2014-07-24

5 Ways Lebanon Is Just Like Mad Men


5 Ways Lebanon Is Just Like Mad Men

Eight months! That's how long I will have to wait until the second part of Mad Men's final season (7) is back. Over the past several weeks I have gone through all six and half season like a hot knife through butter. I was completely hooked but that's not surprising considering my love for movies and TV and my fondness for advertising. Think what you may, but shows like Culture Pub and events like The Night of the Adeaters (La Nuit des Publivores) are just soul food as far as I am concerned. Therefore, it was only natural for the adventures of Don Draper & co to captivate my attention for so long.
The series is visually wonderful with its accurate depiction of America's 60s, to the point where many scenes brought back memories of my early childhood at my parents old place, where various memorabilia of that decade was still available while I was growing up.
However, as things progressed, I started picking up references that resemble today's Lebanon. Habits, practices and social norms that have survived in modern Lebanon almost half a century later.

I don't know how much these points I am about to raise qualify as spoilers, but if you are the type who doesn't want to know anything about a movie or series before watching, now would be a good time to hop over to some other page on the blog.

So, here are the 5 ways today's Lebanon replicates Mad Men :

  1. Women in the Workforce: 
    Women are under represented in the workforce, and those who choose career over family are frowned upon and considered either bossy or weird for not wanting a more "traditional" role in society. At the same time sexual favors in the workplace are shown as a staple of the era and something young ladies were educated to expect.
     
       
  2. Marriage and Family: 
    Closely related to the first post but also slightly extending to men, a norm for success and accomplishment is if the person has managed to get "hitched" and if they have hatched something.
    Those who are not within those norms are considered marginals and even failures.

     
  3. Racism:
    Racism in America in the 60s does not more discussion, neither does racism in Lebanon with various NGOs fighting the good fight against discrimination towards foreign workers and other minorities.

     
  4. Smoking:
    This ugly habit is very apparent in the series and at the focus of most of the action. Pregnant women smoking, business men smoking, teenagers taking up smoking, while the government is trying to raise awareness on cancer and other diseases related to this practice. On the other hand Ad agencies and Tobacco companies plotting to bend the law and keep their business running. Do I need to say more on this in light of the thrashing that the anti-tobacco law in Lebanon has been subject to?
      
  5. Environment:
    America in the 60s is neck-deep in consumerism and everyone wants more. Bulk buying and bulk littering is also a habit like when Don took his family out on a picnic in a beautiful spot only to throw the garbage around as they hop in the car to leave.

     
There are probably up to 10 other points that I can draw similarities from, but on a much more subtle level, such as the Hippy movement, the use of recreational drugs or the alcohol abuse, but I think those remain at a much more latent level than the 5 points I chose to highlight.

As for the ads, while the industry has done long strides since the ad concepts we might see in the series, some of those concepts are still way ahead of what local ad agencies are producing in terms of originality and authenticity of material.

One must still wonder, if a TV series about advertising can come up with original concepts and ideas for a fictional ad campaigns, why can't real local ad agencies come up with really distinctive ones?