Monday, October 1, 2018

Vol State Professors View American Culture Through the TV Show Mad Men



You may think that your professors just come to class, teach, and then go home to their families, yet a lot of our Vol State professors do some pretty interesting work in their off time.  As fanatics of the American TV show Mad Men, married Professors Scott McMillan and Jennifer James have been analyzing the TV show and the constant theme of “work” within American culture. Their work has turned into a research paper titled “Revisiting Mad Men: The Nature of Work in American Culture.” They will present some of their research and ideas at The Popular/American Culture Association in the South Conference in New Orleans during the weekend of October 4th, 2018.




“Part of our culture, from our very early history, is this American work ethic,” said McMillan. “We’ve always been about work, work, work. It’s at the heart of who we are, it drives us as a nation, and Mad Men symbolizes this. It’s not just a good TV show, its great American literature. Ultimately it’s just Americans working just like we all are… It transcends just being set in the 1960’s, it deals with the struggles we all face in any workplace, regardless of the era.” 




“We’re moving away from that sort of Ford economy, of assembly line production, into creative work," said James. “We see their focus of work (in Mad Men) while the country is falling apart around them, it’s this very tumultuous time in the U.S. and we see these main characters go through that time. We see them working, but they also focus on other work, the psychoanalytical work, the work of overcoming alcoholism, the work of becoming a better person, the spiritual work of meditation, it’s a beautiful series, and every time you watch it, a different theme emerges.” 



They soon realized the themes provided an opportunity for scholarly exploration.

“In the paper, we focus on this idea of work, and what work means to identity. Boomers live to work, Xers work to live. Does the job become our identity? Where do we stop and the job start, where does the job stop and we start? The American ideal is that we are workers, we are the job. We work more than any culture on the planet, constantly trying to find identity in work,” explained James.

McMillan said that he often ties pop-culture, including TV shows, into his Political Science curriculum to get the students engaged. 

“We not only teach the stuff, we’re also thinking about it, exploring ideas, presenting them and to a hopefully receptive audience, that will allow other people to think about things in a different way. I think it’s an important part of what we do as professors, that we stay active in this larger academic world… and it’s always nice to carry the Vol State flag into these kinds of things,” McMillan added.

For more information on The Popular/American Culture Association in the South Conference in New Orleans, please visit: pcasacas.org 
-By Rachel Keyes

No comments:

Post a Comment