California and Irony in Mad Men

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Rodney Taveira


The combination of melodramatic and art cinematic techniques and influences in AMC’s television series Mad Men (2007¬–) reveals how a melodramatic televisuality can image novel modes of social and intimate relations and an alternative to the archetypal American narrative of the self-made man. Set in 1960s’ America, the series uses a contemporaneous and cosmopolitan California to triangulate the formal and narrative insistence of the past on the present. This triangulation is played out by Don Draper’s relations with his family, women, and his former identities and by the representation of homosexuality throughout the series. The application of Lee Edelman’s concept of “sinthomosexuality” and Richard Rorty’s “liberal ironist” reveal a queer, visual rhetoric to the show’s narrative and formal structures, forming a queer irony that allows the show to straddle the aesthetic extremes of “quality TV” (Jane Feuer) and soap opera, which, in turn, queers the exemplary American heterosexuality of Don Draper.

Article Details

On Mad Men (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Rodney Taveira, University of Sydney

Rodney Taveira is a lecturer in American Studies at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney. He has published on contemporary American fiction, literary responses to 9/11, and the interrelation of cinema, photography, painting and literature.