Special Mad Men Themed Pursuit of Happiness Hour

Believe it or not, I’m not consumed with politics 24/7. I also watch a lot of escapist television. I think it makes a nice counterweight against the unrelenting march of right-wing nuttery I immerse myself in just by keeping up on the news.

So I’m especially excited about this weekend’s premiere of the long-awaited fifth season of Mad Men — which isn’t as purely escapist as you might think.

Every episode of the series is a reminder of how much progress we’ve made since the 1960’s, especially for minorities and women.

It has been kind of thrilling to follow Peggy’s journey from secretary to copywriter and valued member of the agency’s creative team. Last season, she and Don shared an emotional evening in one of the series’ best episodes –which raised the level of their relationship. Don is still Peggy’s boss, but it is clear that he recognizes her now as a colleague – and friend.

Office manager Joan’s journey has been a lot more complicated. She began the series as a Helen Gurley Brown-type, right out of “Sex and the Single Girl.” But by the end of last season, she was married to a doctor — and pregnant by ex-lover Roger. We’re not sure how she’s explaining the baby to husband Greg, who is serving in Vietnam.  And Roger doesn’t know that Joan decided at the last minute NOT to have the abortion he paid for.

But Betty Draper may have the most interesting story arc to come. She’s the least admirable character on the series, but I have read “The Feminine Mystique,” and I recognize her actions as those of an unhappy woman who went to a top college and got her degree — and yet was raised to believe that the only thing of value she had was her appearance… and that her destiny was to get married and live happily ever after. Of course, Betty is disappointed with the way her life has turned out and I don’t think it’s surprising that she takes her unhappiness out on her children. I am looking forward to seeing Betty get involved in the nascent “Women’s Liberation” movement.

When I watch Mad Men, I am knocked out by how much women’s lives in this country changed within my lifetime. (Disclosure: I am about the same age as Sally Draper would be right now.) And when I watch the news, I am terrified by how the current crop of GOP candidates is trying to turn back the clock, stuff the genie back into the bottle — and women back into the home, without other choices. No wonder everyone on Mad Men drinks so much.

So in honor of Don Draper – and Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul – I give you this:

The Old-Fashioned

· 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
· 1 teaspoon water
· 2 dashes angostura bitters
· 1 slice orange rind
· 2 ounces whiskey
· Ice
· 1 maraschino cherry

Preparation: In a tall glass, muddle the sugar, water, bitters and orange rind together until the sugar has dissolved. Fill the glass with ice, add the whiskey and garnish with the cherry. Serve with a cocktail straw.

MOMocrat Donna Schwartz Mills usually confines her pop culture musings to her personal blog, SoCal Mom.

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