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“There’s more to life than work.”

20150518madmen

Can we change or do we just grow to accept who we are? After reading a slew of recaps and interpretations of Mad Men‘s series finale this is the question I find myself asking. Mad Men is nothing if not a character driven drama – with each character’s story adding to the overall idea of what it meant to be a part of the 1960s. Did we see these characters actually change over the eight years that we knew them or are they just accepting who they are and being more comfortable with their being? Does Don come to a real moment of clarity in the final moments of the series or has he just realized a brilliant idea that spurs a moment of happiness?

At one point during the show Stan says to Peggy, “There’s more to life than work.” Yet, I am not sure if any of the characters truly believe this. Where is the separation between what we do and who we are? Do we hide in our work or is it embedded in who we are – making it impossible to truly disconnect from it…especially if it is something we are good at doing?

The 1960s was a pivotal point in our history as a nation – people challenged the status quo and questioned the ideas of power. The nature of the workforce was no exception. Mad Men did an amazing job of depicting this (especially what it meant for minorities within our culture), and focusing on the advertising world was particularly astute.

The advertising world is the beast that drove home the idea that we need more and more material things to make us happy, and to acquire those material things you need money. Therefore, the more money you have = the more things you can buy = the happier you will be. Which then reinforces the idea of making work your life, so that you can be happy.

Ending the series with the 1971 Coke commercial – “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” – was a perfect way to depict how we have come to connect happiness to things we can buy and consume. While Stan might preach the idea that there is more to life than work, he is actively creating a world that tells you otherwise…with Don at the helm.

What are your thoughts and biggest take-aways from Mad Men?


Image via © AMC Network Entertainment LLC and Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

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