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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Film — The 21st Century Language

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 explore a short film about the importance of film education. Please feel free to leave a comment.

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Film Literacy is Essential for 21st Century Students

“The best kind of film education engages young people in active learning. It goes beyond just passively consuming or watching film”

Kenneth Branagh

Actor Kenneth Branagh advocates for film literacy education.   {Click on image for source information.}

21st Century Literacy is a a film education methodology designed to help students develop media literacy skills.  21st Century Literacy is backed by the British Film Institute,  Film Club, First Light and the UK Film Council. They also work closely with the National and Regional Screen Agencies and Skillset.

Check out this short film where actor Kenneth Branagh discusses the benefits of using film and moving images in the classroom.

We here at Labragirl certainly agree with the importance of film literacy.

Do you?

Do you use film in your classroom? What are some of your favorite film literacy exercises or conversations?

Would you like help using film in the classroom? If so, contact us!

 

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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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“The Story of Movies”

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 help your students gain an appreciation for classic films. ———————————————————————————————————————–

Labragirl Recommends The Film Foundation

Established in 1990 by film director Martin Scorsese, The Film Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the history of film. Click here to read the organization’s complete mission statement.

Middle School Curriculum

In addition, The Film Foundation’s The Story of Movies project strives to educate students about film literacy.  The Story of Movies is an interdisciplinary curriculum that introduces students to classic cinema as well as the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of film.

For more information check out The Story of Movies website.

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