I think that the cultural sentiments expressed in television are obviously mirrors and NOT anachronistic in portraying the past, if done critically. In Mad Men, there are several instances where one can read a definite reference historically, but at the same time understand that reference dialectically or transitively, in a contemporary context. Of course, this is an element of the show that is successful because who would want to see another “bewitched” again. Don Draper is not Darren Stevens.
The views expressed in Mad Men border on portraying the more negative, closeted, and sultry aspects of the 1960’s cultural phenomena. This is done, I think, for two reasons: 1.) to accurately and honestly portray the reality of a time where people believe America was a “better place”, and 2.) to be able to have a contemporary tv show feel both nostalgic yet current, almost investigative.
They tie in all the narratives in the show through a dialogue between all the subcultures and status quo’s, yet it is readily apparent that they somehow bridge the language gap (by language I mean cultural and social idiosyncrasies that were quite standard then), by engaging in a much more real, free, and sometimes reluctant, speech or dialect. The dialect, in this case, can be said to be the ‘real’, or at least what is meant 'by the real'. This seeping in of reality is the criticism provided to us by the art, the writing, the actors, the portrayals, the conditions, the settings, the spaces, etc.
What can be said for a contemporary time, because of this show? Well for one, the notion of social constructs and detriment caused by them (i.e. marriage ending in divorce, closeted homosexuality ending in overcompensation and inadvertent outing, etc.) is made abundantly clear. These are touched upon almost every show and there is always a glimpse of some sense of reality or reluctance to abandon the said construct due to tradition, convenience, what have you. This aspect of the show portrays an era much more truthfully and actually, than any show in the 1960s or 70s did (minus of course All in the Family and Maude with their comedic and satirical criticality). The relationship this show has with the American viewer and public can possibly provide understanding into difficult and complex familial and social structures carried on in their lives.
The one thing I take away from this show is embracing the complexities of everyday life. That does sound a little too positive, but what I mean by it is that the constructs stifled the people in the show and simply changing constructs with different individuals would not change the actuality of the construct (i.e remarrying). Truth is hard to come by, even in an era where we have been involved in a decades long challenging of these social constructs. Yet, there is still merit to the criticality of Mad Men, for challenging the accepted notions and the closets, and the misogyny. The real question is, what catharsis can come of this show in a contemporary and current sense?