Mad Men was a fascinating exploration of the advertising world in 1960s New York. The unique setting was engrossing as the show dealt with complex personal relationships and characters with more than a few personal demons.
The show excelled at depicting this era in a very accurate way, sometimes to the point of feeling uncomfortable. The injustices and inequalities of the time were not hidden in the show's storylines. However, the series also embraced some more outlandish storytelling which was often surprising and entertaining. Here are some of the times Mad Men was too real and some of the times it wasn't at all.
10 Real: Racism
It's quite noticeable that there are few people of color on the show. Though the Civil Rights movement was heating up in the 60s and people were becoming more openminded, racism was still a big issue. Even in a more progressive place like New York City, people of color were treated as second-class citizens.
While it could be argued that the show could have explored this problem better with minority characters in the cast, it did address the issue frequently. In fact, we even see some of the main characters of the show expressing racist views which made it hard to like them at times.
9 Not Real: Don's Backstory
One of the main storylines explored throughout the series is Don's mysterious past. Early in the series, we are given small hints that the man at the center of the story is not the real Don Draper. His past as an orphan and coming from a poor household help shape his character.
We eventually learn that Dick Whitman served with a man named Don Draper in the army and after Draper was killed, Dick assumed his identity. This is the kind of thing we see in movies often that is just not plausible in real life. Taking over someone's identity is not really a decision made on a whim.
8 Real: Unhappy Marriages
Throughout the entire series, it's possible that we don't see a single happily married couple. Nearly every married person is engaging in an affair at some point and it is usually the men. While the sheer number of infidelities might be theatrical, the depiction of married life at the time is often hauntingly accurate.
We see it most with Don and Betty. As Don drinks and cheats all day in the big city, Betty is stuck at home in the suburbs attempting to appear like the picture-perfect wife. Any flaws in her are quickly pointed out by others and her life revolves around Don's needs.
7 Not Real: Betty Shoots The Birds
Though she tries hard to maintain those outward appearances, Betty Draper also fights to have her own agency in life. We see her gain confidence at times and take matters into her own hands. Sometimes in very surprising ways.
After a neighbor chastises the Draper children for letting their dog near his prized pigeons, Betty has a unique response. Armed with a BB-gun, she begins picking off the pigeons in the backyard. While a funny and wild moment, it does seem a little outlandish for the show.
6 Real: Alcoholism
Don has his share of vices, but alcohol certainly seems to be his favorite one. And it's not just Don who enjoys the more than casual drinking. Plenty of characters are seen more often holding a glass of whiskey than not.
Apparently, this excessive drinking was not uncommon in the ad agencies in this era. But Don's dependency on the drink is also sadly accurate. As the series continues, Don's drinking becomes less a classy habit and more an embarrassing depiction, showing how much a drinking problem can ruin someone's life.
5 Not Real: Cooper Dream Sequence
Though the world of Mad Men was not a life-or-death struggle, we did lose a few characters over the run of the series. One of the most significant deaths in the series was that of Bert Cooper, one of the founding members of the ad agency.
Bert dies while watching the historic moon landing, devastating his colleagues and friends. As everyone tries to move on, Don has a fantastical vision of Bert performing a song and dance in the middle of the office just for him. Such a sequence was never seen on the show and served as a surreal farewell to the character.
4 Real: Sexism
It's no secret that women had a difficult time getting into the professional world at this time. As we see in the show, women were welcome as secretaries in such a workplace as this, but little else.
We do see Peggy rise up the ladder in the industry which might seem farfetched to some. However, advertising was one of the first industries that began including women professionals in upper-level jobs. However, the continued belittling, condescending and discrimination the female characters faced at any level was also accurate.
3 Not Real: LSD Trip
As the show explored the 60s and beyond, we got to see these characters reacting to the changing culture around them. This led to a very memorable episode in which Roger joins his young wife in experimenting with LSD.
The result is a surreal and bizarre drug-fueled dream we journey on with Roger. Though the entire point of the sequence is to bend reality, it is a drastic change from the more straight-forward storytelling of the series.
2 Real: Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is certainly a problem that is still prevalent in even modern workplaces. However, in the 60s era, it was so commonplace, women were expected to put up with it on a daily basis.
Mad Men does not shy away from the crude, invasive and out-of-line way these professional men acted. Mostly through Peggy's eyes, we see the relentless and never endless torment women faced every time they came to work and how the men assumed it was their right.
1 Not Real: Lawnmower Accident
Mad Men is not the kind of show that showcases a lot of bloodletting, but this particular scene was a notable exception. As the office excitedly tries out the new John Deere ride-on lawnmower, secretary Lois loses control and mayhem ensues.
The fun and lively atmosphere of the party is quickly broken up when the mower runs over a man's foot. As he screams in pain, several people are sprayed with blood and the place erupts in chaos. It's a completely unexpected moment which is one of the best examples of the show's dark humor.