There’s a scene in Mad Men where Roger dresses up in blackface. I’m not capitalizing the “b” because I don’t want to give it any dignity. It takes place in, I think Season 3, and can be viewed here.
Mad Men, and other period shows, continue to receive blowback on their lack of diversity. Their responses are much like Matt Weiner’s when he said, “Honestly, this is always considered controversial when I say it, but black [sic] people still do not have representation on Madison Ave,” via The Frisky via Charlie Rose.
That’s true. Black folks are indeed underrepresented in many fields.
He goes on to say, “If I was telling a story of the black experience, it would be very different. But I’m very proud of the fact I’m not doing this guilty thing.” Great, I’m glad you’re not tokenizing Black Americans. That’s not my issue. My issue is why are telling the story of those men and women?
Let me explain. Producers and whoever else is in charge of making things in this world, continue to tell the stories of White America. When Black America’s story is told it’s usually told in juxtaposition to White America, and rarely in isolation. Matt Weiner also refers to a telling point in the show,”I don’t think people understand what that impact is, to have a world leader, an international figure who is an African-American who is telling the truth and poetic — Don hears the speech, “I Have A Dream,” and he turns off the radio. It’s just a news event. They don’t even know.”
You’re right. Don Draper is a guy who ignored Martin Luther King Jr. Why is he the protagonist? He’s terrible.
Why is Roger Sterling a main character? He’s also terrible. Forgotten are the others in history. Overshadowed by the Martin Luther King Jr’s., Malcolm X’s, Harriet Tubman’s, Sojourner Truth’s, the “A students”. The smaller and yet equally beautiful characters in history are written over or written out. What about the kids who scored an 890 on the SATs graduated middle of their classes, and only skipped school sometimes? The focus is consistently placed on the Apex of society, or the gutter. Rarely the middle.
I want to see the stories of the ordinary folks because even in their supposed mediocrity their stories are beautiful and worthy. I’d like for the producers and, whoever else is in charge of making things in this world, to break away from the mold and reveal the quality of human being that more closely relates to the majority of America. That more closely relates to, well… me.
I don’t think that Matt Weiner was, as Jessica from the Frisky states “making excuses for his alleged downplaying and/or erasure of pivotal moments in the black [sic] experience during the 1960s.” I just think he’s focusing on the wrong quality of human being.