Mad Authenticity: Television Portrayals of Women from the 60s II

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

This week we invite Cecilia Portillo back to continue her discussion about the portrayal of women in AMC’s Mad Men. Last week, Cecilia explored Mad Men’s portrayal of the homemaker. This week, Cecilia continues her conversation as she explores the portrayal of the 1960s modern woman.

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Cecilia Portillo, Guest Blogger

As we discussed in Mad Authenticity I, each of the female characters in the TV show Mad Men plays an important role in showcasing the problems and experiences common to women in the 1960s. Today we’ll explore our ideas of the modern woman and how these ideas shape the characters of Joan Harris and Peggy Olson.

 

Modern Women: Joan & Peggy

Joan and Peggy are two strong female characters in AMC’s Mad Men. Their story lines shape our understanding of office gender relations during the 1960s. {Click on image for source information.}

The characters Joan Harris and Peggy Olson are crucial to our understanding of women’s role in the workplace during the 60s. Both women are quietly ambitious, clever, and intelligent. In addition, both experience the negative side of being women in a male-defined space. Through these visual representations, viewers can see the struggle that women faced when entering the workforce—a place where sexual harassment and discrimination were both common and standard practice.

“Why is it that every time a man takes you out to lunch around here, you’re the dessert?” —Peggy Olson

Joan & Peggy, fan favorites, literally show the audience how women have fought—in many ways— to reach important and respectful positions in the professional sphere. In the clip below, we see these two women discussing the sexism and disrespect they encounter. Although Joan’s response to Peggy’s unease would not typically be considered enlightening or helpful, it is prudent to recognize that her mentality was one shared by many women entering the workforce at this time.

What do you think about the portrayal of women from the the 1906s in “Mad Men?”

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), Betty Draper (January Jones) and Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) {Click on image for source information.}

 Let’s keep the conversation going. . .  

How can the depiction of a historical era on TV challenge what we thought we knew about a time period?

How do our modern conceptions shape our look at the past?

 – Cecilia 

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Mad Authenticity: Television Portrayals of Women in the 60s

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom. This week we invite Cecilia Portillo, a blogger from our sister organization’s blog Images Shaping History, to discuss the portrayal of women in the television show Mad Men.

Along with bringing film literacy into language arts classrooms, the Labragirl Film Project works to bring film analysis and media literacy into history and social studies classrooms. In addition to teaching students how to engage in traditional historical study, it is important that students be able to both understand the way popular culture shapes our understanding of history and also be able to navigate their relationship with history within this sphere.

Today’s conversation takes a look at:

  1. our relationship with media images;
  2. how our modern conceptions of the past shape our understanding of the past; and
  3. the ways moving images shape our view of history.

How do our modern ideals shape our portrayals of the past?

How do modern morals and beliefs shape the way we perceive the past, visually speaking?

Let’s see what Cecilia has to say. Discuss below!

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Academic texts and articles are the most common ways historians explain the past to the public. However, television programming based on historical topics gives people a look into the lives of people from a different era, providing a sense of closeness and a reality that words on a printed page can never do.  Television viewers are able to actually look into the past to witness the culture and attitude of a particular time period. 

Let’s explore these human and cultural connections by discussing an episode of AMC’s Mad Men, a television drama based in the 1960s that focuses on the home and work life of several advertising executives.  Although the story is a work of fiction, the look and feel of the show seems very authentic. The historical authenticity can be seen in the fashion, the cars, houses and most importantly in the everyday problems faced by the characters. These interactions highlight the concerns and mentalities of the era. Through character interactions, the viewer can learn of the daily workings of the people of the 1960s.

The cast of Mad Men {Click on image for source information.}

My favorite part of the show is the portrayal of the white working woman and homemaker. The shows’ main female characters are:

  • Betty Draper: the stay at home wife and mother
  • Peggy Olson: a copy writer and modern working woman
  • Joan Hollaway/Harris: a 1960s corporate secretary

These three characters have been crucial to the show since the first episode.

Betty Draper ( January Jones), Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) {Click on image for source information.}

Let’s take a look at Betty Draper’s character – the stay at home wife and mother.

Betty Draper

Mad Men Season 3 Promo. January Jones as Betty Draper {Click on image for source information.}

Betty Draper,  the quintessential homemaker and wife of Ad Man Don Draper, is the series protagonist. Her character provides many visual lessons about understandings of what it was like to be an economically stable woman in the 60s.

She tends to her children and the home and tends to her husband when he arrives from work. Betty is resourceful, charming, and seemingly unhappy all the same. On the surface it appears that she is content with her life, however, Betty Draper is an example of the syndrome that many women underwent during this era. This  syndrome  would later pave way for an important piece of literature in the time  “The Feminine Mystique”  which describes the sense of void  that many suburban housewives felt throughout their supposed successful lives. Through her character such issues as infidelity, independence and reproductive rights are brought to light – all issues that were impactful in the sociocultural sphere of the era.

How do our modern gender ideals and beliefs shape the way we perceive the portrayal of Betty Draper?

In the following clip, we see how normal Betty’s life seems on the surface. We have a greater understanding of the domestic issues that she faces as a housewife and mother.

Her life is filled with troubles bigger than having to get dinner on table.

How does our modern knowledge of the past shape the way we perceive this portrayal? 

There is a wild misconception that all women of the era were happy suburban housewives completely fulfilled and living the “perfect” life. The character of Betty disrupts the notion that all women of this era were as identical as the Levittown homes where many housewives lived.

Do you watch the show?

What do you think about the portrayal of  suburban housewives? 

Next week Cecilia takes a look at the portrayal of another Mad Men character in Mad Authenticity II.

Until Next Time,

Cecilia

Check out our Downton Abbey discussions here & here.

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Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

Language of the Screen

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom. This week the Labragirl Film Project’s classroom resource suggestion is an organization that will helps connect educators and also provides educational resources for teachers.

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Labragirl Recommends Edutopia

Edutopia is an educational website published by the non-profit organization, The George Lucas Educational Foundation.  This website and organization aim to improve K-12 learning by documenting, disseminating, and advocating for innovative strategies that prepare students to flourish in their education. Included in this approach is media and film literacy.

“When people talk to me about the digital divide, I think of it not so much about who has access to what technology as about who knows how to create and express themselves in the new language of the screen. If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read and write?”

George Lucas, filmmaker (Sept.2004, Edutopia, Life on the Screen)

George Lucas. Filmmaker & founder of The George Lucas Educational Foundation. {Click on image for source information.}

Multi-Media Approach to Education

One of Edutopia‘s core concepts is integrated studies; combining two or more academic subjects helps reinforce connections and develop a deeper understanding of the material. Take a look at Edutopia‘s video about the concept of multi-media integrated studies in public schools and how this approach helps students move beyond the traditional academic setting.

For information about Edutopia and integrated studies: Click here.

You can also find Edutopia on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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Bring Labragirl into your classroom. Contact us at info@labragirlfilmproject.org or fill out our Interest & Inquiry Form.

Lost Voices: X’s Story Restored

Welcome to the Labragirl Film Project’s weekly film literacy discussion. Every Monday morning Labragirl provides a resource, activity, or methodological discussion to help incorporate film analysis into your classroom.

Last week we joined a conversation from our sister company – Labragirl Pictures‘ blog.  This discussion about the film The Stoning of Soraya M. combined film analysis with two of the Labragirl Film Project’s goals:

  • Fostering a global perspective
  • Addressing racial and gender inequalities

This week we join another conversation from our sister company – Labragirl Pictures‘ blog. This week we talk about Spike Lee’s visual portrayal of Malcolm X. This week’s discussion is aligned with Labragirl Film Project’s goal of helping students see and discuss how moving images shape our understanding of the past.

Please comment below or discuss with us on 

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Classroom Discussion Synopsis: 

This week’s Moving Images-Moving Forward conversation explores Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X.

Grade Level: High School & College

Educational Goals:

  • Help students apply film analysis and film reading skills to larger historical discussions
  • Help students think critically about their interactions with moving images
  • Encourage students to navigate critical thinking discussions about moving images & historical images

Malcolm X, 1993

{Click on image for source information.}

In 1992, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X brought an important voice back to the public sphere. Clearly, in his time, this passionate Civil Rights leader was a household name. However, with the passing of time, Malcolm X and many of the other Civil Rights leaders’ names faded from popular culture discussions.

Malcolm X Movie Trailer

In fact, during my years teaching history I was consistently amazed by the number of students who had not heard of Malcolm X and/or did not know of his role in the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X brought the story of an important Civil Rights Leader back into the public sphere, allowing us a more robust image of this pivotal time period in American history.

Denzel Washington as Malcolm X. {Click on image for source information.}

What do you think about Spike Lee’s portrayal of Malcolm X?

What do you think of the movie?

How does Lee’s portrayal of Malcolm X shape the way we understand the Civil Rights Movement?

We’d love to discuss with you.

Thanks,

Laurie

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Did you use any of these discussions or activities in your classroom? How did it go?

Do you teach film reading and film analysis?

What are some exercises you use?

We’d love to hear from you.

Please comment below or discuss with us on .

*Disclaimer: All movie clips are suggestions for class use, only. All instructors should screen clips to determine if they are appropriate to use in their classrooms. 

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UP NEXT 6/10: It’s Summertime!

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Previous Blog Entries

Lost Voices: The Stoning of Soraya M.

Film & Cultural Memory I

Film Education

Relevance – the 4th ‘R’

Making Film I

Talking Film I

Downton Abbey in Your Class #1 – Roll Sound!

Reading Film

Fictional Projections of History

Think Globally Using Film

Our Relationship with Movies

Moving Past Historical Accuracy

Images Telling Stories

Film Shaping History

Think Film Images

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