1950’s Christianity in Mad Men

27 Oct

The 1950’s in America’s history represent a time of rigidity and oppression on which the producers of AMC’s Mad Men focus. Specifically with religion the show represents the issues that are addressed with a show don’t tell mentality.

In the episode “Three Sundays”, the producers explore Catholicism in the 1950’s in a light-handed confirmation of stereotypes while never actually having characters verbally claim their religions. The episode focuses on one of the lead characters, Peggy, as she goes to mass and spends time with her family on the three sundays leading up to Pentecost.

The audience is introduced to her superstitious and seemingly socially naive family as well as the new priest at her family’s church. The character that stands out most to me this episode would be Peggy’s sister. Ironically equal parts doting and malicious she seems to manifest Rendleman’s hypocrite in his article, “Images of Evangelicals in American Film.” Peggy’s sister over the course of the episode manages to blackmail Peggy and lie to a priest during a confession in a church claiming that Peggy had a child out of wedlock. The scene resonates with Rendleman’s article in that her theological and lived values are very dichotomous. Peggy’s sister throughout the episode seeks religious purity and judges Peggy for not being as good of a Catholic as she. In the opening scene she is seen bickering with Peggy for coming to church hungover, and then dismisses non catholic prayers before a meal and insists on saying Grace (i.e. Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts).

The possible implications of this portrayal could highlight, as Rendleman mentioned, the failure evangelicals have found with communicating their message to non evangelicals in America. Namely, how the strengths that evangelicals view they have are viewed as weaknesses in non evangelical or religious communities like verbally expressing their religion.

-Peter Laug

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