The “Mad Men” DeCal here at Berkeley has been getting some attention recently — in fact, last night’s class was attended by three reporters: one from the San Francisco Chronicle, one from the Oakland Tribune, and one from (you guessed it!) your very own Daily Clog.

A quick disclosure before we start: One of the DeCal’s facilitators, Katie Dowd, works for the Daily Californian.

OK, so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The class itself is a diverse group, full of people who love TV (they were talking about “Dexter” for at least five minutes before the class began) and in varying states of formal dress. There was one gentleman actually wearing a kind of Don Draper-esque business outfit, but it was unclear if this was a tribute.

The SF Chronicle reporter and the Tribune reporter sat next to each other and talked and laughed. We at the Clog felt very meta for reporting on reporters.

The DeCal (facilitated by Dowd and Annie Powers) began with a discussion of the family in the late 50′s/early 60′s period, complete with a rather terrifying ad of a woman being spanked by her husband for not getting the right kind of coffee. So we barreled right into the misogynist stuff.

This was followed by a chart of all the various couples on the show (Don/Betty, Kitty/Sal, Roger and … well, everyone) and their motivations and marital desires. The people in this DeCal are sharp, so the ideas and the big words were flying all over the place (we must have heard the word “archetype” about 15 times). Someone also mispronounced “Foucault” and was immediately corrected by about a third of the class. Other key phrases included an “individual phallic effort,” “spiritual placelessness” and “social comparison factors.”

The discussions were serious and thoughtful but also amusing: one person referred to Roger’s marriage to Don’s 22 year-old secretary as “an impulse buy.” Then the facilitators connected the idea of family to “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins,” two extremely popular movies which emphasized the importance of women in the home. This went along with the rather terrifying fact that some people thought men were deserting in Korea because their mothers were making them too effeminate.

The take home message, as stated by Dowd, is that “family screws you for life.” But she was also quick to point out the good in some relationships — both facilitators made a case for Pete and Trudy as the most stable couple on the show.

In any case, the brainpower and enthusiasm in the room was almost overwhelming (someone even made a reference to a Dylan song). The Oakland Tribune reporter said she thought it would be an interesting feature, so look out for a story. And keep attending those DeCals — trust us, they’ll make you smarter.

Update 10/27/10: The Chronicle’s take on the evening is now online. Check it out!

Image source: srqpix under Creative Commons


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