his army mate died and took his identity. But again Don wants to escape his life and reinvent himself again as Hernandez and Holmberg describe it as “the American Adam” myth. “The American Adam” myth is basically a cultural mythology that Eden reemerges from the American wilderness (usually the West), where Adam can reemerge as nothing to start a brand new life and make himself into something. Hernandez and Holmberg address other characters in Mad Men who struggle with the same themes but I love Don’s struggle of wanting to leave everything behind even though his life could be seen as perfect.

My second favorite essay is titled: “Every Women is a Jackie or a Marilyn: The Problematics of Nostalgia” by Tonya Krouse. Krouse, addresses the women in Mad Men of how they mostly fit into two categories: Jackie Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe. Jackie’s type would be the innocent loving house wife who can do no wrong by her husband which would be Betty Drapper. Marilyn’s type would the the sexy seductress who knew how to use her body and sexuality to her benefit which is Joan Holloway. Krouse addressed the benefits and struggles of the two main types of women. Betty has to sacrifice her image, personalty and freedom to be the perfect housewife for Don. Joan was not always taken seriously around the office or seen a women to have a long relationship with. Krouse also addresses  Peggy Olson’s character as Peggy did not fit into the Jackie or Marilyn type, she was her own woman and had the struggles and benefits of being Peggy Olson.

Of course all the book in whole will get 4/5 stars as well because the essays do make up the book. But the biggest down fall of the Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series is the essays get very repetitive over the span of reading the book. I’m pretty sure it’s not what the authors had in mind for writing their essays because these essay were published before the book came out. My suggestion is to read the essays out of order that way the essay themes don’t get too repetitive and the reader can read the different parts of Analyzing Mad Men: Critical Essays on the TV Series at a time instead of reading it front to back. I recommend this book to anyone who loves Mad Men or wants a more critical in-depth perspective to Mad Men

 

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