History as Incidental Event
Here, my aim is to reverse the normative relationship between pivotal historical moments and drama, by looking at ways in which even the ‘big’ events of history can materialise in dramas as ‘incidental’.
The use of television in ‘The Grown Ups’ (Man Men Season 2, Ep. 12) is especially interesting. As a series Mad Men is generally applauded for its ‘authentic’ rendition of its 1960s milieu – through design, decor, costumes etc. When it came to representing the defining event of US 1960s history – the Kennedy assassination on 22 November 1963 – the series needed to be no less authentic. If we, now, think of images associated with the death of JFK, we no doubt recall Abraham Zapruder’s 8mm home movie of the assassination; but this was withheld from public view until the mid-1970s, so whilst Mad Men viewers might have the world’s most famous snuff movie in mind as we watch ‘The Grown Ups’, the Mad Men characters cannot. Instead, from the first CBS bulletin to carry news of the shooting, through Walter Kronkite’s choked announcement that Kennedy had died, to Lee Harvey Oswald’s death on live television and the president’s funeral, they replicate the contemporary experience.
- Mad Men – Matthew Weiner, 2007