Mad Men Vs. Walking Dead

Both are AMC shows.

Brad and I watched the first season of Walking Dead on the free trial we had of AMC during some Dish Network promo before we rented the rest from Netflix a few months later.

I’m kind of new to the Zombie genre, so maybe I’m just impressed because I’m newly exposed.  Probably not.  I studied the craft of the story in college.  I know tension, character development & plot when I see it.  These aspects to compelling narrative are universal.  Regardless of the medium.

I recognize mindless brain candy when I see it.  Law & Order Criminal Intent, all the casts, is my favorite way to shut off my mind & just kind of veg.  I see that it’s ostensibly the same show over and over again.  Some people read Romance Novels, I watch crime shows.

Mad Men is not brain candy. We’re about 2 episodes into the second season, but it’s not as compelling as it should be considering the cast, the show’s longevity.  The portion of it that I find to be the most interesting is the representation of women.  The AMC website for the show purports that the gender roles are “realistically represented.”

I’m not so sure.  I wasn’t alive during the 60s to be sure, but it seems to me that the show polarizes women too much.  I find Christina Hendricks’s character to be particularly puzzling and representative of a failure to give the same care to developing the character as is given to the gender tension she is meant to evince.

I mean, we know everything about Don Draper, from his birth to the present.  We understand where his principles and their foibles come from.  But Joan Harris, who’s in a similar position in her portion of the office is only portrayed as a woman who is only brassy and vulnerable about sex. There is some intriguing work there with showing that she is using sex to procure control that she only believes she has, but it’s too little.  I don’t care much because I don’t know why.  They totally dropped the ball on the lesbian roommate angle, and Joan Harris didn’t really even blink.  And while she wept when Mr. Sterling had his heart attack, it’s unclear whether she did so because she wasn’t called to the scene, or because she’s legitimately upset about the man.

And what about that little turd Pete Campbell?  The character is considerably more minor than Joan Harris, but he is infinitely better developed.  The women on this show seem only to exist at the office.  The men have home lives and conflicts and a place that is not Sterling Cooper.  Apparently Sterling Cooper is officially named Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at some point in a later season.  Peggy Olson is the only character who has a life outside of the office, and that only because she has dipped a toe into the men’s world.  She had a baby which she gave up for adoption due to an office affair.  They didn’t show Peggy’s process over that, only that one moment she had a baby, the next she didn’t.

As you may know, the Walking Dead’s acclaimed writer/director, Frank Darabont, was canned by AMC because he refused to make better TV with less money.  Or some such struggle about which we will probably only ever read speculation from Hollywood journalists.

The thing about The Walking Dead is that it did so much more work with so much less time and many, many fewer words than Mad Men has done.

I suppose the Zombie Apocalypse is naturally much tenser than the 60s office and home world of Mad Men, but right up front we get these two men who are totally normal dudes, then a Rip Van Winkle moment when one of the two wake up after this character crystallizing accident to find the world has changed quite a bit.  Chasing his family, tired story, but every episode has a climactic moment.  With Mad Men, I sometimes feel like a season is just setting up some future climactic moment it’ll be impossible to adequately payoff.

Tired Story: Harried exec has selective extra marital love life, leaves harried wife home to manage solo.  Opportunistic idiots do short-sighted, mean things to each other, and make lewd comments every time a “skirt” is nearby.

Tired Story:  Zombie Apocalypse finds best friends at odds due to wife appropriation, and regular guy commits super-human acts of bravery with impeccible moral fortitude.

The hero & the anti-hero?  I mean, I understand that it’s probably a mistake to compare these two shows.  They’re not at all similar.  One is soap operaesque, the other is geek fodder.  Lucky for me, I live in a world that loves both things.

Despite all of my inner conflict about Mad Men, I expect that I’ll continue to watch, even if Brad jumps ship.  It’s kind of like Ally McBeal for me, in that I find myself asking all kinds of feminist questions and wondering how we think we’ve evolved.

If The Walking Dead manages a surprise 3rd season, I will be highly impressed and pleased, and am looking dearly forward to the 2nd season.  I wish cable was cheaper.


Author: April Line Writing

Writing about whatever the f*ck I want.

4 thoughts on “Mad Men Vs. Walking Dead”

  1. You’re right, of course, about the imbalance about the gender representations on “Mad Men”; although one could argue that men simply lived more interesting lives at that time BECAUSE of the gender imbalance. But that would probably be a silly argument. I will, however, hint to you that they (the writers) get much better with the women as the next seasons progress.

    I must comment that I find it odd that a few times here, you compare “Mad Men” to “The Walking Dead”, as though the shows are remotely comparable. Their placement on the same network doesn’t seem compelling enough reason to judge how they use their budgets or their level of prolixity.

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