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YMMV: Mad Men

  • Acceptable Professional Targets: Lampshaded by Roger.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Betty a paranoid, spoiled, and selfish bully? Or is she a victim of the times and years of psychological abuse from her parents and Don? Quite possibly both at the same time, but good luck getting two fans to agree.
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Don Draper is really Dick Whitman.
  • Arc Fatigue: Season 6 received some criticism because the story doesn't advance as evenly as the previous seasons, with most of the exposition being in "For Immediate Release" and the last three episodes, and with a few retread episodes like "A Tale of Two Cities."
  • Award Snub: Season 5 received 17 Emmy nominations, among the most the show's received in a single year, and walked away with 0 wins.
    • As of Season 7, the show's received a total of 34 acting nominations and has never won.
    • On a lesser note, the show has also never won for Directing, which is also something that no other 4-time winner has ever done.
  • Base Breaker:
    • Betty, as evidenced by Alternative Character Interpretation.
    • Megan and her relationship with Don are this. She's revealed herself to be far more than the cutesy secretary and trophy wife she initially seemed to be, but some fans are still mad that Don didn't end up with Faye. Or they just don't want Don to find romantic happiness. Also, Megan's ambition, and particularly her desire for an acting career, make her out to be a strong independent woman to some, a selfish talentless egomaniac to others.
    • By the end of Season 6, Bob Benson became this to some. The split generally comes between those who enjoyed his Magnificent Bastard machinations and James Wolk's delectable performance as him, and those who thought he got too much screentime at the expense of the main characters for a payoff that was underwhelming, given how it showed that he was basically another Don Draper.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: "Waterloo" ends with Bert Cooper's surprise musical performance of "The Best Things in Life are Free". The late Bert Cooper. It Makes Sense in Context, and is a rather well-done sendoff for Bert and tribute to Robert Morse's Broadway career, chiefly his leading role in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
  • Broken Base: "The Other Woman" provoked some extreme reactions in the fandom.
    • Similarly, "The Crash" proved to be one of the series' more divisive episodes. Great episode conveying the surreality of drugs in the 1960s, or poor episode attempting to be overtly artistic and unorthodox without having enough substance to justify it?
  • Continuity Lock-Out: In addition to the character development, the gradual change of time from 1960 to 1969 really adds to the viewing experience.
  • Creator's Pet: Glen. Played by the producer's son, he increasingly moves into this role as it becomes harder and harder to tell if he's supposed to be a Creepy Child or the kid just can't act.
    • To some extent, Betty Draper in the early seasons. Both Weiner and her actress claim that she will get more understandable and pitiable, if not sympathetic later on. However, it soon becomes harder and harder to tell if she's actually meant to be pitiable in the first place as her abuse of Sally escalates, or due to January Jones's bad acting.
    • Megan Draper, particularly in Season 5. A sizable contingent was turned off at how hard Weiner and the show was trying to sell her as the perfect woman who was just "good at everything."
  • Crowning Music Of Awesome: Don's girl-watching and PowerWalk to The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in "The Summer Man".
    • Back in season one, "Babylon" ends with a gorgeous version of the 18th-century round "Waters of Babylon".
    • The entire score by David Carbonara can also qualify, particularly the three most notable pieces: "Lipstick," "The Men of Sterling Cooper," and "The Carousel."
    • "Tomorrow Never Knows" playing over the final montage of "Lady Lazarus" does an effective job of conveying how it would have felt to hear the psychedelic song for the first time in 1966.
    • "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks playing as Peggy quits after one too many kudos snubs by Don.
    • Don walking off the set of Megan's commercial into darkness as the title song from the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice sung by Nancy Sinatra plays.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Don's many flaws are often overlooked due to this effect, even though the show itself does its best to illustrate the double standard.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Joey's rape comment to Joan. Really, really not funny, to the point it makes a brief, rare visible impression on her.
  • Ear Worm: "Zou Bisou, Bisou..."
    • The theme song.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Joan became the toast of fans and critics during the first season for her attitude and distinctive figure, gaining a much more important role as the series wore on.
    • Miss Blankenship dies a few episodes after she is introduced but seems to have won a lot of fans for being a queen of one-liners Roger says that's not all that she was queen of. The cantankerous old woman can even put Bert Cooper in his place and totally get away with it.
    • Sally Draper has received much more screen time and character development then her brother Bobby.
    • Rachel Menken appeared for only the first season, but was a very effective and memorable foil for Don.
    • Sal was the most liked junior executive early on and a sympathetic portrayal of a gay man discovering his sexuality, and many discussions see fans wanting him back.
    • Trudy Campbell has always been popular with the fanbase, but her Moment Of Awesome when she kicks Pete Campbell out with a rousing Reason You Suck Speech pushed her into a bit of a twitter sensation.
    • Some have found Meredith (epitome of Dumb Blonde in this show) to become this following her assignment as Don's Secretary in Season 7. Her innocent naiveté complements Don's weariness quite well.
    • Bob Benson (for those that don't consider him The Scrappy) is this among quite a number of fans, due to his Magnificent Bastard tendencies, his almost creepily optimistic nature, and the strength of James Wolk's performance. The "NOT GREAT, BOB" meme that emerged following the Season 6 finale probably helped ascend him to this position.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Joan and Roger.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • More or less everything about Don's sexual behavior after it is revealed in "The Crash" that his first sexual experience was to be raped by a prostitute when he was a teenager. And then he was beaten with a wooden spoon for it by his adoptive mother. It... explains a lot. There's also the fact that his mistress for most of season six, Sylvia Rosen, has a beauty mark in the same spot as the aforementioned prostitute.
    • Every scene with Pete's hilariously senile mother in Season Six becomes this after Manolo marries her and then murders her for her money.
    • Pete jokes in season 3 that "Moneypenny" (Lane) "hasn't self-destructed yet." Lane commits suicide two seasons later.
    • In "The Monolith", Ginsberg gets some good zingers at how the IBM machine is going to replace them all. In "The Runaways", this gets a whole lot less funny when Ginsberg's paranoia over the machine leads to a psychotic breakdown.
  • Growing the Beard: Season two's improvement on the first is reflected in Paul Kinsey's new facial hair. Though his character starts to take a bit of a slide...
    • The bigger focus on Creative and the development of it into a close and formidable team is reflected by Stan Rizzo growing the beard. Him, Peggy and Mike Ginsberg are creative powerhouses.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In an odd combination of this with Hilarious in Hindsight, the doctor Joan goes to for an abortion in Season 4 (before she changes her mind) is in Morristown, New Jersey. A mere five years later, in 1970, New York adopted abortion-on-demand up to the 24th week, while it remained completely banned in New Jersey until the decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Roger complaining in "The Color Blue" about how he 'found' Don. We learn in "Waldorf Stories" that he didn't think a thing of Don when they met - and at the very least only hired him because he was black-out drunk, and may not have actually hired him so much as Don just convinced him that he did and forgot about it.
    • While discussing the film adaptation of 'The Best of Everything' with Betty, Don mentions how Sal couldn't stop talking about Joan Crawford, a famous gay icon of the 50's and 60's.
    • Sterling mentions getting drunk and trying on the suit of armor in Lane's office. Sounds like something his son in another franchise would do...
    • Megan reads an audition script for Dark Shadows and is soon ranting about how terrible it is. This episode, itself titled "Dark Shadows," happened to air on the very weekend that Tim Burton's film version of the classic soap opera was released.
    • Peggy's mother admonishes her for cohabitating with Abe, advising her to get a cat instead. In season 6, she breaks up with him and does just that.
  • Ho Yay: Don and Roger, the epic bromance of the Sixties. They drink and womanize their way through the show, and while they may fight, they always make up. In season three, Bert Cooper stages an intervention for them when their fighting (over Roger's second marriage and Don's lack of respect for Roger) causes problems at Sterling-Cooper, and their reunion assists in finalizing Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce. Don's conversation with Roger in "The Suitcase", with Roger begging Don to accompany him to dinner (albeit one with Freddy Rumsen and Cal Rutledge, neither of whom Don or Roger like) is even more Ho Yay-ish than usual:
    Roger: I've still got your ticket.
    Don: It's an attractive offer.
    Roger: Look out your window, see me waving?
    Don: (smiling) Goodnight, sweetheart.
    • Sal has a crush on Ken Cosgrove, which he attempts, all too subtly, to get across in "The Gold Violin." By remaining completely oblivious, Ken doesn't really do any more to dispel it than he does to encourage it, so at end of the episode it's still just hanging depressingly in the air.
    • What about Don and Lane Pryce in The Good News (season 4, episode 3.) Lane is in the doghouse with his wife so Don takes him out for a nice dinner, they all get very drunk, act rather Ho Yay-ish to each other..their behaviour is even lampshaded by a comedian who sees them in the crowd and makes jokes about how they are a cute couple.
      • Which makes "Commisions and Fees" (Season 5, episode 12), where Don demand's Lane's resignation for embezzling from the company, followed by Lane committing suicide, all the more depressing.
    • Joey receives some compliments from Harry Crane and immediately tells his buddies that he's being hit on by an old queen. This is more likely a manifestation of Joey's tremendous narcissism than a sign of any conscious attraction on Harry's part. (Subconscious could be another matter...)
  • Hollywood Homely: Peggy
  • Jerkass Woobie: Don. Both sides of the trope expand as the series goes on.
    • Pete, due to his collapsing marriage to Trudy, general unhappiness, and the death of his mother.
    • Peggy, as of the 7th season, due to her non-existent love life and facing disrespect from colleagues like Michael and dealing with Lou Avery.
  • Les Yay: Joyce, the photo editor from LIFE magazine, seems to have a thing for Peggy and takes her to a beatnik party in the Village.
    • She also seems to have a thing for Megan.
  • Love to Hate: Pete Campbell.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Don Draper is the best of them. Duck and Pete both try and fail. Peggy is rapidly becoming one. Bert Cooper is one when the situation calls for it. Roger has his moments but his propensity for killer one-liners far outshines his actual cunning at least until the mid-season finale of season 7.
  • Mary Sue: There is some feeling among some of the fandom that there are a few too many "Peggy is awesome" moments without her having the counterbalancing failures and torments that afflict others, such as Joan, Don, and Sal. (Her pregnancy storyline being a notable exception.) This could partly be attributed to the fact that Peggy is simply not as morally corrupt as most of the cast, rather than being especially great on her own. It is really is that cynical of a show.
    • Just about every man on the show falls is enamored with Joan to a strange degree, though this is balanced by her obsolete office politics and marital turmoil.
    • Megan's initial entry in Season 4 and 5 had hints of this: She was perfect with Don's children, seemed to have 'cured' him of his serial adultery, comes up with the perfect idea for the difficult Heinz account, adeptly rescuing it at dinner when they are about to be fired. However, in "The Phantom", she is shown to be selfish and a tad naive, and later episodes show Don slowly slipping away as she gets more successful in her acting career.
  • Memetic Badass: What Would Don Draper Do?
  • Memetic Sex God: Don Draper. Seriously, the man's idea of solving problems with a client's wife is shagging her in a coat room. It works too! SNL even posted a guide to how you can be one too.
    • It's getting to the point where he can't shut it off.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Some viewers seem to genuinely view the show as a depiction of "the good old days". They also tend to hate Betty Draper the most for being the character that rains on their parade for showing how "the good old days" could really wreck a person.
  • Moe: Peggy.
    • Pete seems to pick women with more or less similar features to Peggy
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Any chance that the majority of the audience might have had to sympathize with Duck Phillips disappeared along with his dog, Chauncey.
    • Also, Greg, Joan's fiance, crosses this line when he rapes her.
    • Pete finally crosses it late in Season 5 when he tries to convince Joan to prostitute herself as a pure business decision. Bert, Roger and Lane's tacit acceptance seem to make it a Moral Event Horizon for SCDP itself since the agency's big account has a shadow, one that is pointed out by a few characters.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: The usually kind, level-headed, and doting Henry telling Betty to keep her opinions to herself and leave the thinking to him in "The Runaways" was this for many fans.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Stan Rizzo. Though he replaced Sal Romano as the Art director, he's really the new Paul Kinsey. And he's even more of a douchebag. Though eventually it leads to...
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Stan was pretty much just a sexist Jerk Ass foil to Peggy in season four, but in season five he turned into much-needed comic relief, and one of the firm's more honest and likable employees. He even sometimes acts as the Only Sane Man when Peggy's Married to the Job tendencies cause her to stress out too much and Ginsberg's... being Ginsberg.
  • Real Women Have Curves: Peggy is contrasted with more thinner and/or buxom women like Megan, Joan, and Betty. Yet Peggy is a rounded petite woman with "Hellenic" features (despite being Norwegian and...something Catholic) and is the representative for the ordinary women and their advances of the 1960s.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Any fan of Community who watches this show tends to be very surprised by Alison Brie as Trudy Campbell.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Gail Holloway, Joan's annoying mom has a twitter account that makes her seem rather malicious to her daughter, in contrast to her being interfering in her daughter's affairs with good intentions.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Pete-fucking-Campbell, initially. He undergoes major Character Development, develops a conscience, is unexpectedly the guy at SC/SCDP who is most aware of the social change on the horizon, and eventually swallows his own pride. By the end of Season 3, he actually knows the meaning of love and of remorse. However, all of that character development doesn't make the moment in Season 5 when Lane Pryce kicks Pete's ass any less satisfying.
      • Though pimping out Joan to hook Jaguar certainly didn't help his development.
    • Greg Harris. He has yet to get out from under the shadow of his Establishing Character Moment, and likely never will.
    • As of season four (and to some as early as Season 3), Betty had become this for a lot of viewers due to her treatment of Sally, along with possible backlash from January Jones' acting in X-Men: First Class along with the show itself, along with a degree of Values Dissonance. It's not unusual to look at message boards and blogs and see comments like "I liked this episode a lot. Probably because Betty wasn't in it." The Huffington Post has even considered her one of the worst characters on TV(through the media itself is a bit more mixed). Changed in later seasons when Betty would be featured in less than half the season's episodes and Megan was getting the big sell.
    • Bob Benson. Too much screentime indicates he's a Mauve Shirt but he's received almost no characterization. He's an undeveloped character on a show that goes into nuanced and detailed examinations of its characters and the payoff is nowhere in sight. YMMV on whether said payoff worked.
      • Except the payoff did occur in the last three episodes of Season 6 where he was revealed to be gay, and that all of his references were made up. His background is basically that he's a younger (and gay) Don Draper
    • Harry Crane, after he Took a Level in Jerkass at some point in Season 5. Except for the episodes where he reunited with Paul Kinsey in Season 5 and warned Don his job was at stake in Season 7, most of his scenes in the latter few years have consisted of nothing but Kick the Dog moments (particularly when Joan is involved).
    • Lou Avery. Between his sexism, racism, narcissism and his love of mediocrity, what's not to hate? It doesn't help that, unlike the other Jerkasses in the series, Lou has very little characterization outside of being another incompetent rival to Don.
  • Seasonal Rot: Some fans have accused Season 6 of running into this, due to some strange episodes, and what felt like padding for the season's first few episodes. Additionally, focus on yet another of Don's affairs riled a few fans, particularly as it seemed to come at the expense of sizable plots for Joan or Roger.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Veers right into OT3 with the shots of Joan holding both Don and Roger's hands before the announcement.
  • Squick:
    • The lawn mower scene, for those who don't find it Bloody Hilarious.
    • In "The Runaways", Michael Ginsberg cuts off his nipple and gives it to Peggy.
  • Stoic Woobie: Bobby Draper.
    • Don't forget Trudy Campbell, whether she knows it or not.
  • Strawman Has a Point: In Season 2, Don is visibly displeased when Duck tries to bring on American Airlines and forces Sterling Cooper to dump Mohawk Airlines. While Don attempts to argue against it using customer loyalty, it's fairly clear he's opposed because he's not the main attraction.
    • Greg Harris isn't the most sympathetic character, but his reaction when Joan arrogantly stars to dissect his job interviews is understandable, especially when she smashes a vase over his head.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions: The Hilton sub-plot of Season 3.
    • Some thought Don's affair in Season 6 was akin to this.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The partners minus Roger fall into this trope when Don comes back into SC&P, forgetting that the man helped start the agency and was the reason Peggy is no longer a secretary, along with being Joan's ally (right back when Pete pimped her out to Jaguar) and has the talent to save the agency from falling on it's collective ass.
    • Peggy might actually invoke this trope the most, at least at first. When Don comes back, she's one of the few members of the creative team to antagonize Don by telling him they've been functioning just fine since his absence. Most of this hostility stems from resentment toward Don for breaking her and Ted up, even though Ted was the one who truly instigated the break up out of unwillingness to break up his family. Given Don's discomfort in the office at that time, Peggy's confrontation can come off as a huge Kick the Dog moment for some.
    • Joan can count as this especially during the few times Peggy and Don have stood up for her one way or another. Peggy, when she fired Joey for being a misogynistic bully towards her and Don, when he finally told Herb how disgusting he is.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: An article in the magazine Esquire posits that the shows opening is reflective of those who jumped off the World Trade Center.
  • The Woobie: It's a testimony to the writing of the show that basically anybody but the British overlords can be Woobies. Few of them are pure Woobies though; the vast majority of the characters have both Woobie and Jerk Ass moments.
    • Sally Draper, thanks to Character Development; Pointing out the various things the adult Sally will have to discuss with her therapist has become a running gag in the fandom.
    • Sal, especially in "Out of Town" and "Wee Small Hours," and his wife, Kitty.
    • Don's secretary Allison, after he pretends their sexual tryst at his apartment after the office Christmas party didn't happen and continues on for days like that. She finally has enough and throws a paperweight at his head and quits.
    • Anna Draper hits Woobie status in 4.03 when we find out she has terminal cancer.
    • Lane Pryce. His superiors at PPL frequently take advantage of his inability to stand up for himself, he has an unhappy marriage, his father is still abusive (physically and emotionally) toward him in his forties, he isn't respected by most of the other partners despite being one of two people holding SCDP together, he falls in love with Joan but she's not interested in him (his obnoxious means of hitting on her don't help), and after Don finds out about his embezzlement and forces him to resign, he commits suicide.
    • Betty has become kind of a Jerkass Woobie. Sometimes, when she's her most Catch-You-Next-Tuesday-ish, she looks like she's about to start bawling any second.
    • Michael Ginsberg, after we learn his backstory that he was born in a concentration camp and that the man viewers assumed was his father actually found him in a Swedish orphanage when he was five. It gets worse in Season 7 when he shows signs of mental illness.
    • Beth. It turns out that her husband has had her subjected to electroshock therapy on many occasions. In "The Phantom" he brings her in for another session because she is depressed about him cheating on her. Worst of all, she actually thinks that this is for the best.
    • Megan, as her marriage to Don becomes increasingly unhappy.
    • Kenneth Cosgrove had his foot broken and was shot in the eye before he left the Chevy account and was chewed out for it, while he was still wearing the eyepatch.
    • Dawn Chambers was the first black employee at SCDP, and even as late as season 7, she still exists at the mercy of her white co-workers. Nowhere was this more apparent than in "A Day's Work", where she was moved around the office twice in one day for petty reasons (Lou wanted her to lose her desk as punishment for something that was not her fault, while Bert thought that her new position near the front of the office would reflect poorly on the company), before finally getting promoted to office manager - which will force her to deal with even more of her co-workers' bullshit.

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