TV transcends time


Dunia Sarkis, Staff Columnist

Let’s take a trip. “Where are we going?” you may wonder. But you’d be asking the wrong question. Not where, my friend, but when.

First, I bring you to the early 1960s. New York City. The smell of cigarette smoke and whiskey fill the offices of the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency.

Men converse and make deals; women type and gossip. Fabulous fashion, big hair, and secret affairs are all common occurrences in “Mad Men.” The TV series, which ran on AMC from 2007-2015, follows ad man Don Draper and the events of his life and work.

The central story may be his, but the side characters kept me watching, especially Joan Holloway, the bold head secretary who takes B.S. from no one.

Recommended to me by my great friend and fellow columnist, Jacqueline (see “Queer Queries” on pg. 15), “Mad Men” is addictive. I spent every evening for a good few months with my ol’ pal Don Draper.

My parents and I made it a tradition to watch at least an episode per evening, though it usually ended up being several more than that.

Even though some scenes can drag on with talks of advertising, each episode always has a captivating plotline. Because of the large cast and multitude of important characters, the writers focus on different storylines and create good variety in the structure of the plot. So, if one episode is not your cup of tea, don’t give up! The next might pique your interest.

Written primarily by women, “Mad Men” provides a fascinating commentary on the role of masculinity and femininity in the workplace.

Though it may seem behind the times, there are eerie similarities in gender dynamics between then and now. Plus, the outfits are amazing.

Fast forward about ten years to the 1970s during the movement for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that would ensure all sexes equal rights under the law. Led by Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisolm, Betty Friedan, and other prominent feminists of the time, proponents of the ERA worked tirelessly to get the votes necessary to ratify the amendment. Despite initial success, a group of midwestern housewives, led by Phyllis Schlafly, stood up to the amendment and pushed citizens not to ratify the ERA. “Mrs. America,” a fictionalized version of this true story, brings to light the intricacies of the fight for equal rights. Interestingly enough, the amendment has still not been passed today.

I could write an entirely new column with praise for the star-studded cast, which is what encouraged me to watch the show originally, but the story is incredibly interesting in itself. The show’s release last year, along with some of my previous knowledge on the subject, inspired my Junior research paper on the ERA.

The show has received some criticism from both the liberal and conservative parties, including Steinem herself and Schlafly’s daughter, who took part in the movement for and against ratification. Each believes that their side was not portrayed correctly; Steinem said she didn’t like the “bickering feminist” trope, and Schlafly’s daughter thought the portrayal of her mom was too harsh. Still, the show depicts the nuances of the situations and characters quite well and provides an entertaining retelling of a true story.

Each episode centers around a different character, so wait around to see if your favorite gets their time in the spotlight!

Jumping ahead another decade or so to the mid-80s, we find ourselves in Los Angeles. Desperate for a job, Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress, finds herself auditioning for an all-female wrestling troupe called GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

Even if you’re not a fan of wrestling, “GLOW” is incredibly entertaining. Though there are a few fun wrestling scenes, the show focuses on the process of creating wrestling personas and the relationships between the women in the troupe.

I watched “GLOW” toward the beginning of quarantine and remember finishing it in exactly two days. I was so intrigued by the story and the characters that I couldn’t help myself. Plus, I had all the time to waste in lockdown.

Ruth is played by Alison Brie, who also appeared in “Community.” Her background in comedy is evident; she is hilarious and finds the perfect balance between consistent humor and character development, which is incredibly refreshing.

Thank you for joining me on this journey through the 20th century! Hopefully, now that we are back from our time-traveling excursion, you will lose track of your own time binging away!