Mad Men, Season 4

Week 2: Vomiting in the Trash Can
Talking television.
Aug. 9 2010 5:15 PM

Mad Men, Season 4

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Week 2: Vomiting in the Trash Can

Still from "Mad Men".

When I first came to New York, the men's locker room at the Yale Club had illegal showerheads that released torrents of water, a spacious sauna with copies of the Times, a steam bath, and a special set-aside area with tables called "the hangover room." This is where you could sleep off that lunch with Roger Sterling. I also remember fondly the old alum who once ordered drinks for everyone in the steam bath. That was living! Needless to say, in a fitting bit of symbolism, the hangover room and sauna were destroyed in order to expand the women's locker room. Something that had been long overdue.

I bring up those showerheads-of-yesteryear to say that Katie Roiphe is right about one aspect of Mad Men's appeal: the sense of a vanished world where work used to be fun, or at least not so severe. You could vomit in the office trashcan on occasion and still get promoted. But I part ways with Roiphe in that I think the appeal goes beyond pinchable secretaries and booze-filled lunches. The showis set in the waning years of the Eisenhower postwar, country-club America. Old school ties still matter; the meritocracy is just getting started up. (Go read The Big Test for the whole story.) Pretty soon, the Pete Campbells of the world will be competing with more than just the Ken Cosgroves. And being the office joke will mean being sent packing on the next train back to Larchmont.

Advertisement

We watch Mad Men not simply for the "messy lives" but out of a misguided nostalgia for stricter gender roles, workplace aristocracy, better outfits (especially those nurses' outfits), and a time when social life in a city as big as New York could have a summer-camp smallness to it. Of course, a lot of people were left out of the fun—just ask the elevator boy at Sterling Cooper.

OK, sorry to go all Olivier on you.

—Agger

P.S. Those "booze-filled" lunches actually seem like a lot of work.

Like Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

.

.

Michael Agger is an editor at The New Yorker. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.