The plot of the show surrounds the personal and professional life of Don Draper, the dashing and handsome Creative Director of ad agency Sterling Cooper. The excesses and opulence of his life does not fully compensate for a lingering sadness that is a product of both past circumstances and present misadventures.
Mad Men is a unique American Television Drama that doesn’t lend itself to easy classification and comparison. But centered on the events happening within the premises of Sterling Cooper offices, one could relate the show to The Office. Mad Men is also not targeted to a particular demographic group, like say, how Desperate Housewives were.
There are several parallel themes explored through the lives of various characters. Through the lead actor Don Draper’s life, themes such as the futility of ostentatious materialism, marital infidelity, misogyny, unethical conduct during military duty, etc are explored. Through Peggy Olson’s character issues of unwanted pregnancy, women’s equality at the workplace, etc are explored.
A prominent cultural stereotype in Mad Men is the male characters’ internalized misogynistic attitudes and chauvinism. This is evident in the portrayal of all the major characters excepting Mr. Roger Cooper, the dignified and disciplined leader of the Sterling Cooper partnership. The likely purpose of these stereotypes is to showcase to the viewer the kind of society and norms that precipitated the Civil Rights Movement and, later, the Women’s Rights Movement.
One perennial source of conflict emerges from Sterling Cooper’s competition with its corporate peers. Another source of conflict is between employees of the firm, as they try to outdo each other to move ahead in their careers. Often, ethics is laid by the wayside during these conflicts. Those with power and charm usually win over the honest and sincere types.
Music plays a key role in the series. The opening credits are