“Mad Men” returns to AMC for a fifth season on Sunday, and times have changed — again. African-Americans are now picketing on the street, chanting for fair employment and equal opportunity. It’s a tinderbox summer of riots and protests, and the reception from some who are working on Madison Avenue is less than supportive. Advertising may be a cool profession that draws talented, sophisticated people, but even some of them can be bigots.
The Watts riots were in 1965, but since Matthew Weiner tends to time-jump by about two years at a time, and since Kiernan Shipka, who plays Don Draper's daughter Sally (in whom I take a particular interest since Sally is approximately my age) is now twelve and usually plays a year or so older, I'm betting on the summer or fall of 1967 -- when riots took place in Detroit and Newark, NJ. place.
This newsreel, clearly scripted from the "Respect Police Authoritah" "ZOMG...Negroes!!" (sic) point of view, shows what the riots looked like for people like Don Draper:
In 1967 the U.S. had two worlds colliding in terms of race. At the same time as American cities were exploding from police brutality and institutionalized poverty, white Americans were inviting the first interracial buddy team into their living rooms as Robert Culp and Bill Cosby (who won three consecutive Emmys for his performance) starred in I Spy. People today know Cosby as Cliff Huxtable, the sweater-wearing dad from his eponymously-named show from the 1980s, but in I Spy, Cosby was kind of badass:
Now today Cosby would get the girl too, but this was still pretty groundbreaking stuff in 1967. A year later, Diahnn Carroll would play a black nurse with an impossibly angelic child, and then in 1971 Norman Lear would create All in the Family and in 1972, set the entire notion of the Black Person Who Didn't Make White People Uncomfortable on its ear by introducing proto-teabagger Archie Bunker to Sammy Davis Jr...
...which laid the groundwork for the urban Good Times:
But all that is in the future as we head into Season 5. I can't wait to see how Roger Sterling manages to keep his foot in his mouth in his dealings with race and how Don Draper deals with the emerging recognition that black peple buy products too.
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