Mad Men & Deviance from the American Ideal

In Mad Men, a TV drama set in the 1960s, the fear of the “other” is demonstrated in the season one episode “Marriage of Figaro”, as seen in this linked post. Francine Hanson and Betty Draper are confused as they gossip about Helen Bishop, a new neighbor, who has been seen walking around the neighborhood, instead of using the routine form of transportation by car. The group of neighborhood housewives later question Helen and further exclude her when her answers prove unsatisfactory. Already a symbol of nonconformity through her role as a divorced single mother in the suburbs, Helen’s lack of conventional transportation further embodies her status as other, alienating her from her neighbors, a condition that is only intensified by her masculine clothing choices and need to seek work outside the home. Helen’s deviance from the “American way of life” as described by Elaine May in Homeward Bound threatens Betty’s upholding of the standard way of life and opens the door to questions about her unhappiness with the choices that she has made.

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