As AMC’s Mad Men returns for its fifth season in just over a week (!!!) Slate’s Tanner Colby discusses how race has played a role in the show and how much it might surface in the upcoming season. In his second of two pieces, he makes a connection between the lies the characters live on the show and the lie of white supremacy in the American Dream.
Mad Men is a show about lies, the lies we tell about who we are and what our country is, and what happens when those lies fall apart. The whole idea of the 1950s, picket-fence, Ozzie and Harriet American Dream was a lie, a well-told tale conjured up by Madison Avenue to sell vacuum cleaners and automobiles. And the single biggest lie at the core of that American Dream was the myth of white supremacy, the delusion that allowed a nation of immigrants, outcasts, and orphans to galvanize their standing in a new social order where status and self-worth were rooted in the accident of not being born black. Who is Don Draper but a white man pretending to be a sort of white person he’s not, and who suffers a complete breakdown when that lie is exposed? And what could better symbolize the story of white America in the 1960s?
And read my 2010 piece about Mad Men and race here.