Mad Men is a highly-acclaimed and extremely addictive TV series set in an ad agency in the 1960s. This show is so popular that other networks are copying it. This fall, ABC will showcase Pan Am (think Mad Men in the sky), while NBC will air The Playboy Club (think Mad Men in Chicago). All these programmes reflect a nostalgic renaissance in the 1960s.
I was born in the 60s (1966 to be exact) so I have no memory of them. All I know is how they are represented. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, the 60s were the decade of hippies, Vietnam, flower power, Woodstock, sex, drugs, rock and roll. (Can one be nostalgic about nostalgia?) But this “groovy” world is not the one in these shows. It is the anti-hippie world of wealth, power, privilege, and sharp suits with thin ties. The only drugs on Mad Men are cigarettes and alcohol, usually in vast quantities.
We long for a certain era because we perceive it had something positive that the present does not, or that it did not have something negative that the present has. The 60s had sexism and racism, but they did not have the mad stress of today, where you can be online for work or play 24 hours a day.
The 60s had none of the political correctness which have culminated in so-called “human rights commissions”, where money is given to “victims” due to hurt feelings. One of these commissions rewarded money to a patron who was offended by a comedian during a live show.
In the 60s, people and governments generally lived within their means. Today, individuals and all levels of government have massive levels of debt. In the 60s, western nations regularly intervened in other countries. Today, they are reluctant to help out as citizens in other nations are slaughtered by their leaders, lest they be labelled “imperial”.
These shows, then, symbolize an era free from our repressive and culturally hyper-sensitive world. The political incorrectness of this time is encapsulated in its ads and educational films. Hilarious to watch today, they paint a picture of a simpler time, but are offensive by today’s standards.
With that, I offer several fictional examples of various educational and corporate communications. Enjoy the ride back in time…
TV Ad for a Garbage Can
Introducing the new Maxo-Garbage can. It can handle any kind of waste that you can throw into it! Food waste, paper, cardboard, pop cans, glass jars, packaging – all kinds of garbage. It all gets mixed together in the amazing Maxo-Garbage can. It has easy gliding wheels to help even the smallest woman move it – nice hauling, there, Mrs. Jones! Now it’s off to the garbage dump and on to the incinerator with contents delivered by Maxo!
The Canadian Immigration Agency
(A high school education film.)
The Canadian Immigration Agency helps people from all over the world to settle in Canada. Let’s follow a family from India as as they make their way over to a better country.
Meet the Singh family: Abhijay, Jawahar, Utkarsh, Viraj, Saptanshu, Sushila, and Nilambari. Boy, those sure are funny sounding names, aren’t they? The Singhs are on their way to Canada. We’re profiling the Singhs because they were the only ones that had a last name we could pronounce.
The Singhs have arrived in Canada during the cold winter. Looks like Mrs. Singh should have packed some winter coats! They’ll learn soon enough to get used to the sub-zero temperatures.
The Canadian Immigration Agency will help this family settle in. We know it can be tough for families to adjust. Look – there they are now looking for a place to eat. Too bad the nearest Indian restaurant is 2,000 kilometers away. There’s Mrs. Singh doing some grocery shopping. Sorry Mrs. Singh – there’s no curry in this supermarket! It looks like they’ll have to eat Canadian food for a while. But, as you can see, the Singhs seem to be adjusting nicely. See Mr. Singh carving that big Christmas turkey? Don’t forget the gravy!
The Canadian Immigration Agency: Helping strange foreigners become normal people.
How to Fix Anything: A User Guide for Ladies
Hey ladies – fixing things is easy! Just follow these simple steps:
If it doesn’t have too many moving parts or any sharp edges – Ask your son for help, or just call on a neighbour’s boy down the street. They should be able to help you! And no – you don’t have to pay them – sincere praise from a grown-up is all the reward they need!
If it has lots of moving parts or sharp edges – Ask your husband.
Note: If you don’t have a son or husband, or access to one, then you’re just plum out of luck!
What Does a Technical Writer Do?
(Another high school education film.)
Meet Joe. He’s a technical writer. He writes the instruction manuals that go with products so that people can understand how to use them. It’s an important job, because if people can’t use the product, then they’ll have to call up the company, which then has to immediately send a local repairman out to fix the problem, at the company’s expense, of course. We sure don’t want that to happen, so it’s important that anyone can understand what he writes.
The typewriter is the main tool of the technical writer. Today’s typewriters allow you to go back and correct an entire word! Think of that – no more wasted paper sheets. We are truly living in a modern age.
Here’s Joe at work now. He is working on a very important guide – a user manual for a washing machine. The first rule of technical writing is that you have to write with the end user in mind. This means that Joe must write the guide so that even a woman can understand it.
Joe is chatting with Henry, the designer of the washing machine, as they each relax with a cigarette. Henry has to be careful not to smudge the draft of the guide with his highball. Afterwards, Mr. Singh comes by to clean up the big mess they made.
Joe then takes an extended lunch with Betty, his attractive secretary. He’s probably going to talk about all of the wonderful documents he’s working on. There they are now, back from their long break. It must have been an exciting discussion because they both look so tired! Joe and Betty sure do spend alot of time together – it can only mean he’s working on a really big user guide!
Well, it’s been another full day for Joe as he comes home. Joe makes a good living as technical writer, allowing his wife and family to have nice things. Doesn’t Joe’s daughter have a swell dress?
So consider becoming a technical writer – your wife will be glad you did!