When I heard the other day that Oprah has a 1960s-themed show today, in celebration of Mad Men my first impulse was to go out and "madmenize" her. Off I went to the intensely addictive Mad Men Yourself. Go try it yourself, it's an interesting experiment.

Mad Men is extremely appealing to me from the Web and graphic designer's point of view. The level of detail they spend on getting the 1960s "look" right is enjoyably ridiculous. Actually, I'd rather say the show's art design is more than the unspoken language of the era. It's a character in itself. And what's interesting to me after using MadMenYourself is that the art design is not "race neutral." Actually, I think it's oppressively "white."

Mad Men's overarching premise seems to be that 1960s were the last time white men lived in a world that accepted them as The Man. It may not have been the way Matthew Weiner pitched the show, but there's no denying black and brown people only exist in the Mad Men world to serve as one-dimensional and mute tools of their white employers.

In other words: The world of Mad Men is optimized for white people, and that's reflected in the game of Mad Men Yourself.

You can create darker-skinned characters, but this little paper-doll game is color-balanced and coordinated for the white icons.


It's why when you put Oprah, the most powerful woman in media, in the Sterling-Cooper office, she blends so much with the background that she's rendered almost completely invisible.

Which leads me to ask: Is the faulty "racial" design problem of the 1960s or of Mad Men itself?



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