And yet viewers continue to adore these guys, year after year, season after season, revolting indiscretion after revolting indiscretion. Perhaps it’s the slim-cut suits, or the glossy, Brylcreemed hair. Perhaps it’s because the Mad Men are handsome men, and thus harder to hate. Or perhaps it’s the fact that, of late, everyone seems to be having a love affair with their own dreamyfantasies of mid-century America.
Besides the prolonged and continued adoration of Mad Men, there is also the latest telling quote from writer Aaron Sorkin, who on a press tour for his widely derided new show, The Newsroom, lamented that he wasn‘t alive in the 1940s. “I think I would have done very well, as a writer, in the forties,” he told the Globe and Mail’s Sarah Nicole Prickett. “I think the last time America was a great country was then, or not long after. It was before Vietnam, before Watergate.”
Sorkin is a middle-aged rich white man, and his nostalgia for the greatness of the 1940s reminded me of Foster Friess, another rich white guy who also recently complained that things were better when he was younger. Speaking to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell in February, Friess, a major backer of Rick Santorum’s now dead presidential campaign, told Mitchell that he gets “such a chuckle” out of ongoing debates regarding women’s rights to safe, secure, and inexpensive contraception. “Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception,” said Friess. “The gals put it between their knees.” Mitchell stared at Friess in silence for a moment following his comment; she said she had to catch her breath.
That America is on a steady decline toward uselessness is a favorite canard of a lot of rich white men besides Sorkin and Friess, including Bill Maher, Thomas Friedman, and Mitt Romney, whose book, No Apology, is so named because he says he wants to make no apologies for the bad things America has done on its pursuit toward global dominance. It’s very likely you yourself have heard this kind of thing spouted off in person, as well: at family barbecues where your uncle goes on about our “once great” nation, or a grandfather who remembers how wonderful America used to be, before it got sick and depraved and filled with sex. We’ve even started calling the people born during Sorkin et al.’s bygone era of milk and honey the “Greatest Generation,” as if nobody before or since could even think of improving upon what they accomplished all those years ago.