Over 35 PLNU faculty, family and friends filled Colt Forum to celebrate the release of Professor Linda Beail’s book, “Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America” last week with clips from “Mad Men,” the hit drama set in 1960’s New York City, a Q&A with Beail and co-editor Lilly J. Goren and themed mocktails.
“What is different about our book is that it is political, and we discuss all of the themes within the context of politics,” Beail said at the event.
Beail has been a fan of the show since its start and was inspired to write this book after noticing all of the historical themes and contemporary issues presented in the show. The book was published March 12 and the final episodes of the show will premiere on AMC April 5.
While “Mad Men” is a fictional drama, the subjects brought up throughout the series reflect a wide variety of issues not only from the era but also seen today. Beail, Goren and the rest of the contributors discussed several major political topics presented in “Mad Men” including gender roles, race and class struggles and sexuality.
Within this political lens, themes of friendship, appearances versus reality and the reinvention of one’s self are intertwined. And as the title suggests, nostalgia is another overarching idea inspired by the question Beail and Goren had to ask themselves, “What is it about the past makes us want to tell a story and why is it important to share?”
Beail wrote the chapter, “Invisible Men: The Politics and Presence of Racial and Ethnic ‘Others’ in ‘Mad Men’” where she discusses the “risky but intentional” minimal presence of African-Americans in the show, the assimilation of Jews in the late ’60s and the idea that “whites had the privilege to see the things they wanted to see and not have to see the things they did not want to see.”
Two years ago, Beail joined this project along with Goren who had already begun writing about the show starting in the second and third seasons. Together, they found contributors from various backgrounds to fill each chapter and began formatting the book.
Beail said the whole process was “challenging but fun.”
“Editing something is really different than just writing it yourself,” Beail said. “It’s much more collaborative and it’s so great to share it with so many people.”
Beail and Goren oversaw the compilation of each point of view in the book and aimed at answering the question, “What can we say about ‘Mad Men’ that other people haven’t already said?”
Kirby Challman, a junior political science major, described “Mad Men” as “a show that needs to be processed.”
“So many shows today you can just watch and turn off your brain but you can’t do that with this one,” Challman said. “You have to digest it and this book can help you digest it.”
Freshman creative writing major Lily Jenner also attended the celebration to support Beail.
“I have never even heard of the show, however the recommendation came strong so I expect that it would be an enjoyable experience,” Jenner said.
Beail and Goren said they hope “Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America” will be a great addition to the already started conversation on “Mad Men.”