Years ago, my husband and I started watching Mad Men. We watched some of the earlier seasons together when they were on TV. For whatever reason, we ended up losing track of the show. Netflix had all seven seasons, and we decided to watch Mad Men from start to finish (and see how it ended.)
As I was watching, I noticed that there were many things in Mad Men that were very different from today.
Warning: There are spoilers.
* Everyone smokes everywhere! At work, at restaurants, at home, while driving…everywhere!
* The doctor Peggy saw lit up a cigarette seconds after entering the room
* The doctor Peggy saw warned her not to become “the town pump” because the birth control pills he prescribed for her were expensive ($11.00).
* The secretaries used clunky typewriters.
* Women working as manual switchboard operators – patching phone cords into a terminal to direct calls
* No seat belts at all in cars
* No children’s car seats at all
* Betty’s very pregnant friend Francine was smoking.
* Betty and her very pregnant friend Francine talk about a new neighbor who is a divorced woman. They talk about how hard it is to run a household, especially since the divorced woman has to run a household and work outside of the home. Betty’s friend says something like “Imagine having to think about money”, which both women clearly think would be dreadful.
* Betty’s daughter was playing and wearing a plastic dry cleaning bag over her head – and Betsy yelled at her because the clothes that were inside the dry cleaning bag were probably on the floor – and then Betsy let her daughter continue to wear the plastic dry cleaning bag over her head.
* Betty and Don’s kids were watching a vacuum tube based console black and white TV.
* Rotary phones
* No medical privacy at all for married women. Betsy saw a psychiatrist and her husband Don called the psychiatrist later that night – and the psychiatrist pretty much read all of his notes to Peggy’s husband.
* Many people were smoking on the train
* Elevator operators
* Pete returns to work from his honeymoon. His wife calls to ask him what he wants for dinner. Pete doesn’t immediately know what he wants for dinner because he is not used to having dinner ready for him when he gets home. This implies that Pete and his wife did not live together before they got married.
* Betty’s very pregnant friend Francine was smoking and drinking alcohol
* Refrigerators with a latching handle
* Don tells his preschooler daughter to go get him a beer.
* Don used a film based video camera that did not have a microphone at his daughter’s birthday party.
* The Draper’s have a tube based AM radio that you control with a knob.
* Little boy at the daughter’s birthday party uses metal crutches and leg braces. The implication is that he has polio.
* Another little boy at the birthday party runs past a decorative table and knocks down a glass that some adult drank alcohol from. One of the men at the party – who is not related to the little boy – slaps him across the face.
The little boy’s father saw what happened – and told his son to apologize to the man that hit him.
The two men leave the broken glass on the floor, knowing that the kids are running around. The father of the little boy tells him to go tell his mother to clean up the broken glass.
* The adults at the birthday party don’t quite understand how to be social with a new neighbor because she is divorced, has a nine-year old boy and a baby, and has a job.
* Some of the men at the office were listening to a vinyl record of Bob Newhart that they played on a portable record player.
* Betty walks the dog after her children have gone to sleep for the night. She passes by the house of the neighbor who is divorced. There is a man pounding on the door and demanding to be let in. The man sees Betty and asks “Can I use your phone?” Betty declines because “I don’t let strange men into my house.”
* Betty babysits for the divorced neighbor so the neighbor can go campaign for Kennedy. Don Draper’s office is supporting Nixon (but Betty probably doesn’t know that.). Betty tells the neighbor lady “We aren’t sure who we are voting for yet.” The implication is that Betty does not get to decide for herself who to vote for – she votes for whoever her husband tells her to.
* Don’s mistress calls him at work. She says that she just got a phone. She’d been living in her apartment for a really long time without a phone.
* Don’s office has a bank as a client. The bank has been giving away toasters and blenders in an effort to attract women to the bank. The guys in the office consider suggesting that the bank make accounts for women. Don points out “Women aren’t in charge of the finances”. They end up going with a secret bank account for married men to use.
There wasn’t anything in this episode that you wouldn’t see today that has not already been mentioned.
Pete, the newlywed in the office, brings a “chip and dip” plate to the office in a blue box. He said it was a wedding gift, that they got two of them, and he was going to return it on his lunch break. The department store would only give Pete store credit.
The department store apparently sells rifles. Pete returned to his office with a rifle, jokingly pointed at his male coworkers, then opened the door of his office and pointed it randomly at the secretaries in the office.
He got a rifle within a few minutes after purchasing it from a department store. There was no waiting period between when he wanted to buy the rifle and when he could walk out of the store with it.
The next day, after getting yelled at by his wife for returning a gift that they did NOT get two of – and using the money to buy a rifle – Pete brings the rifle with him to the office again. No one in the office seemed to think much of it.
* Almost the entire office goes to a bar to celebrate Peggy’s copy that the client who sells lipsticks liked. The bar has a jukebox that plays 45 RPM vinyl records.
* Don visits his mistress because he got a bonus and wants to take her to Paris. She has a little party going on. During the party, Don takes a photo of her and one of her male friends with an early version of a Polaroid camera. It has a huge flash on it.
* Sal goes to a bar at the hotel that one of the men that sells lipstick was staying at. The man wants to pick up Sal, and Sal is interested, but he turns him down. Sal feels that it isn’t safe for him to be openly gay. They are in New York City. In 1960, there was a preexisting sodomy law that made both anal sex and oral sex illegal.
* The radio in the Draper’s car has analog push buttons for station presets. This was before 8-tracks. It would have been an AM radio, only. The radio had been mentioned in previous episodes, but this is the first episode where the camera focused on it for more than a few seconds.
* The guys at the office are reviewing advertisements for Kennedy and Nixon. They use a film projector. The film is on big reels. The film is projected on a screen and they had to turn the lights off in the room to see the film.
* Roger is in the hospital and he is hooked up to glass IV bottles (not plastic IV bags like today).
* Don uses a wooden telephone booth that is inside the hospital to call Betty and tell her about Roger being in the hospital.
* Don uses a dictation machine at work. He spoke into a little microphone that is attached to a machine that has a tape inside it. The purpose of the dictation machine was so he could record notes and then hand the device to a secretary who would play back the tape and type out what was said. Then, the secretary would rewind the tape so Don could use it again.
* Betty lets her daughter Sally stay up late to watch the news. The election results (Nixon v Kennedy) were starting to come in. Sally keeps playing with the dial on the TV that changes channels. Betty tells her to stop that before she breaks it.
* The TV was on NBC. The NBC newsroom showed their election results room. Men sat behind desks that had fat, clunky, computer terminals on them. Off to the side was a row of computers that used magnetic tape data storage.
* In this episode, it is revealed how Dick Whitman became Don Draper. In short, he switched dog tags with his commanding officer after the officer died in an explosion. The officer’s body was unrecognizable. The military presumed Dick Whitman was Donald Draper because of the switched dog tags. The dog tags were, at the time, the military’s best source of identification.
* Don’s company gets Kodak as a client. They need an advertisement for their slide projector. The Kodak guys keep calling the round part on top that you put the slides into a “wheel”. Don makes an impressive presentation about nostalgia, and the feeling of being home – and the “wheel” becomes a Carousel.
Things from Mad Men that are Different From Today – Season One is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.