Those who weren't in the workforce 46 years ago might find Mad Men a bit of a shock. Not only do the employees of the Sterling Cooper advertising agency smoke and drink at work, the men are sexist pigs, and the women, still several years away from feminist bra burning, play second fiddle—when not fiddling around with their bosses. With its detail-perfect setting, twisty plots, and vivid characters, this fascinating peek into the not-so-distant past highlights how much has changed in the past four decades. Or has it?
Certainly, as Emmy-nominated star Jon Hamm, who plays protagonist Don Draper, points out, "The HR department would be very busy right now at Sterling Cooper if it was 2009 and these people behaved that way." There are rules and laws protecting against sexist comments and conduct. But that doesn't mean they don't exist. "It's just gone undercover. Men are still pigs. And women are too," insists Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete Campbell. "I grew up with four sisters. You can't fool me! When it comes to a group of guys and girls, we're all pigs!"
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Jon Hamm agrees. "I think people fundamentally haven't changed since the Stone Age. We just hide it better now." So does Aaron Staton, who plays Ken Cosgrove. "Even though we've come a long way, people aren't necessarily thinking any differently. It's still there under the surface." No matter how respectfully men might behave, "Behind closed doors," Staton says, "guys will be guys."