WARNING: Spoiler Alert
I have followed all 5 seasons of AMC’s Mad Men since 2007 and even written a few academic papers on the show. For a Media Studies graduate class I focused primarily on the questions that are raised when audiences watch a fictional show for a non-fictional understanding of a past decade. Specifically, I wrote about conclusions that are drawn about gender roles from this show, as well as the problems which arise from fictional nostalgia. Examples of this nostalgia include Banana Republic’s Mad Men fashion collection. I call it “fictional” because the feeling of nostalgia arises from fictional plots and characters. Banana Republic has introduced several “Mad Men collections,” based on fashion styles of the 1960s. The success of these collections rely on the success of Mad Men but the company is never mentioned in the show despite its present day ties to it.
Recently, however, this nostalgia and blurring of fiction and reality has taken an interesting turn. On June 5, 2012, The Globe and Mail’s Ivor Tossell wrote about Jaguar’s developing ties to the show. The plot of Mad Men’s most recent season has centred on the advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (SCDP) and the characters’ attempt to sign Jaguar as a client. The PR and Marketing team at Jaguar claim that they had no prior knowledge of the direction AMC would take with the Jaguar storyline but did assist with details for historical accuracy. In the build up of this plot, Don Draper, one of the main characters of SCDP, takes another coworker, Joan, to check out Jaguar for himself before agreeing to work for them. They take a car for a test drive and he decides his agency should work for the account.
At this point in the plot, @JaguarUSA tweeted “RT if taking a ride with Joan Holloway in a Jaguar would make you
#FeelAlive. #MadMen” Tossell writes that this coincided with Jaguar’s slogan, “Feel alive.” Jaguar did not pay for this seemingly great advertising – Joan at one point says, “I want one” – and attempted to use social media and its connections to a popular television show without knowing the direction Mad Men would take the plot. Jaguar’s portrayal quickly turned away from this positive light when the fictional head of Jaguar states that the only way he will sign with SCDP if he can have sex with Joan. The heads of SCDP actually take a vote on this to determine if this is an acceptable course of action. Joan agrees to do this for 5% ownership of SCDP.
Adding to these ties of prostitution, another head of SCDP then tries to commit suicide in his new Jaguar. After trying to blur the lines between present day reality and Mad Men’s fictional past, Jaguar’s PR team quickly returned to Twitter to try to make light of the situation and make clear their lack of control over the plot. Following the trade of sex with Joan for Jaguar’s business, @JaguarUSA tweeted, “Loved the pitch, didn’t love the process. We applaud Peggy leaving SCDP.
#MadMen #MadJag” This pitch, however, made by the men at SCDP, positioned the car as the woman all men can finally possess and control. Therefore, while @JaguarUSA disapproved of treating Joan as a commodity, it “loved” the pitch of wishing to possess a woman.
With my background in media studies and women’s studies I find the questions raised from this past season really interesting.