Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

AMC’s popular TV series Mad Men returns this Month with its fifth season; and, the show’s commitment to staying true to the 1960s era is one of its most lauded features. But, Mad Men’s dedication to evoking the ‘60s goes beyond persistent smoking, daytime drinking and gratuitous adultery. According to Slate’s Tanner Colby, the show courageously portrays arguably the most perverse of 1960s social ills – racism.

While critics of Mad Men contend that the show doesn’t feature enough black characters, and marginalizes the few it does, Colby and others argue that it’s nothing more than an accurate depiction of the strained relations and scattered interactions between whites and blacks in a racially charged era.


Avoiding race isn’t the fault of Mad Men’s writers and producers, according to Colby, it’s the fault of the racially ignorant Madison Avenue that the show honestly represents.  Then, advertising for blacks was relegated to hair products, cigarettes and booze, and the real Don Drapers of the time did not want their products to be associated with black consumers.

The obvious lack of black characters has been a recurring criticism of the acclaimed show, even helping to spawn The Root’s own Mad Men Black People Counter, which illustrated the true dearth of black characters on the show – some episodes not even featuring a single black person.

As Mad Men picks up steam after its almost year-long hiatus, time will tell how the series handles the 1960s’ most troubling and revolutionary years for racism and equality.


Read more at Slate.