Elisabeth Bronfen gives a clever analysis on one of the most influential show of the 21th century, arguing that, beyond the retro-revival, Mad Men
builds a comment on the state of the US nation
and on the mirage of the American Dream.
Matthew Weiner's series Mad Men is more than a resonant time capsule. Elisabeth Bronfen's claim is that the show not only thrives on a significant double voicing, reviving the literature, film, music and fashion of the past within and for the cultural concerns of the present. With Don Draper an embodiment of the prototypical con man, his precarious journey from poverty to fame and prosperity can also be seen as a continuation of the moral perfectionism so key to the American tradition. His fall and spiritual recovery is as much an individual story as a comment on the state of the nation. Mad Men reflects on the role television has come to play in this work of the cultural imaginary, both fragile and fruitful. We identify and sympathize with the people in this series not despite but because they are fictional representations, different yet also a mirror of ourselves.
Elisabeth Bronfen is professor of English and American Studies at the University of Zurich and a global distinguished professor at New York University since 2007. In 1990, she wrote her habilitation on the aestheticization of dead women by male artists. She has published numerous books in the areas of gender studies
, psychoanalysis, film
and cultural studies