The cultural phenomenon Mad Men ends its seven season run tonight May 17 on AMC.
Last week the creator, Matthew Weiner, talked about the end of the series on the Nerdist podcast. For him, at the crux of Mad Men is the idea that everyone wants the life that was promised in the ads – the idyllic expectation of life that is based on a cultural fiction that we’ve all agreed upon. “In America in particular, the heroic myth is always a myth.”
Over the course of the series, one of the most blatant cultural fictions that the women of Mad Men have confronted is the American dream itself. Hard work both at home and at the office very rarely pays off in the sexist era of the 1960s. My favorite character by far is also the one I find most tragic: Joan, who bought into the ethos that betrayed her. Modeling herself on the Marilyn Monroe archetype and attaining the top position in the secretary pool, Joan thought she had her own trajectory figured out, and for as long as the 50s lasted, she did.