Mary C. Curtis: 'Mad Men,' Women and the 'Scary Black Guy'

Illustration for article titled Mary C. Curtis: Mad Men, Women and the Scary Black Guy

Mary C. Curtis breaks down Mad Men, a show that may be breaking down because, like many of its characters, it has lost its direction. Curtis examines how the show, which was created by a man, is celebrated for having female writers who know how to write into the text sexism and workplace angst surrounding gender. These female writers fail by falling back on stereotypical women with "daddy issues," which Curtis highlights with an issues checklist. A little girl with daddy issues. Check. An in-control bombshell loses her way. Check. Peggy Olson as confused stand-in for social change. Check. Where the writers are at least able to address sexism, they completely miss the mark on racism, as evidenced by last week's "scary black guy." What was really scary about the "scary black guy," who robbed two of the main characters, is that he looked like someone we have seen in the news media. He looked like an amalgamation of various "scary black guys," but with no distinction. Think about the sketch of the "scary black guy" that murderous mother Susan Smith fingered for a crime she actually committed. The crime of Mad Men is that it uses stereotypes of black people to propel a narrative forward that at least allows white characters to be somewhat complex, while keeping black characters flat — and in their place.


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