Last night, I was watching the season premier of “Mad Men,” which is one of my favorite shows. One of the things that I’ve always liked about this show is that they don’t shy away from showing how things really were in the 1960s — which means women, gays, and minorities repeatedly get the short end of the stick. It can be uncomfortable to watch, but I appreciate that the shows creators don’t simply glamorize this era and act as if it was a great time for everyone.
While the racism and sexism shown on “Mad Men” is certainly troubling, I think viewers still feel, for lack of a better word, safe when watching it. Oh look at how things used to be, we think. My discomfort watching this show is eased by the fact that this is not the world we live in anymore.
But during last night’s premier, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this is absolutely still the world we live in.
This isn’t the first time I’ve thought that. Truthfully, I spent last week in various degrees of rage and sadness. The weekend before this past one, I spent hours reading different articles on two topics: Trayvon Martin’s shooting and the anti-abortion, anti-women legislation currently making its way through various states’ legislatures. All I could think as I read article after article was, Wait…what year is this? Because even though discussions on racism and sexism still take place, most of what we hear is in the context of history. The discussion is out there but, like “Mad Men,” it’s sitting firmly in the past. We feel safe because we think, That can’t happen again. That can’t happen here. We are taught that it happened, yes, but also that it’s over.
And it’s obviously not over. I think the fact that it’s so obviously not over is what has left me feeling so shocked, angry, and helpless. It’s like the people writing the new abortion laws or defending the “Stand Your Ground” law are completely oblivious to the fact that all of these laws are really, really great for ensuring that racist/sexist/unconstitutional behavior continues to happen. Can’t they just admit that it’s oppressive? Most of the ranting I’ve been doing to Eric, friends, and coworkers is in the form of, “But really, how the fuck is this still happening?!?!?!” And because I’m surrounded by pretty liberal people, they all agree with me. So all we can say is some form of, “But really, WTF?” over and over again. I want to be articulate and say something moving, but really, all I have to offer is a bunch of variations on “fuck this crazy bullshit.” Most of the time, I’m actually speechless, which doesn’t happen to me very often. What’s going on is, to me, as outrageous and unbelievable as the issues presented on “Mad Men”…but unlike what happens in “Mad Men,” we simply can’t pretend it’s a thing of the past or something that happens to other people who are not us. That seems so obvious and yet…a lot of people still think that all’s well, apparently, because it’s still all happening.
So when I’m not cursing, I’m just thinking, Isn’t anyone a little concerned by all this? Am I the only one who is wondering how much worse things are going to get? Is anyone else scared for the future? Because, in all honesty, I am completely freaked out about the future. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been wondering what I’ll tell my children about this decade. I mean, the things that are happening right now seem big. This feels like it must be the end of something or the beginning of something. Whether it’s an end or a beginning and whether those things are good or bad, I’m not really sure. But it seems like this could be a time that our children learn about in history class and we say, “Oh, yes, 2012. Right before shit really hit the fan.” Because it seems like something has to give. I wonder if when we look back on this time, we’ll look at Trayvon Martin’s shooting or the mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound laws as the final straw, the things that finally pushed people to take action and demand equal rights. Or perhaps we’ll look back and think that these things seem quaint because it was going to get so much worse.
And then a part of me feels very naive. I mean, every generation has had far worse stuff to deal with and then our generation was told that actually life is fair…but maybe I just to need to accept that it’s not fair and get over it. I have to wonder if my outrage is just a result of being very lucky for far too long. I can’t help but think older generations are looking at those of us freaking out and thinking, Oh, gee, thanks for joining the real world. We could have told you this was coming years ago. How much of the outrage I’m feeling now is just a result of years of privilege, of never having to fight for anything? Perhaps we should stop expecting that people are going listen the first time we complain. I mean, Civil Rights legislation wasn’t passed by people simply writing angry messages on legislators’ Facebook walls.
I took the weekend off from thinking about all of this as much — which I don’t feel good about — but like most things you try to avoid thinking about, it hit me hard last night as I was watching “Mad Men” and now I’m back to feeling mad at the world. Does anyone else feel as confused, shocked, angry, upset, and helpless as I do? Are you ranting and raving as much as I am to anyone who will listen? I’m assuming a lot of you are as worked up as I am, so how are you guys dealing with that? Let’s discuss!