Friday, April 13, 2012
AMC's "Mad Men" takes viewers and critics into a virtual time capsule; one that many history buffs
doubt the historical accuracy of. From the first season’s premiere, fact-checkers have kept a close eye
on the shows social authenticity. And like anyone does, those in charge of various aspects of the show
have made mistakes, albeit some ones.
Historical Inaccuracies or Accuracies?
In the first few episodes of the first season of "Mad Men," the show's handsomely mysterious main
character Don Draper is seen drinking several cans of Fielding beer. Many would have, and subsequently
did, accept this portrayal as historically accurate. However, after revisiting the annals of folklore it was
pointed out that Fielding beer simply did not exist at the date this episode was set. Some say, "no big
deal," others say, "huge mistake!" Regardless it is considered inaccurate.
While the show’s creator and crew have made mistakes throughout the show's time on air, none have
been so blatantly obvious as to widely discredit it. The creator of “Mad Men,” Matt Weiner, learned
from those minor mistakes and ultimately improved upon the show’s historical authenticity.
More recently, after granting a few critics and reporters a sneak peak of one of the show's premiere
episodes, Weiner was faced with a debate over historically accurate music. Some say that a show's
background music does not have to be of the same time period as that shown on the screen. For
instance, many more modern shows frequently use music from decades past and no one bags on their
During the episode in question, the screen opens to the song "The Look of Love" by Burt Bacharach. The
only issue with this portrayal is that that particular song had not yet been released at the time the
episode was taking place. Again, some would and did have a major issue with the historical mismatch,
however, others simply don’t notice, or rather don’t care.
Instead of letting the episode air with the historical discrepancy, that most people likely would not even
have noticed, Weiner took the note from the press made during the sneak peak and decided to scratch
the song from the episode all together. Such a move is a true testament to the shows attention to
historical detail, so much so, that the producers and creator will change a small detail like a song that is
misused in a time period by only 6 months. If that doesn’t deserve an Emmy, I don’t know what does.
"Mad Men" is regarded by many socially conscious critics as extremely accurate. The prop designers and
entire crew of the show pride themselves on getting the littlest details correct, even down to the era
specific books on Don Draper's book shelves.
The show has also met other commentary about societal issues including racism and sexism. In many
regards, these issues are what make the show so incredibly accurate from a historical standpoint. As
many who lived through the time period know, issues relating to racism and male-dominance were
predominant. As it is for any on-screen depiction of a past era, there is a large amount of pressure to get
all the details accurate, this is something that more contemporary shows don't have as many issues
with. So, when Don Draper happens to drink a beer that wasn't introduced until the year after the
episode took place, I doubt the world is going to spontaneously combust because Hollywood messed up
the space-time continuum.
This guest post is by Edwin who regularly writes about celebrities, TV, movies, and fashion for the
Celebutaunt blog on USDish.
The Historical Accuracy of Mad Men