So it seems like there is a class on Mad Men and the issues of race, sex, and the 60′s at UC Berkeley. I can’t say that anyone who knows UC Berkeley could be surprised that such a course exists (actually student created and facilitated, but credit bearing nonetheless). Even with all of the storylines dealing with issues of race and sex in the workplace, I think there is an issue that Mad Men deals with better than any other show I’ve seen in a long time – and it is not even specific to the 60′s generation. The 60′s is where it started to come to light as an issue in America as so many other things did.
Mad Men writers do an incredible job of dealing with the issue of divorce and how it impacts kids. Sally, the pre-adolescent daughter of divorced couple Don and Betty Draper could not have more emotional problems that stem from the dysfunctional relationship of her parents which escalated into a divorce early on in the series. She now goes to a psychiatrist and has learned to hide her true emotions from her mother for the sake of peace and sanity in the household – Sally is the grown-up here. She rebels in many ways including talking to a neighbor boy Betty had a run in with and forbid Sally from seeing, masturbating at her friends house and caught by the mother (look out Christine O’Donnell), ran away from her mother to try to live with Don, and on and on. Seeing the raw emotions of that little girl really gives you a glimpse into what happens to children of dysfunctional relationships and divorce.
Divorce and absence of one parent from a household has a deleterious impact on all kids. I can’t speak to how this makes me feel personally since my parents are going on 47 years, but as a principal I have seen it over and over again. This is just another gap that schools need to fill – all schools – as it crosses socioeconomic and racial lines.
Disclaimer – I know that divorce differentially impacts kids and that there are plenty of kids of divorced parents who turned out fine. There are also plenty of kids from gang-infested neighborhoods who turned out great as well. It just makes it less likely.