Verbal Irony As Technique In Mad Men

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As a writing major, I have always watching TV and Film with storytelling in mind (and often nothing else) so the one thing I noticed about Mad Men is the use of verbal irony. A lot of what the characters say holds deeper meaning of which they are unaware. This is clearly used divisively by the writers, the parallel times between the viewer and the characters on the show are used strategically in this way. When Don Draper says, “there isn’t some magical machine that makes copies of things” we, the audience clearly know that eventually there will be because we have knowledge of what the characters would consider “the future.” More examples of this are when Joan says something to the affect of “I know this may look like a lot of technology but don’t be overwhelmed,” to Peggy and all that sits on the desk is a typewriter and telephone. Also when, Salvatore says (something like) “you mean people live one way, but really would like to be living the opposite way? That’s ridiculous.” It is implied from the start that Salvatore is a “closeted” gay, but the audience is only aware of it because only an audience of a more modern time would notice (or choose to acknowledge) the characteristics (even if at times stereotypical) of a gay man.

This technique allows the viewer to have a deeper, more omniscient understanding of what is going on without blatant exposition. The show is able to reveal the zeitgeist of the time period by alluding to the changes that have occurred after it. Furthermore, the suggestiveness of the show, through its use of verbal irony, also reflects the superficiality of the time. Nothing is supposed to be what it seems, the men of Madison Avenue are supposed to be upstanding, successful, respectable men, good husbands and fathers, when really they’re adulterers, bigots, misogynists and, it is often suggested, unhappy.

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