Why No One Talks About Mad Men Today

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Updated

Mad Men was an enormously successful series on AMC for seven seasons. It won awards, received critical acclaim, and was loved by people, so why is no one talking about it today, a decade after it left the air? I speculate that while many other shows are being revisited and celebrated, Mad Men is largely ignored for a number of reasons: the #MeToo movement, the fact that the show is more narrative-based than action-packed, and Americans have less patience now than ever for long, intellectual dramas. 

A Different Era

Jon Hamm

Mad Men was a great show, with excellent writers and brilliant actors. I had a love/hate relationship with Don Draper for seven seasons. I believe creator Matthew Weiner knew exactly what he was doing when he pulled American audiences back into the 1960s, during the early days of marketing and advertising, right before women’s liberation and civil rights had real impacts on the world. 

Some Of The Best Characters In History

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As we enter Mad Men, Don (played by Jon Hamm) is a married man with two children scrambling his way up the corporate ladder. Betty Draper (played by January Jones) is his gorgeous, bored housewife. Elizabeth Moss embodies the young working woman trying to make a name for herself as Peggy Olson, Don’s secretary.

Then there are the other side characters, including the always marvelous Christina Hendricks as Joan, the head secretary in charge — bossy and bold, and the smart and calculated John Slattery as Roger, Don’s boss and later partner. 

Follows The Villain, Sort Of, Well It’s Complicated

All seven seasons of Mad Men follow these characters, mostly centered around Don, as they find their way through advertising, a changing world, and their own evolution as people. Don has a secret past but is ambitious, driven, and extremely good at his job.

Betty is not really in love with Don, but she can’t imagine being a divorcee. Joan wants to be recognized for more than just her body, but she’ll use her body when she needs to. Peggy longs for a fulfilling career, and Pete is the resident slimeball.

More History Than Entertainment

The characters in Mad Men are rich and complex, and the storylines accurately depict what life was like for so many middle-class white Americans in the 1960s, particularly the beginning of the shift for middle-class white men, the madmen, as the world as they knew began to crumble under their feet. It was a highly relevant show that gave audiences insight into the origins of where we were in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president and Donald Trump rose to become a popular figure. 

Lacks The Escapism Of Its Prestige TV Peers

So, why has this show been left on a shelf? It’s likely because Mad Men was like school, and people don’t want school on TV. They want escapism — fire, sex, drugs, and dragons. They want to rewatch The Wire and Breaking Bad and see cops fight drug dealers or Game of Thrones to watch murder and mayhem that involves fantasy and fiction. 

#MeToo And Don Draper’s Many Mistresses

Then, with the rise of #MeToo and safe spaces and trigger warnings across campuses, more people are unwilling to feel uncomfortable. And Mad Men does indeed make you uncomfortable. It’s cringey on many levels.

We don’t want to be reminded of how helpless women must have felt. We don’t want to remember how godlike white American males once were (still are?). 

Finally, so many people don’t want to have to think about what they’re watching anymore. We are becoming increasingly less interested in intellectual material and much more fascinated by sex, scandal, blood, guts, gore, and explosions without making us think about the complexities that lie within. 

Good While It Lasted

jon hamm

I can’t say that I would rewatch Mad Men any more than I would reread my history books, and I love history. I don’t think all of the reasons listed here apply to all people uninterested in revisiting the show. But I do think at least one of them holds true for almost everyone, which is why Mad Men will likely quietly disappear into the category of television that was good while it lasted.