Why I am not watching Mad Men, and what I wish I could watch instead

I keep hearing from various people whose opinions I respect that Mad Men is really good and I should watch it, so I checked into it a little further. Mad Men is a serial drama set in the 60s and heavily about people’s personal issues. This sounds awesome, right? Period drama from the 60s where the women are real characters? Yeah, it sounds awesome. Until I found out that the show is all about white people’s sexual repression issues, and overwhelmingly about straight people.

So I’m going to pass on watching Mad Men. I’m not saying other people shouldn’t, and by all accounts the writing is fantastic so if you’re up for a show about white straight people’s sexual repression issues in the 60s, this is totally the show for you.

For me, though, I heard it was a 60s period piece full of relationship and workplace drama, and I came up with a bunch of ideas for what kind of show with that description I’d want to see before finding out that it was yet another show that just happened to focus on white heterosexuals.

I’d love to see a show about women in the workplace with a heavy focus on the feminist movement of that time, playing out some of the conflicts between straight feminists and lesbian feminists in their lives and relationships, and at work with the difficulties of women entering typically male-dominated professions in contrast with women entering more traditional fields, and the kinds of pressures in each. This would be best if there was also a critique about race and class issues in feminism.

Or a show about African-American gays and lesbians in the Civil Rights Movement. Do I need to say more about how cool this would be?

Or a show about Asian Americans, getting into the conflicts between different groups of Asian Americans versus the outside view of Asian Americans as one cohesive group. I think this could be a fantastic drama, especially if it got into generational issues around assimilation.

Or a show about American Indians, some living in the city and some on the reservation. I’d want to see this in the context of dealing with the ongoing effects of colonization and the ways that history is re-written to suit the victors. I’d also want this set maybe a little later, mid to late 60s, to coincide with the rise of the American Indian Movement.

No one’s making me these shows, though. Just the show about white people’s sexual repression issues, because that’s the big thing that was going on in the 60s.


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