The only thing I didn’t like about the otherwise-excellent season premiere of “Mad Men” was the first scene of the episode. Three young ad men from SCDP’s rival, Young & Rubicam, drop paper bags full of water on to a group of black picketers, protesting on Madison Avenue many stories below. The soggy civilians come up to the office, and see the paper bag bombers laughing at their aerial attack and filling up more sacks, causing one of the protestors to say, “And they call us savages.” It felt too on-the-nose and blatant, odd for a show known for it’s subtly and skilled writing. Turns out, though, the scene actually happened, right down to the “savages” line.
The New York Times dug up a story from their archives, dated May 28, 1966, with the headline, “Poverty Pickets Get Paper-Bag Dousing on Madison Avenue.” On that day, two male demonstrators, ages 9 and 19, were hit with “water-filled pager bags,” and the younger boy’s mother, as well as “several other angry women,” came up to the office and told the secretary what happened. She replied, “That’s ridiculous, they didn’t come from this floor. This is the executive floor. That’s utterly ridiculous.” So, yeah, pretty much just like “Mad Men,” except I doubt anyone named Megan Draper did a sexy dance later that week.
Even after reading this, I’m still not a big fan of the opening, though that’s partially because it was the first scene we saw after being away from “Mad Men” for 18 months. My question to you is: is a scene that you think is dumb more tolerable once you find out it really happened?