Exploring Themes of Counterculture In the Madmen Series

// Published July 13, 2017 by User1

In a recent opinion editorial for Buzzfeed, Robert McElvaine explored the relationship that the countercultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s had on the culture and the ways these relationships were played out in the popular television series, Mad Men. The series revolves around the life of an American advertising executive attempting to sell things to the public during the 1950s. Over seven series, the plot gradually explores themes of hedonism, self-absorption, class prejudice, and other themes relevant to this historic and tumultuous time. In his piece, McElvaine conveys the necessity of the counter culture for the advancement of the Mad Men plot.


Don Draper, the television show’s main character, is a man who is constantly plagued by the events of the world around him. The television series does an excellent job of portraying Drapers development from a man heavily influenced by his upbringing in the 1930s and 40s to one who gradually submits to the countercultural influences present in the late 60s and 70s. Beginning as a cunning businessman with a knack for selling people on his ideas and goals, Draper gradually becomes less and less satisfied with the world’s promises of the 1950s and begins to seek inner piece and harmony through the hippie culture that was popularized in the late 60s as a direct result of the Vietname War.


Draper’s ultimate transformation, along with the transformations of several important characters in the Mad Men series, represents the change that occurred in a generation of Americans during the period reflected in the story. A generation of children indoctrinated in the ideals of the American dream gave birth to adults who sought to be enticed by the pleasures of the world and material possessions. After their children discovered that material possessions could not support true happiness, they sought inner piece through sexual revolutions, chemical dependencies, and a countercultural lifestyle that still has lasting effects on the American public.



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