question of the day: Is AMC exploiting 9/11 with its Mad Men imagery?

This struck me from way outta left field. From Ad Age:

Controversy Brews Over Ads Promoting New Season of AMC’s ‘Mad Men’

Family Members of 9/11 Victims Complain Falling-Man Images Recall Those of Tragedy

Just weeks before the long-awaited fifth season of AMC’s “Mad Men,” a promotional campaign for the hit show is sparking controversy as some folks say it evokes images of 9/11.

At issue is a minimalist image featured on billboards and public telephone booths, and in subway stations. It depicts a man wearing a suit stenciled in black as he falls through the sky against a stark white background. Several family members of 9/11 victims told The New York Times that for them, the image conjures the memory of people forced to jump out of the Twin Towers more than 10 years ago.

The sudden outrage suggests that many Americans aren’t familiar with “Mad Men,” as the falling-man image has been used in the show’s opening credits and has been emblematic of the series — and its lead character, Don Draper, played by Jon Hamm — from the beginning.

From the opening credits of the show:

Mad Men falling man

Apparently the controversy has been flamed partly by Esquire, which juxtaposed the Mad Men image — whch is used on a new poster promoting the show — with the famous photo by Richard Drew from 9/11 of a man falling from one of the Twin Towers, and asked if this is a “desecration? Or just how we continue to reckon with 9/11?”

Mad Men poster Falling Man by Richard Drew

Esquire’s Tom Junod writes:

Did the entire show exist within the peculiar set of quotation marks that 9/11 furnished, and travel back 50 years in order to reckon obliquely with the last ten? It did, which accounts for the almost forensic nature of our fascination with it.

Which is certainly a fascinating perspective on Mad Men, but it’s not one that has ever occurred to me over the years I’ve watched and analyzed it. Junod again:

[B]loggers have created something of a controversy around the poster, suggesting that unnamed “people” are “upset” with it, when apparently the only people really upset with it are the bloggers looking to create controversy. Still, when a television network is accused of exploiting a sacred 9/11 image for its own purposes, it’s worth looking once again at the image in question to see what those purposes might be.

So it’s all about bloggers looking to draw traffic, but let’s treat it like a legitimate question anyway? *facepalm*

Back to Ad Age:

AMC denies any link between its advertising and 9/11. In a statement, the network told The New York Times: “The image of Don Draper tumbling through space has been used since the show began in 2007 to represent a man whose life is in turmoil. The image used in the campaign is intended to serve as a metaphor for what is happening in Don Draper’s fictional life and in no way references actual events.”

Is AMC exploiting 9/11 with its Mad Men imagery? Does your take on whether or not Mad Men is a thematic riff on our cultural reaction to 9/11 impact whether you see the use of such imagery as reasonable?

I recognize that people deal with grief in all sorts of ways, and we all can have reactions that those of us who don’t share that grief in the same way might see as odd or extreme. But there are far more vivid reminders of 9/11 all over New York City… such as the fact that the Twin Towers are everywhere, in logos for souvenir shops, delis, taxi services, and so on, even more than a decade after the towers themselves disappeared from the landscape. We cannot expect to protected from all reminders of a bad thing, whether those reminders are deliberate or accidental.

What do you think?

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