Apparently, Emily Gould is speaking at my school tomorrow night. I will not be attending, primarily because I have a class at the exact same time as her thing and have to co-lead the discussion about feminist geography. Also something something something.
It’s too bad you couldn’t make it, bthny! We talked about everything you mention here, including something something something. Also we addressed how the Internet makes people too lazy to fully articulate their thoughts.
"Mad Men’s" authentic portrait of women’s lives in the early 1960s makes it hard for some women to watch. Over the course of its first three seasons, I interviewed almost 200 women from the same era for a new book on the Greatest Generation’s wives and daughters. Many had suffered from the same numbness that plagued Betty Draper in the first season. They had seen psychiatrists who were as unhelpful and patronizing as the one Don Draper hired for his wife, or they had been married to men who displayed a sense of male entitlement similar to Don’s. Those who had worked, whether before or after marriage, had experienced the same discrimination and sexual harassment as the female employees at the show’s ad agency.
Yet to my surprise, most of these women refused to watch “Mad Men.” Not because they found its portrayal of male-female relations unrealistic — in fact, many recounted treatment in real life that was even more dramatic and horrifying than that on the show. It was precisely because “Mad Men” portrayed the sexism of that era so unflinchingly, they told me, that they could not bear to watch.
My mom cut this article by Evergreen history and family studies professor Stephanie Coontz out of the Washington Post and mailed it to me. Coontz does a great job of deflating arguments about the accuracy of the show’s portrayal of its heroines, reminding us that “in 1965, feminism wasn’t a cultural option for most women.” She brings up something that has confused me and a lot of other people about Mad Men: the issue of whether the show is triumphalist about sexism, racism, knowing cigarettes are bad for you, etc — whether it encourages its watchers to pat themselves on the back about how far we’ve come. More and more, I think this is a misreading of the show. I also think only the most cloistered or clueless (or male) viewers can think we’ve come all that far.
Dave Itzkoff recently asked show creator Matthew Weiner about the The Social Network’s portrayal of women as (I’m paraphrasing) compliant sluts, hysterics, and token meaningful-lesson vessels, and Aaron Sorkin’s response that “that depiction was true to the world of those characters.” Weiner’s response:
“That was a fascinating thing to me, a sense that the world of the women in that movie – and this is not a criticism – felt very similar to “Entourage.” It was really about a frat-house perspective. Whenever people are like, we’ve come so far, thank God we’re not like that any more, you’re like, Really? One of the stories we did on the show this year, I got from a creative director here in New York a few years ago. I think she started here in the mid-80s, and told me the story about the lipstick on her teeth. She had an all-male staff, and she gave her presentation with lipstick all over her teeth, and no one said a word. That’s where I got that from.”
Also elsewhere in this amazing and bonkers interview Itzkoff informs Weiner that Jews do not count as “racial minorities” and Weiner says that his son, who plays Glen, will “never” read the things people write about him on the Internet, which, good luck with that.
“Actually there’s a good reason, a structural reason, why novelists should excite corrosiveness in the press. When you review a film, or appraise a film-director, you do not make a ten-minute short about him (or her). When you write about a painter, you do not produce a sketch. When you write about a composer, you do not reach for your violin. And even when a poet is under consideration, the reviewer or profilist does not (unless deeply committed to presumption and tedium) produce a poem. But when you write about a novelist, an exponent of prose narrative, then you write a prose narrative. And was that the extent of your hopes for your prose — bookchat, interviews, gossip? Valued reader, it is not for me to say this is envy. It is for *you* to say this is envy. And envy never comes to the ball dressed as Envy. It comes dressed as something else: Asceticism, High Standards, Common Sense. Anyway, as I said, I don’t complain about all that — because fame is so great.”—Ruth gave me Experience by Martin Amis for my birthday.
“Her husband is married now to one of her former writing students, a woman to whom Laurie introduced him, in what in her own novels would be seen as a kind and useful act of posthumous matchmaking, albeit one with a poignant edge of irony.”—Anna Quindlen’s 2001 portrait of Laurie Colwin in Gourmet is devastating, in general — I almost cried reading about Colwin’s death, and I’ve never met her and I’ve had some time to get used to the idea of her being dead. This line particularly though made me vow firmly NEVER TO DIE