Apr 16, 2012 0 Share

Mad Men


Actor Jon Hamm as Don Draper sitting at restaurant table smoking.
Michael Yarish/AMC

It seems I'm rarely able to sit down and watch TV in "prime time" anymore. Not since the end of "Lost" have I scheduled myself to be in my family room at a certain time on a certain day of the week. When I hear buzz about what people are watching, I always feel somewhat left out because I'm not following the latest shows. Thanks to modern technology, I've been on a quest to catch up with one of the buzzing shows. Lately I've found myself curling up in bed with my tablet, and streaming episodes of "Mad Men." If I'm NOT the only one who hasn't watched this show in the past, it's a drama set in the early 1960s which follows the goings on of a Madison Avenue advertising firm. It's fascinating. And not just because of the story lines, but because of what it says about society. 

The writers of “Mad Men” take great pains to paint a picture of what life was like in the early 60s, to the point that it almost becomes a distraction to the viewer, albeit an entertaining distraction. I snicker at the ulcer patient following his doctor's advice of drinking cream and eating butter, and winding up with a heart attack. I'm taken aback when I see small children riding in a car, climbing from the front seat to the back like they’re running a steeple chase. And the smoking! I worry about the actors' health because EVERY scene has cigarettes prominently featured. Not to mention, these characters drink more during a single workday than I have in the past decade of New Year's Eve parties combined. 

Typically, when I am reflecting on "how far we've come," I focus on the evolution of technology. I think about how much easier college term papers would've been if I'd had the Internet at my disposal. Without cell phones, how did my parents ever let me out of the house as a teenager? But this vivid picture painted by "Mad Men" has me thinking about society's evolution beyond just technology. I've started thinking about the evolution of society and its relationship with Autism. 

I'm a member of the "Rain Man" generation, where Dustin Hoffman gave us our first glimpse into a "quirky" world. This would be the same generation that received questionable "parenting advice" when looking for answers about "quirky" children. I take some comfort in knowing that today's new mothers are getting meaningful advice from teachers, health care providers, and even neighbors that leads to early intervention. I'll bet legitimately concerned mothers are no longer advised to take a bubble bath to make things better. I'm finding it helps me be more forward-thinking when I look back to see how far we've come. I appreciate the people before me for making my journey easier.  And I realize when new studies come out suggesting the blame of autism lies in something the mother did—ate too much, took medication that was prescribed by her doctor as being safe while pregnant, married a man too old for reproduction—I realize one day these studies will also be a thing of the past. Quite possibly the suggestions of these studies will seem as ironic as treating an ulcer with cream and butter. It almost makes me want to fast forward and see how it all turns out. But where's the fun in that?