The Three Faces of Mad Men: Middlebrow Culture and Quality Television

Melissa Jane Hardie


This article examines how history is represented in Mad Men and how anxiety about period is registered in the series' documentation of the relationship between pleasure and aesthetic experience. the author argues that the series re-animates mid-century debates about the relationship between low and middlebrow culture and does so by demonstrating the middlebrow's self-conscious representation of processes of mechanical reproduction. She shows that Mad Men's representation of historical period is intimately tied to its own status as "quality tv", and that this alliance is made available in the series' representation of gendered pleasure. Svetlana Boym's notion of the "off-modern" is considered as a way to think about Mad Men's historical detours and revisions, and its reckoning with questions of gender, identity, and aesthetic experience.


quality tv; middlebrow; gender; identity

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