THE PASSING OF THE MYTH. MAD MEN AND THE END OF „AMERICAN INNOCENCE”
The ’50s have been called “the last decade of American innocence,” “the happiest decade in America’s history — when things were going on — that everybody misses” (by Jean Baudrillard). That era symbolically ceased on 22 November 1963; however, many scholars and publicists undermine the belief in its very existence. Michael Wood calls the ’50s a time of “self-deception;” therefore, the question raised is — has America ever been innocent?
Contemporary throwbacks to those times depicted mostly in movies made in the 21st century, although not exclusively (e.g. Far From Heaven [Todd Haynes, 2002], The Hours [Stephen Daldry, 2002], Revolutionary Road [Sam Mendes, 2008], the tv series Mad Men [2007–], Pleasantville [Gary Ross, 1998]), show that the phenomenona of retro and contemporary retromania are not always and not by definition conservative, and can serve as a means to a critical approach towards society.
The article focuses mostly on “American innocence” depicted in AMC’ TV series Mad Men and the multiple dimentions in which its creators critically analize values shared by society in the ’50s and ’60s, and also racism, sexism and xenophobia common in those times, as well as gender roles, model of family and work environment. This approach shows that what is gone in the 21st century is a certain project of perfect America that was never really there but was strongly present in American mithology. That mithology is now being deconstructed and compromised by some filmmakers working both in television and cinema.