If only men treated women as they did In Television We Trust. Acting as a neo-father figure, television is really the only thing most men will really listen to; we just pretend to listen to everyone else, impudently waiting for our turn to talk, one-up, and grandstand again. Of all the panels being held this year at Berks, I am most interested in attending “Mad Men’s Histories: Television, Gender, and Cultural Memory,” comprised of Scott Forsyth, Astrid Henry, Gloria-Jean Masciarotte, and Denise Witzig. Having witnessed the first two seasons of the show, my attraction to the panel is fourfold.
First, I am greatly intrigued about how the panel will deconstruct the delusive – and perchance diabolical – Don Draper through the lens of gender power relationships. Undeniably, Don will be an unavoidable character for the panel. Second, from Joan’s breasts to Peggy’s brains, I am interested in seeing how the panel analyzes the show’s female characters, both individually and collectively. Mad Men is a creation of a man, Matt Weiner. Next, I am interested in seeing if the panel will broaden its focus, and explore whether they think Mad Men is a clever way to reframe the 1960s as a largely conservative, hedonistic, and reactionary decade, rather than one defined by rebellion and reform.
Finally, as a historian of the United States of Advertising, I am excited to ask all the panelists what they think the impact of television has been on American culture and life. What is the true scope of the “remote control” power possessed by television? Can television really “program” humans in its own image and identity? These are some of the questions I hope the panel will address at the Berks Conference.
In their focus on the myopic and mendacious men and women of Madison Avenue, this panel will also certainly raise its own vital questions about the boob tube machine screen. I just hope that no one in the audience will be superciliously texting away on their cellular phone machine screen during this most important and relevant panel.